Executing through the air helps offense click

It was supposed to be a ground and pound affair, but Jarrett Lee and the LSU offense found balance in their 19-6 win over Mississippi State.

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- On a night where both teams wanted to pound the football on the ground, LSU offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa found balance in his team's offensive attack.

Led by Spencer Ware's 22 carries for 109 yards, LSU rushed the ball 38 times – four more than Mississippi State – for 148 yards.

Then there was the air attack, which accounted for 213 of LSU's 361 total yards and the game's only touchdown.

In front of a raucous, cowbell-ringing Thursday-night crowd at Davis Wade Stadium, Tigers quarterback Jarrett Lee took another step in the right direction, going 21-of-27 for 213 yards, a touchdown and an interception – which came after LSU's lead swelled to 16-6.

Alone on the field after the Tigers took the 19-6 road win, quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe reflected on the night.

"I thought it was a real strong outing," Kragthorpe said. "I thought (Lee) managed the game well. It was a rock 'em-sock 'em game, and they were doing a lot of things to try and take away the run. They ended up playing a lot of man coverage on the outsides, and (Lee) did a good job of getting the ball into the playmakers hands."

For Kragthorpe, and offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa, success at the quarterback position is about striking in key moments.

Making the big play, if you will.

Thursday night, Lee did just that.

With LSU backed up against its goal line late in the second quarter, Studrawa called for a play-action pass that sent wide receiver Rueben Randle on a post route. The result was a 31-yard pickup that gave the Tigers room to breathe. Nine plays later, Drew Alleman knocked a 42-yard field goal through the uprights to give LSU a 6-3 lead.

"If you can make those big plays when they have you pinned and want to change field position, now they are backed off," Studrawa said. "Now we will run the ball and make bigger plays in the run game."

At the start of the fourth quarter, Lee drove the offense into the red zone on a string of completions to Randle and freshman receiver Odell Beckham. After back-to-back runs by Ware, Studrawa was ready to take a shot at six points.

On first down, Randle sold the post route and took off for the corner of the end zone. The result was a perfectly thrown pass from Lee to a wide-open Randle that gave LSU the game's only touchdown.

Up 16-6 with just over 11 minutes to play, the Tigers unofficially locked up their SEC opener.

"We are taking our shots and selecting plays that we felt like would be good against their defense and how they were going to play us," Kragthorpe said. "(Lee) threw a couple of really nice balls. Overall he just did a good job of managing the game, all the way down to the run audibles at the line of scrimmage."

For Randle, who grabbed six passes for 98 yards and a score, it all boiled down to execution – where he said that Lee got a passing grade.

"We just did a great job executing," Randle said. "Whatever the defense gives us, we are going to take it. We will take our shots. That's what this offense is going to be all about.

"We stayed confident in Jarrett throughout the whole game week, and he did a great job. He stepped up when the coaches asked him to and he made the right throws. If that stays the same, we will win a lot of ball games."

In his third season with the program, Randle has become a safety blanket for the LSU quarterbacks.

In his third game with the program, Beckham is working himself into that same mold.

Beckham grabbed a team-high eight catches for 61 yards Thursday. The last time an LSU true freshman receiver hauled in more passes in one game was Oct. 13, 2001, when Michael Clayton had nine receptions against Kentucky.

"They were playing off me and trying to double-team Rueben, and it gave me a chance to catch a few," Beckham said. "(Wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales) has a lot of trust in me right now, and everything is clicking."

Not one to soak up the spotlight, a soft-spoken Beckham pushed the credit back onto Lee.

"My relationship with Jarrett has been tight," Beckham said. "We have this certain connection where he knows where I will be and I know where he is going to throw the ball. He stepped up and played great."

For a quarterback who has been through all college football has to offer, Lee's most telling stat is also the one he's most frustrated about.

When Lee was intercepted in the fourth quarter, it broke a streak of 131 passes without turning the ball over – a sure sign that the Lee we once knew has matured into a different type of passer.

"The coaches are calling a great game, so it's a matter of staying poised and confident and making those plays happen," Lee said. "It's there. Confidence is something I have now.

"I just have to execute."

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