|Houston's Joffrey Reynolds (1) turns the corner and scampers for an 8-yard pickup in the first half Saturday, Sept. 9, 2000. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)|
James' interceptions - one in the LSU end zone and the other returned for a 56-yard touchdown - stopped potential game-tying drives.
Neither, however, would have mattered if LSU (2-0) had not failed to score three times from inside the Houston 20 in the third quarter. Two of those drives ended on Booty turnovers - a fumbled snap on the 1-yard line and an interception. The other ended on a blocked field goal after Brian Robinson had a ball slip through his hands while wide open in the end zone.
That kept the game within reach for Houston (0-2) and quarterback Jason McKinley, who got hot in the fourth quarter and hit Brandon Middleton with touchdown passes of 17 and 18 yards that narrowed the score to 21-13. The first capped an eight-play, 81-yard drive, while the second came one play after Booty was intercepted for the second time in the game.
LSU has now started the past five seasons at 2-0, perhaps more a testament to light early-season scheduling as their last two such starts ended up as 4-7 and 3-8 seasons. LSU's first victory this year was a 58-0 romp of Division I-AA Western Carolina.
Through the first three quarters, the Tigers' four-man defensive front put constant pressure on McKinley, forcing him to rush passes that often landed no where near receivers who often were well covered anyway. McKinley did not get 228 of his 354 passing yards until the fourth quarter. Middleton was his favorite target, with 8 receptions for 175 yards.
Play was sloppy early on a field saturated by daylong rain that did not stop until just before gametime.
But Tiger punter Donnie Jones gave LSU a big field position advantage with consecutive punts inside the Houston 5-yard line, the second a 59-yarder that pinned Houston back at their own 1.
Houston was forced to punt from its own end zone four plays later, and LSU took over at the Houston 37.
Booty found Jerel Myers for a 19 yard gain, and two plays later found Joe Domingeaux over the middle for an 11-yard score to put the Tigers up 6-0 and set off a 21-point surge over the next six minutes.
On LSU's next drive, Booty hit Josh Reed for a 28-yard gain on a third-and-7 play, then found Robert Royal on the sidelines for a 30-yard score, with Royal running most of the way.
Houston's slide continued on the ensuing kickoff as returner Leif Penn fumbled on his own 15 after a hard hit from Terrence O'Bryant. Four plays later, LaBrandon Toefield, who finished as LSU's leading rusher with 80 yards, ran the ball in from 3 yards out.
After McKinley converted a fourth-and-7 play from his own 42 with a 24-yard pass to KeyKowa Bell, Houston had an opportunity to pull within a pair of
touchdowns. But after a penalty gave Houston a first-and-goal inside at the LSU 5, the Cougars failed to move the ball, with McKinley getting pounded by Travis
Moses as he tried to throw on fourth-and-goal.