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Russell's 3 first-half TD passes pave way for No. 8 LSU

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- JaMarcus Russell needed two passes to
get his critics off his back and on their feet -- at least for now.

Rolling to his left, with a defender about to drive a shoulder
into his gut, the right-handed Russell uncorked a 58-yard bomb that
Brandon LaFell caught in stride for a touchdown.

Two more touchdown passes later, the No. 8 Tigers were on their
way to a 45-3 route of Louisiana-Lafayette in the season opener for
both teams on Saturday night. Russell was on his way to an early
exit -- on his terms.

"It was pretty good. In the first game you always leave
yourself room for improvement," Russell said, looking satisfied
but otherwise unimpressed with himself. "Some plays my eyes got
too big, too fast, but we were able to convert some deep passes."

The mistakes Russell pointed out were few. He finished 13-of-17
for 253 yards, validating second-year coach Les Miles' decision to
make him the starter over Matt Flynn and high-profile redshirt
freshman Ryan Perrilloux.

"We expect that from JaMarcus when he's in the game," Miles
said. "He's the type of quarterback that throws the
intermediate-to-long ball very well."

After redshirt freshman LaFell made his first college catch on
Russell's opening scoring pass, LSU took a 14-0 lead on a defensive
touchdown barely more than five minutes into the game. Jonathan
Zenon stepped in front of Jerry Babb's pass into the right flat as
he was getting hit. It was an easy 20-yard runback from there.

Consistently picking up the Cajuns' relentless blitzing, Russell
threw touchdown passes of 16 yards to Early Doucet and 28 yards to
Dwayne Bowe in the second quarter, putting LSU ahead 28-3 at the
half.

From that point on, the most excitement in the stadium came when
NBA star and LSU graduate Shaquille O'Neal, wearing a gold T-shirt
with a purple Superman insignia on his chest, was honored on the
field during halftime and given a No. 33 football jersey, the same
number he wore with the Tigers' basketball team.

Russell returned for only the opening drive of the third
quarter, completing passes of 26 yards to Bowe and 14 yards to
running back Justin Vincent. Jacob Hester's 2-yard touchdown run
completed the drive and made it 35-3.

Russell was 10-2 as a sophomore in 2005, but a separated
shoulder and wrist injury kept him out of the Peach Bowl, when
Flynn led LSU to a 40-3 victory over the Miami Hurricanes and
himself into favor with many fans. Others were eager to see what
Perrilloux, one of the top-rated recruits in the nation coming out
of high school in Louisiana, could do.

But Miles decided this season to stick with the 6-foot-6,
260-pound Russell, who responded by throwing three TD passes in a
game for the first time in his career. He is now 15-2 as a starter.

Flynn played most of the second half, replaced by Perrilloux
late in the fourth quarter.

Louisiana-Lafayette was co-champion of the Sun Belt Conference
last season and is expected to be among the best teams in that
league again this year, but were simply outclassed by stronger,
faster and more talented LSU, one of the best teams in the SEC for
the past half decade.

"I think we are going to be shocked ... with some of the mental
errors we made in this game," ULL coach Ricky Buslte said. "We
are going to find some positive things in this game."

And when Lafayette was able to move the ball on two drives in
the first half, LSU buckled down to hold the Cajuns to field goal
attempts, one of which missed wide.

When Drew Edmiston hit the second attempt from 41 yards out, it
was the first points Louisiana-Lafayette had scored against LSU
since 1924, having been shut out in 10 previous meetings with the
state's flagship state university an hour's drive east on
Interstate 10.

"We did have some drives. I think we are a better football team
than 45-3," Babb said.

It was ULL's lowest scoring total since its season opener last
year at then No. 2 and eventual national champion Texas.

Babb -- replaced early in the fourth quarter by Michael
Desormeaux -- finished 7-of-17 passing for 63 yards and two
interceptions.

LSU finished with 299 yards in the air and 170 on the ground,
while holding the Cajuns to 176 yards.

It was LSU's most points since a 56-3 victory last October
against North Texas. The last time LSU and ULL met was in 2002,
when LSU won 48-0.

"It was nice, but honestly we don't look at the scoreboard,"
LSU guard Will Arnold said. "However, after the game knowing that
you worked so hard, it is very satisfying to get such a big win."