BATON ROUGE, La. -- Matt Mauck had a career game to give LSU its first 3-0 start in five years.
Mauck set career highs with 305 yards passing and four touchdowns as No. 12 LSU beat Western Illinois 35-7 on Saturday night.
``I think Matt Mauck played as fine a game as he has played since he's been our quarterback,'' LSU coach Nick Saban said. ``He made some outstanding reads and some very good throws when things weren't going well out there.''
Mauck, 8-1 as a starter, also had a career-high 23 completions in 33 attempts to help the Tigers to their first 3-0 start since 1998. Since taking over as the starter, Mauck has rushed or passed for 20 of LSU's 37 offensive touchdowns.
``We did whatever it took to move the ball,'' Mauck said. ``We threw the ball a lot and it felt pretty good out there.''
In the fourth quarter, Mauck was dropped for a 5-yard loss on second-and-8. On the next play, he calmly dropped back and hit Devery Henderson with a 16-yard touchdown pass to put LSU up 35-7.
Western Illinois (2-1) ranked No. 1 in I-AA, played tough against the Tigers until the second half. The Leathernecks held LSU to 13 points in the first half. The Tigers fumbled twice in the red zone, missed an extra point and a field goal and botched a punt.
``We threw everything we could at them to try to find a way to turn the game in our favor,'' Western Illinois coach Don Patterson said. ``Their skilled players are simply too good for us to be able to contain for 60 minutes.''
The Tigers went up 6-0 in the first quarter when Mauck hit Michael Clayton with a 10-yard scoring pass. The point-after attempt failed and LSU was unable to stretch its lead until the final 42 seconds of the first half when Shyrone Carey plunged in from a yard out to put the Tigers up 13-0.
Western Illinois gained only 78 yards of total offense in the first half and was held to three first downs, but the Tigers could not shake them off.
``That's as hard as anyone has ever played against us,'' Saban said. ``That's as physical as anyone has ever played against us.''
LSU missed two field goals in the first quarter and the Leathernecks had one blocked.
Western Illinois' Russ Michna completed 17 of 39 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked twice and threw three interceptions.
Carey ran for 124 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, Clayton had 11 receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown, and Skyler Green had three receptions for 54 yards and two touchdowns.
The Leathernecks opened the third quarter with an onside kick and took possession on the LSU 47.
After driving to the LSU 1-yard line and being driven back, Western Illinois went for it on fourth-and-3. Michna hit Terrence Hall for the touchdown, cutting LSU's lead to 13-7. It was the only score the Leathernecks could manage.
The Tigers came back with a 59-yard drive, scoring on an 8-yard pass from Mauck to Green. Mauck rushed for the 2-point conversion, putting LSU ahead 21-7.
Mauck stretched the lead to 28-7 in the third quarter, hitting Green with a 40-yard touchdown pass with 2:26 left.