---The Tigers drove back into victory lane Saturday night with a convincing 37-17 win over Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3) and, in the process, took another step toward a possible BCS berth come January.
No. 7 LSU (8-2, 4-2) overcame a seven-point deficit in the first quarter to topple Dan Mullen's Bulldogs.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger had his second banner game in a row, completing 19-of-30 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns.
The timing of the victory was opportune, too, coming on the same day in which Johnny Football and Texas A&M shocked top-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa. (Side note: Sam Montgomery after the game came with the following priceless quote. "He's the leading rusher in the SEC and he's the quarterback. Heisman.")
The loss by the Crimson Tide means LSU inches even closer to being extremely relevant in any discussion of at-large teams and BCS bowls. Some of the Tiger players spoke to that notion after the game (see below).
---But the theme of tonight, especially evident inside the team's locker room postgame, was confidence. The "C" word was quite contagious from Les Miles to the players who addressed the media.
The team's gaining confidence. The offense has confidence. Mettenberger has confidence. The receivers have confidence.
Armed with two straight games of more prolific results in the passing game, team members weren't shy about letting reporters know that the offense has found its mojo.
"You're seeing the coaches have more confidence in us," Mettenberer commented. "They are mixing it up, more run-pass, and being more balanced. Guys are making plays, having confidence and having fun out there. That's all you could ask for, to have fun out there."
Senior left tackle Josh Dworaczyk had some thoughts of his own on the subject, saying it was the off week before the ‘Bama game than in a large way got the offense pointed in the right direction.
"I think we were able to do a lot of things [with the extra week]," Dworaczyk said. "All the way from the coaching staff down to everybody on the offense, everybody who's contributing, we got our confidence back and we were able to build off of some things from the Alabama game. Honestly right now Zach is someone who we're living off of, the way he's playing. At the same point in time, the running game is still very well established. We were able to win some games there earlier in the year. Now for Zach to be able to spread the field and get those passes, it's awesome.
"As an offensive lineman I love big chunks of yards, just jogging down the field and getting lined up. And I think as an offense, Coach Stud has put in some more of the tempo stuff, and that's giving people fits and getting Zach into more of a rhythm. It's helping our offense."
---The defense, never a group lacking in confidence, was the beneficiary of two big turnovers against Mississippi State – the first a fumble recovered by Lamin Barrow and the second a pick-six dash from goal line to goal line by safety Craig Loston in the waning moments of the ballgame.
Several defenders spoke about those momentum-changing turnovers.
Barrow on his fumble recovery, a play aided by KeKe Mingo slapping a loose ball to freedom: "I had to make a decision to either jump on it or try and scoop it. I tried to scoop it and score, and they bottled me up pretty quickly."
Mingo on Loston's nail in the coffin at the end: "I was running with him, then I was just like 'Go ahead, and you can take that one by yourself.' … He was definitely gassed. He didn't go back out the next series."
But, despite the win and overall success, State did throw for 304 yards and two touchdowns, an attack spearheaded by starting signal caller Tyler Russell. After the game, Russell and several LSU players addressed the Bulldogs' prowess through the air.
"We felt some of their players were pretty good at rushing the passer, so we did some things to get the ball out quick and it was effective," reflected Russell. "Unfortunately they made more plays than we did and all of our guys fought until the end. Sometimes you can fight as hard as you want and still not win the game."
Junior free safety Eric Reid indicated MSU's approach was at least somewhat unexpected by the Tigers.
"We didn't expect them to come out and throw the ball as much [as they did]," Reid said frankly. "We were focused on the run, but they came out throwing so we had to make a couple of adjustments. We did for the most part. They still did a pretty good job of it, so I'm sure coach is going to make some adjustments for next week, but we did good enough to win the game."
Barrow chipped in with his thoughts on why LSU is susceptible to the pass at the ends of games when the Tigers carry a lead.
"It's SEC football. It's tough," explained Barrow. "We might bend a little bit, but we never want to break. Today we came through in the fourth quarter. Craig Loston made a hell of a play. We're going to study real hard and try to finish well at the ends of games."
---Finally, the topic of bowl games and where LSU will land was brought up plenty by reporters in postgame interviews. Most players were pretty cagy with their responses, but it's clear getting to the BCS is motivating LSU's guys.
"It's about just finishing strong," middle linebacker Kevin Minter said. "Whatever bowl game we end up, hopefully we end up in a good one, however it ends, we need to end the season with a ‘W' … Definitely (making the BCS drives us). That's what we do here. We go to BCS games.
"It's hard for us to settle for a smaller bowl. If it happens, like I said, we've just got finish strong, no matter where we end up."
Then, when I pointed out to Minter that an Alabama loss meant the SEC might not be represented in the BCS title game, the Georgia native was almost a loss for words.
"Yeah, it'd be very weird," he finally managed to say with a pained look on his face. "We've got the last, what, six. It's always been the SEC. If it happens, I guess it is what it is. I guess that's why we're getting that playoff in the next few years."
Minter's right on that one.
INJURY NOTES: Good news for LSU fans in this department. It seemed to be a fairly safe and pain-free game for the Tigers. During various parts of the evening, RB Jeremy Hill (leg/ankle) and WR Odell Beckham Jr. (groin) went out of the game with injuries, but both came back and were able to be productive cogs in the offensive machine. FS Eric Reid also showed little affects of his sternum injury, leading me to believe the situation's not getting any worse. He laid some good licks on people today, too, and Reid looked just fine in the aftermath.
Postgame Pulse: Mississippi State
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