BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Jordan Jefferson's LSU teammates heard the boos when the embattled quarterback stepped out on the field for the first time since his suspension was lifted this past week.
That only sweetened their celebration when Jefferson stretched across the goal line to give the No. 1 Tigers a lead they would not relinquish in a 35-7 victory over Kentucky on Saturday.
"When Jordan Jefferson scored that touchdown, and (starting quarterback) Jarrett Lee celebrated, that's when I knew right then, that the word 'team' means so much more," LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery said. "Jordan's been through a whole lot, so now he can tell the story of how, 'I went through this, bounced back, came back on the team, and now we're all a big family again.'"
Jefferson was reinstated this week after a grand jury reduced charges the quarterback faces in connection with an Aug. 19 bar fight to a misdemeanor.
Lee remained the starter and played most of the game, struggling at times but hitting Odell Beckham Jr. for a spectacular 51-yard score, their second touchdown connection of 50-plus yards in two games.
Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu also continued to cause mayhem for opposing offenses, setting an LSU record for career forced fumbles with two strips, one of which led to his 23-yard scoop and score in the third quarter to make it 28-0.
Kentucky (2-3, 0-2 SEC) did not threaten to score until LSU (5-0, 2-0) led 35-0.
While Lee, Mathieu and Beckham had all played roles in four previous victories that lifted LSU (5-0, 2-0 SEC) to the top of the rankings, Jefferson's return added a new wrinkle.
LSU coach Les Miles had predicted Jefferson's reinstatement would not be a distraction and, if anything, would give LSU even more ways to win.
"We will use Jefferson in a variety of ways," said Miles, who did not allow Jefferson to speak with reporters after the game. "At different times in the season, we will need every skill and every collective attribute of our team."
Miles said he didn't talk to Jefferson about the boos, figuring he was tough enough to "handle 2,500 fans that are a little disposed to bemoan someone who is busting his tail to do everything he can do to help LSU."
After the touchdown, when only cheers could be heard, Jefferson celebrated with Lee and gave high fives to the entire offensive line.
"We know he can come in and make plays, he's won big ball games for us before, so it's not an issue at all," Lee said. "We're happy to have him back. He's got a great attitude. He's a great person. ... If he needs to come in and make a play for us, the team is OK with that."
Wildcats starter Morgan Newton missed on his first nine throws and completed only 2 of 11 passes in the first half, when he was sacked three times. Kentucky coach Joker Phillips gave freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith a chance in the second half, but Smith fared even worse, completing only one of five attempts and turning the ball over when he was flattened by a swarm of Tigers.
"We just thought we needed a spark and wanted to give Morgan a chance to sit back and watch the game from a distance," Phillips said.
Mathieu got to Smith first and swatted the ball loose just as several LSU defenders arrived and steamrolled Smith, who lay face-down while Mathieu scooped up the ball and returned it 23 yards to give LSU a 28-0 lead.
That was the third forced fumble this season for 5-foot-9 Mathieu, a true sophomore, and the second he had returned for a score. The player LSU fans call "honey badger," after the popular YouTube clip featuring the small but ferocious animal, later forced another fumble, the ninth of his career, two more than the previous school mark.
"We have a scheme going into every game and luckily right now it has involved me blitzing the quarterback a lot and getting the chance to make a bunch of plays. Every time I get the chance to blitz I am going to go get them."
LSU's defense registered five sacks, with Montgomery in on two of them.
Although LSU dominated, the Tigers' offense sputtered intermittently. Lee completed 8 of 21 passes for 169 yards and one TD.
Beckham, who scored on a 52-yard reception against West Virginia last week, was Lee's top target against the Wildcats, catching three passes for 72 yards.
LSU gained 179 yards on the ground, led by sophomore Alfred Blue's 72 yards. Blue scored once on a 1-yard run that made it 21-0 in the third quarter, capping a drive sustained by Russell Shepard's acrobatic third-down catch along the sideline.
Later, freshman Terrence Magee scored his first career touchdown, also on a 1-yard run. Spencer Ware, LSU's leading rusher coming in, was limited by what Miles said was a minor left leg injury.
Kentucky did not score until Newton hit Matt Roark with a 4-yard pass with 6:09 left to play.
"Morgan made a couple of plays down the stretch, but he had to play better than he is playing right now," Phillips said. "He is not playing fast and holding the ball way too long."
LSU opened the scoring on its second drive, when Rueben Randle outleaped double coverage to grab a 37-yard pass from Lee to the Kentucky 5, setting up the score by Jefferson, who rushed four times for 29 yards and did not attempt a pass.
The Tigers extended their lead to 14-0 when Lee hit Beckham on a crossing route on third-and-10. Beckham, a true freshman, spun up field after the catch and made five defenders miss as he cut back across the field for a stunning score.