BATON ROUGE, La. -- It's strange that in a game where LSU seemed to be able to name its score most of its half, it's a negative play that will be discussed most.
When blitzing North Texas cornerback Hilbert Jackson put a big hit on Zach Mettenberger in the first quarter, it sent a wave of fear through Tiger Stadium. As good as LSU was for most of a first half in which it built a 24-7 lead, it can ill afford to lose its promising junior quarterback, who completed 10-of-16 passes for 97 yards with a costly late interception. He missed one series after the big hit.
LSU dominated the half with 295 yards to 137 for North Texas, but the Tigers slipped up just before halftime with a missed field goal, an interception and a big play allowed by the defense -- an 80-yard UNT touchdown that kept the game reasonably competitive.
Stat of the half: LSU's defense forced five straight three-and-outs to start the half and stymied the Mean Green on six of seven first-half possessions before UNT hit on a big play late. The Mean Green converted a third-and-long into an 80-yard touchdown pass from Derek Thompson to Brelan Chancellor, who outran strong safety Craig Loston to turn an intermediate pass to a long touchdown with just under two minutes left in the half.
Player of the half: Kenny Hilliard had runs of 67 and 38 yards to rush for 112 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries. Honorable mention goes to Odell Beckham, Jr., who returned a punt 70 yards and had another punt return for a touchdown called back by an illegal block penalty. He also caught a pass for 21 yards.
What's working for LSU: Not much isn't working. LSU's was running the ball well, as Alfred Blue added 85 yards on 10 carries. Mettenberger was efficient and the defense suffocating, save for one bad play.
What's not working for LSU: If anything, it was the protection of Mettenberger. He was sacked twice and hit a couple more times. There will be better pass-rushing teams ahead for LSU than UNT, so the Tigers need to clean that up. LSU had some special teams issues as well, including two illegal blocks on long punt returns (one for a touchdown) and a missed 34-yard field goal Drew Alleman.