BATON ROUGE, La. - The Great LSU offensive makeover took less than 12 months, but the ninth-ranked Tigers proved in dismantling the University of Alabama-Birmingham 56-17 Saturday night at Tiger Stadium that the SEC had better get ready for a new-look attack that can play pitch and catch.
Zach Mettenberger, looking cool and confident under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, set an LSU record with five touchdown passes - three to Odell Beckham Jr. and two to Jarvis Landry - and Beckham returned a missed field goal 100 yards untouched for another score.
"If you look at how Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry and the receiving corps are jelling with the quarterback and expecting where the ball is going to be based on coverage, that's Cam," LSU coach Les Miles said, referring to his major offseason acquisition of the former Baltimore Raven offensive coordinator, who has retooled Mettenberger's game.
"Cam's doing a great job teaching," Miles added. "He's a great guy to listen to while the play is going on, because, generally, that's where the ball went. There is a great chemistry and insistence by the quarterback about where the ball is supposed to go."
With 331 all-purpose yards - following up on his 272-yard output in a 37-27 season-opening victory over TCU last week, Beckham had a night that has to be counted among one of the most spectacular in LSU history.
In addition to his scoring catches of 29, 22 and 27 yards, Beckham had a 60-yard punt return to set up another short touchdown drive in the first half.
But his most thrilling play occurred late in the third quarter. Trailing 49-17, UAB trotted out its strong-legged placekicker, Ty Long, to attempt a 59-yard field goal. Long hit it with power, but the ball was one yard short of the crossbar, and Beckham was playing centerfield.
Rather than let the ball bounce out of the end zone, Beckham hauled it in and then set sail down the left sidelines. He outran several UAB defenders to the sidelines and then cut back without being touched.
Although the play went for 108 yards, Beckham was officially credited only with 100 yards for a missed field goal return. Still, Beckham caught five passes for 136 yards - including a 49-yarder on a go route to set up LSU's first score.
UAB coach Garrick McGee faulted himself for having Long attempt the long-range field goal because that meant UAB had too many slow-footed linemen on the field in case Beckham did try to run it back.
"When you have probably nine offensive linemen on the field and that explosive kid (Beckham) catches the ball, I probably shouldn't have kicked that kick," McGee said. "I wanted Ty to go after one. But when that kid catches the ball, that's a dangerous situation."
Mettenberger's two other TD throws went to Landry for 25 and 15 yards. He finished 16-of-19 for 282 yards. Eleven other LSU quarterbacks had thrown four TD passes in a game, the last being Matt Flynn against Ohio State in LSU's 2007 BCS national championship victory over Ohio State.
LSU also welcomed back 2012 leading rusher Jeremy Hill from a suspension. Hill entered the game early in the second quarter and scored on his first carry, a 3-yard burst off left guard. Hill finished with 50 yards on six carries.
"I want to get him going," Miles said of Hill. "He's a guy who's been away from his team for four months, and he's not really in great shape. You can look and see his timing is off. I think he's a guy that's developing. If he's in great shape, he may be (our) best back."
Last season, LSU seemed to be fighting for first downs and then holding on for dear life with its dominant defense. With 93 points and 893 yards in total offense in two victories, Miles loves what he sees from Mettenberger and the revamped offense.
"I think it's great watching Zach throw the ball with so much confidence," Miles said. "He knows where the ball is supposed to go."
NOTES: A lightning alert delayed the 6:02 p.m. (CDT) kickoff by 41 minutes. ... LSU extended its record to 43 consecutive regular-season victories against non-conference opponents. ... Miles is now 33-0 against non-conference foes in the regular season. ... Mettenberger is now 12-3 as a starter.