NASHVILLE, Tenn.-In an era in which spread offenses and gimmick formations are all the rage, LSU proved that games can still be won in the trenches.
The Bengal Tigers whipped Vanderbilt on both sides of the line of scrimmage, rolling up 280 yards on the ground and holding the Commodores to just 135 yards of total offense, as VU fell by a 27-3 score at Dudley Field on Saturday evening.
Russell Shepard's second-quarter touchdown run turned out to be all the scoring the Tigers needed on the evening to send Vandy to its 10th-consecutive defeat.
The 'Dores trailed just 10-3 at the start of the fourth quarter, but the dam burst after Warren Norman fumbled a kickoff at the VU 26, and the Tigers' Alfred Blue tacked on a touchdown run four plays later.
Vandy has now lost seven straight in the series, and also sports a 10-game losing streak in Southeastern Conference play.
"They whipped us, that's the bottom line. It ain't no secret," coach Robbie Caldwell said.
"LSU [was] exactly what we expected," senior center and captain Joey Bailey said. "We just didn't do what we needed to do."
To say that Bailey and his cohorts on the offensive line had a rough evening would be an understatement. The VU offense had more penalty yards (37) than total offense (30) at the half, and taking away a 51-yard run by Norman that set up VU's only score, the 'Dores averaged just 1.75 yards per snap on their other 47 offensive plays.
A stellar defensive effort kept Vandy in the game, but by that point, the defense was gassed. LSU rushed for 150 yards in the fourth quarter, which included a 65-yard dash by Stevan Ridley for the game's final score.
After a scoreless first quarter, LSU finally sustained a drive at the beginning of the second quarter that ended when Shepard took a direct handoff around the right side on an end-around and scooted 30 yards untouched for the game's first score. A Josh Jasper extra point gave LSU a 7-0 lead.
Jasper added a 36-yard field goal with 5:27 left in the half to put LSU up 10.
Meanwhile, the Commodore offense sleepwalked through the first half. VU gained 30 total yards on 26 plays (including 17 carries for minus-7 yards), was sacked four times, and committed four penalties for 37 yards.
Vandy finally caught a break when Norman started right, cut back to the left, and rambled 51 yards down to the LSU 13 on the second snap of the second half. A personal foul penalty on the Tigers put the ball on the LSU 7.
But the Commodores managed but two yards on the next three plays, and had to settle for Ryan Fowler's 23-yard field goal at the 12:56 mark of the third quarter.
LSU moved the ball inside the VU 10 on the next drive, but Jordan Jefferson was way off-target on a third-and-10 play, and Casey Hayward had an easy pick in the end zone that resulted in a touchback.
But the Commodore offense again failed to mount a threat, and the Tigers answered with a 23-yard Jasper field goal with 12:32 left in the game to put the lead back at 10.
Norman's fumble with 12:32 left in the game gave LSU the ball back in VU territory, and Blue rumbled over the right side of the line for a score to make it 20-3, Tigers.
With 4:32 left, Ridley broke free down the sideline against a Commodore defense crowding the line of scrimmage in a last-gasp hope of making a play to get back in the game.
Ridley produced the evening's only glamorous stat line, as the junior rushed 17 times for 159 yards.
VU travels to Ole Miss for an 11:40 kickoff in its first road test of the year next Saturday. Caldwell says that the 'Dores have some serious offensive work to before they arrive in Oxford.
"We've got to do different schemes. We've got to make sure we can get double-teams. We've got to slide-protect. We can't man-protect," he said.
"We went into the game thinking maybe we could do what we did last year. We had a chance to beat them down there last year, and rightfully so, and I can understand why the offensive staff and I-it starts with me-thought that.
"But we got fooled. They kicked our butt. They did everything pretty simple. But they kicked us."