BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (Ticker) -- Matt Mauck threw four touchdowns and Michael Clayton continued his strong start with a career-high 11 receptions as 11th-ranked Louisiana State overcame a slow start and posted a 35-7 victory over Western Illinois.
Mauck completed 23-of-33 passes for a career-high 305 yards. After completing his final 10 attempts last Saturday at Arizona, he started by completing his first seven attempts on Saturday, tying the school record last accomplished by Rohan Davey in 1999.
"It felt pretty good," Mauck said. "We did whatever it took to move the ball and we threw the ball a lot. It feels pretty good out there."
"I think Matt Mauck probably played as fine a game as I've seen him play 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 so well out there. He's made steady improvement in every game this season."
Mauck continued his improvement by leading a balanced attack that featured a 100-yard runner and a 100-yard receiver for the first time since the Sugar Bowl win over Illinois following the 2001 season.
For most of the first half, the Tigers (3-0) struggled against Western Illinois, the top-ranked team in Division I-AA. Mauck was 14-of-21 and Clayton had nine catches in the opening 30 minutes, but LSU held just a 13-0 lead.
"We won't play anybody all year that'll want to beat us any worse than these guys do," Saban said. "They took it to us. That's an extremely well-coached team and our execution was not what it needed to be all the time."
The Tigers fumbled twice in the red zone, missed an extra point a botched a punt. But they held the Leathernecks to 78 yards and three first downs in the first half.
Mauck opened the scoring midway through the first quarter as Clayton caught a 10-yard pass. But after Clayton's fourth TD of the season, the Tigers botched the extra point and did not score again until Shyrone Carey plunged in from one yard out with 42 seconds left in the first half.
The fact that Western Illinois provided a stiff challenge was not a surprise to Saban. In wins over Wayne State and Eastern Michigan, the Leathernecks had allowed 15 points - all on field goals.
"This was a Rocky Balboa team I said (Monday) was coming in here and it was," Saban said. "That's exactly what they were. I have a lot of respect for them as competitors and the way they played."
"I was really proud of how our guys played," Western Illinois coach Don Patterson said. "I thought we played our guts out but I thought LSU matched our effort. That's saying something because we play with a lot of effort and lot of intensity."
Western Illinois made it 13-7 less than five minutes into the second half, but Mauck threw a pair of TDs to Skylar Green in a span of 3:37 late in the third to build a 28-7 advantage with two minutes remaining.
The Tigers responded to Western Illinois' only TD with a 59-yard drive that was capped by an eight-yard pass to Green with 5:37 remaining. Mauck rushed for the two-point conversion, making it 21-7.
Mauck improved to 8-1 as a starter and his 40-yard pass to Green in the third was the Tigers' fifth TD strike of at least 40 yards.
He capped his career day with a 16-yard TD strike to Devery Henderson. It came after he lost five yards on a failed second-and-eight play.
The Tigers totaled 457 yards as Carey gained 124 yards on 21 carries and Henderson had six catches for 65 yards. Clayton finished with 162 receiving yards.
LSU improved to 3-0 for the first time since 1998, two years before Saban took over.
Russ Michna completed 17-of-39 passes for 195 yards. But he was sacked twice and threw three interceptions.