For the 3rd straight week Brad Nessler and Todd Blackledge were on the call for Mississippi State's game. It's almost hard to believe at this point in the year LSU and MSU had the same conference record (3-2) and overall record (7-2). State was also still ranked at #21. LSU was #7.
LaDarius Perkins was unable to go in this game. That would loom large later on.
LSU received the opening kick. Zach Mettenberger came out throwing the ball and Johnthan Banks nearly had an interception but it bounced off his fingertips. After a couple of LSU first downs that got the ball near midfield, Denico Autry flew around the edge and sacked Mettneberger who fumbled the ball, but it was recovered by the Tigers for a loss of 16 yards. The next play got it back near the original line of scrimmage but State was able force an errant throw by putting pressure on the QB with a LB blitz. Wilson didn't bring pressure much, but it seemed like when he did good things happened....and he may have kept his job. Punt by LSU.
Russell opened with a pass to Bump for no gain, but then hit Chris Smith on a curl route that he was able to turn into a 22 yard gain. On 3rd & 5 Robert Johnson caught a pass to move the chains - Nick Griffin had a nice block to keep the defender off Russell. The third 1st down was a pass to Bumphis and it got the ball to the LSU 22. After a false start penalty made it 1st & 15, Arceto Clark made a great catch leaping above the Tiger defensive back for 14 yards...Griffin picked up the first down. 1st & Goal and Dak Prescott came into the game. On his first play he did the Tebow fake run and pass to Marcus Green for his 6th TD catch of the year. Prescott didn't even have to think, it was that easy. 7-0 State.
A good kickoff return and a first down put LSU in MSU territory quickly. The Tigers pounded away with short runs and passes converting several third downs, but the Bulldog defense bowed up inside the red zone to force a field goal. 7-3 State.
End of the 1st quarter: MSU 7, LSU 3. That was an opening quarter that was completely different than the last two games. State looked in control and focused.
To open the 2nd quarter Josh Robinson was a tailback and immediately gained 3 yards on 2nd & 5, then came up just short on 3rd & 2. Drive ends in a 3 & out, although you could tell Mullen wanted to go for it, but it wouldn't have been smart. The punt return appeared to end in a Mississippi State recovery after they were going to down the ball as it was rolling around but the LSU player reached in and touched it, but the men in stripes correctly ruled that it hit Matthew Wells' hand and was illegal touching by MSU.
The next play was 25 yard completion to midfield. Mettenberger once again methodically moved the ball down the field with short passes, mixing in a few runs including a 12 yarder by Spencer Ware. But, once again the Dawgs held inside the red zone when the potential TD pass on 3rd down was deflected by the back of Benardrick McKinney's elbow. A chip shot FG was made. 7-6 State.
At this point, LSU had a 15:00 - 6:00 time of possession advantage, and 30-13 in plays...but MSU had the lead.
The first play of the next drive was a perfect pass to Malcolm Johnson for a 25 yard completion. On the first drive, Nick Griffin was in, Josh Robinson on the second drive, and Derrick Milton the third - he got the ball here on a pitch and even though it hit him right in the hands he never got control of it and LSU recovered the ball at the MSU 21. You have to wonder if Milton would have ever seen the field if Perkins would have been healthy.
Two plays later it was 3rd and 9 and it looked as if State's defense would be able to stop LSU again in the red zone (although them being there wasn't their fault). But Nickoe Whitley took a wild stab at coverage and Landry had an easy TD catch. 13-7 LSU.
To start the next drive Tyler Russell found a hole in the defense and QB sneaked it from under center for a gain of 16 yards. Nick Griffin back in the game and looking good getting the ball back into LSU territory...then Bump gets a big gainer to the 30 yard line. Three plays didn't go anywhere so Devon Bell came in for a 47 yard FG attempt...and made it - big kick. 13-10 LSU.
The Tigers started their next drive on the 29 yard line with :48 left. You'd figure Les Miles to pack it in during this type of situation, but he didn't...and two plays later Zach Mettenberger had passed their way to the MSU 25. The Dawgs got some pressure, although their O-line made some nice saving blocks, and Jay Hughes nearly intercepted the pass into the endzone, but it fell incomplete. On the next play, a perfect throw on a wheel route to Ware resulted in a 20 yard TD. 20-10 LSU.
Halftime: LSU 20, MSU 10. State played really well but just a few mistakes cost them. For the most part, they moved the ball very well on offense, and if not for the Milton fumble you have to wonder if the game would have been a lot different. And while the defense played very well for the most part, the :35 touchdown drive right before the half was killer.
The Bulldogs started the 2nd half off on offense, and went 3 and out. Yet another confusing punt return by LSU, this time the refs called it LSU's ball but it was correctly overturned because the ball hit Odell Beckham's foot and then State recovered. A huge swing as we got a new set of downs starting at the LSU 29.
MSU capitalized on the LSU mistake - they got a defensive pass interference call and then an absolutely beautiful pass by Russell to Chad Bumphis in the corner of the endzone for a touchdown. 20-17 LSU.
The Bayou Bengals got the ball back on the ensuing drive and moved it down the field pretty good. Autry had a pretty good game in this one, and Preston Smith was on the field a lot. Mettenberger had a lot of time to throw, but considering the competition and how MSU performed all year, they did pretty well with the pass rush. This drive ended with another field goal. 23-17 LSU.
Tyler Russell ran the read option on the first play and got three yards - Prescott would have gotten at least 8 with the space to run...Tyler just isn't that kind of QB so kind of a waste. After picking up a first down MSU had a 3rd & 3 from midfield. Russell tried a QB sneak but it was blown up by LSU - probably not the best play call, especially when you had been moving the ball on the ground during that drive.
LSU began driving again, and got into MSU territory again. On a deep pass to the endzone Darius Slay exhibited some great coverage and the pass fell incomplete. Unfortunately, they picked up the first down on the next play and continued to move the chains ultimately punching it in with J.C. Copeland on 3rd & Goal after two unsuccessful attempts. 30-17 LSU.
End of the 3rd quarter: LSU 30, MSU 17.
After the previous touchdown the LSU fanbase assumed the game was over and many decided to go back to their kegs and cauldrons of gumbo in the parking lot. State would be forced into a 3 and out.
The Tigers gained one 1st down on their next drive and got the ball to midfield but they were forced to punt. Brad Wing pinned the Dawgs inside the 5, however.
A couple of first downs gave Russell some breathing room and he chucked a 42 pass to Bumphis to get to the LSU 26. The Dawgs had a 3rd & 4 from the 15 yard line but Russell was sacked by Sam Montgomery. On 4th & 11 Mullen decided to go for it with just 6:45 left - this time Mingo came from the other side to sack him, absolutely destroying Charles Siddoway. Turnover on downs.
The MSU defense gave up a first down but were able to force a punt giving the offense the ball back with 4:59 to go.
By this time, the stands were practically empty. I know the fans expected to beat up on Mississippi State, and they wanted to party. But c'mon, MSU was #21 in the country, and this was Saturday night at Death Valley! But with the game still in doubt - MSU driving down 13, it looked like the stadium was maybe 50% full/empty.
Tyler Russell threw left and right completing passes to move it down the field. He hit Clark, Malcolm Johnson, Robert Johnson and Bumphis on a 4th & 10. State had a 1st & Goal and nearly a TD pass to Clark but it was just out of his reach. On the next play LSU picked it off and went the length of the field for a pick six. 37-17 LSU.
MSU ran a few plays and the game was over.
FINAL: LSU 37, MSU 17.
All in all, I think this was the best game State played all year. Yes, it was a loss, but there were a lot of good performances against a really talented LSU team. The offensive line played great, Russell had a really nice night: 26 of 38 for a career high 295 yards. Bump had 140 yards. The 350 total yards weren't going to jump out at you, but considering they did it without Perkins, I thought it was pretty good. The defense had one of their better games, although LSU was able to move the ball pretty well on almost every drive. They were put in some bad positions, and were out there for just too many plays against a power running team like LSU to survive.