Throughout the week leading up to No. 7 LSU's showdown with No. 21 Mississippi State, more questions focused on the Tigers' previous opponent than it did on the next one.
How would LSU rebound from one of its most heartbreaking defeats in recent history? Would the Tigers have enough motivation to finish out the season with championship aspirations out the window?
LSU answered those questions by silencing its doubters en route to a 37-17 victory against the Bulldogs on Saturday night at Tiger Stadium.
"The question was whether this football team would come to play after playing an emotional game a week ago," said LSU coach Les Miles following the win. "There is not any question that they were. There is a fundamental feeling that we are just catching speed."
Following the offense's best performance of the season last week, LSU followed it up with 392 yards of total offense, led by Zach Mettenberger's two-touchdown, 273-yard performance. It marked the first time a LSU quarterback has thrown for more than 200 yards in consecutive games since Jarrett Lee in 2008.
"It takes some time to get everyone on [the same] page and on pace," Miles said. "Zach knows where he wants to go with the ball … Our receivers are now in a spot where there is a real chemistry developing there. It will continue … I don't think how we played in the passing game is enough."
LSU went behind early after its opening possession resulted in a punt. The Bulldogs answered with a 10-play, 74-yard drive capped off by a nine-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Green from Louisiana native Dak Prescott.
The Tigers marched into the MSU red zone on their next two series, but each drive eventually stalled, resulting in a pair of field goals from Drew Alleman.
The momentum shifted on the next Bulldog possession, as MSU running back Derrick Milton bobbled a pitch, resulting in a fumble aided by KeKe Mingo and recovered by Lamin Barrow at the Bulldog 21.
"That was a huge momentum swing," Barrow said. "The ball bounced straight my way."
LSU scored three plays later on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Mettenberger to Jarvis Landry, who led all receivers with 109 yards on nine receptions, both career highs. The score put the Tigers ahead 13-7 — a lead they never surrendered.
MSU managed a 47-yard field goal on its next series, but LSU answered back with a 71-yard touchdown drive that started with less than a minute in the first half. Mettenberger found Spencer Ware for a diving touchdown reception from 20 yards out.
"We worked on [the two-minute drill] and kept on it," Miles said. "We are getting better. The time and effort that is being spent there is paying dividends."
LSU forced a three-and-out to open the second half, but a muffed punt by Odell Beckham gave the Bulldogs a second chance. MSU took advantage with a 14-yard touchdown pass after a pass interference penalty on Craig Loston.
Alleman nailed a 41-yard field goal on the next LSU series to put the Tigers ahead 23-17.
LSU got the ball back after it forced a punt, starting at its own 20-yard line. Mettenberger led an 80-yard touchdown drive, capped off by a one-yard run by fullback J.C. Copeland. Mettenberger completed 4-of-5 passes on the drive for 66 yards.
"We are very confident," Landry said. "A lot of the guys on offense feel like we got that swag back. That's something we really want to embrace."
MSU would threaten one last time, though, driving inside the LSU five-yard line with less than two minutes to play, but Loston intercepted Tyler Russell at the goal line and returned it for a 100-yard pick six.
The Tigers return home next Saturday to face Ole Miss for the team's final home game of the season.
LSU rebounds with 37-17 victory against MSU
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