NEW ORLEANS — When BYU became an independent in 2011, the idea was to play the best teams on the biggest stages.
There’s an inherent risk in that approach — and that became painfully clear once again to the Cougars Saturday night at the Mercedes Benz Superdome in the Advocare Texas Kickoff.
Before a crowd of 53,826 and a national television audience, No. 13 Louisiana State throttled and humiliated BYU 27-0 — and it wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
"I'm really disappointed in the outcome," said BYU coach Kalani Sitake. "I'm disappointed that we could get nothing going, and that's my fault as the coach. Give a lot of credit to LSU. They definitely can fly around, and their offense was really efficient."
The Cougars’ dismal effort was eerily reminiscent of their 31-0 loss at Michigan two years ago, when BYU gained only 105 yards of total offense at the Big House.
Against the Tigers in the Big Easy, the Cougars (1-1) suffered another shutout, and their offense was even worse.
BYU's performance Saturday was bad — historically bad. BYU's 97 yards of total offense was the program's lowest output since gaining 92 against Iowa State in 1974. And the Cougars were shut out for only the third time in 528 games, dating back to 1975.
LSU star running back Derrius Guice outgained the anemic, punchless Cougar offense 120 yards to 97 yards. Another Tiger running back, Darrel Williams, ran for 92 yards.
BYU never crossed midfield all night.
"This is one of the best defenses I've seen in college football," Sitake said of LSU.
The Tigers (1-0) finished with 479 yards of total offense and had the ball for 41:54 compared to 18:06 for the Cougars. BYU picked up six first downs and rushed for minus-5 yards.
And LSU played without some of its top defensive players, but it didn't show. Four true freshmen started for the Tigers on defense.
BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum completed 12 of 24 passes for 102 yards and an interception. Tiger QB Danny Etling was 14 of 17 for 173 yards.
One of the few bright spots for the Cougars was that their defense kept the Tigers out of the end zone and held them to only two field goals for a long stretch from early in the second quarter until the midway point of the fourth quarter.
BYU stopped LSU on downs inside the 5-yard line with 10:13 left in the game. Trouble was, that gave the Cougar offense the ball at their own 3-yard line. BYU, not surprisingly, couldn’t move the ball and on fourth down, BYU punter Jonny Linehan tried to execute a fake punt from his own end zone — like he infamously attempted, and failed — at Boise State last year.
Linehan fell short and LSU got the ball back at the 12-yard line.
"That was not a called fake punt," Sitake said.
Two plays later, Darrel Williams scored to put the Tigers ahead 27-0.
From the start, this night belonged to LSU.
BYU forced a punt on the game’s opening series, but, really, only the Tigers stopped themselves — committing back-to-back penalties to stall the drive.
After forcing a Cougar punt, LSU marched 66 yards on 13 plays, ensuing possession that consumed 7:13 off the clock, culminating with a 4-yard touchdown run by Guice early in the second quarter. While Guice gashed BYU, the Tigers also converted two third downs to keep the drive alive.
On the Cougars’ next play from scrimmage, Mangum’s deep pass intended for Beau Tanner was intercepted by Tiger cornerback Andraez Williams. LSU capitalized on the turnover by scoring another touchdown minutes later on a drive highlighted by a 52-yard pass from Etling to DJ Chark and capped by Guice’s 1-yard TD run to put the Tigers up 14-0.
LSU missed a scoring opportunity later in the quarter that saw the Tigers drive to the BYU 12. But Jack Gonsoulin missed a 34-yard field goal.
The Cougars had just six offensive plays in the first quarter. In the first half, BYU gained only 47 yards of total offense on 17 plays. The LSU offense, meanwhile, rolled up 269 yards on 38 plays.
At halftime, Guice had 85 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.
BYU hosts arch-rival Utah next Saturday.
EXTRA POINTS: BYU safety Micah Hannemann was ejected in the second half for targeting. He will be forced to sit out of the first half against Utah. … LSU has now won 15 of its last 16 season-openers and is now 55-1 in its last 56 regular-season non-conference games. … BYU is now 3-8 in its last 11 games against ranked opponents.