Craig Loston saw the play coming.
Based on film he'd seen from Mississippi State's game against Alabama, he had already positioned himself perfectly. Bulldog quarterback Tyler Russell stared down the receiver, and Loston anticipated the pass. He stepped in front of the wide out and picked it off at his own goal line.
He already had a running start, and didn't let up until he reached the opposite endzone 100 yards later.
"I didn't know if I was going to score from the start," Loston said. "There were a couple of big guys in front of me, but once I got clear of them, I got the feeling I would… After that, all I heard was ‘Rah! Rah! Rah!' while I was running. I didn't have any plans of stopping until I got to the endzone…I didn't stop sprinting."
That play came at a perfect moment for the Tigers. LSU held a two-possession lead with less than two minutes remaining, but the Bulldogs had pulled themselves within nine yards of cutting the deficit to a touchdown.
With fans having flashbacks to Alabama's game-winning drive from the previous week, Loston sealed the victory and eased most concerns, but the defense's tendency to allow late-game yardage has led some to worry.
But not Loston.
"That's what you expect coming to a school like this," Loston said. "You don't expect anything to be given to you. You always want to fight until the end. We fight until we get victory, and that's what happened Saturday."
Loston's interception did more than just seal the win. It also led Loston to be named Southeastern Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Week.
"For all the great defensive players in the SEC, for me to walk out with that, I appreciate that," Loston said.
But despite the award, Loston still called his performance an "alright game." The thing that prevented it from being great was the touchdown he allowed early in the second half.
Following a muffed punt by Odell Beckham, Mississippi State got possession at the LSU 29-yard line. On the first play of the series, Loston was called for a pass interference penalty that moved the Bulldogs 15 yards closer to the endzone.
"I totally disagree with the interference call," Loston said. "I thought I got there in time to block him off and look back. But things happen, and we can't always get what we want.
"I try to stay away from calls. I told myself this year that I was going to try and cut back on the flags. I was hoping not to get a flag, but I ended up getting one. That was my second one of the year. That's too many. It's unacceptable. I have to stay away from things like that."
Mississippi State added insult to injury when receiver Chad Bumphis torched Loston on the next play for a wide-open touchdown in the back left corner of the endzone.
"I lost my leverage and let him on the outside of me," Loston said. "I looked back for the ball, and he ended up getting more away from me than I thought he was."
But Loston exacted his revenge with the 100-yard pick six, and it's plays like that which stand out for the former five-star safety who's struggled with injuries throughout his career.
But Loston continues to run past his previous disappointments — much like he did to the Bulldogs on Saturday — and to focus on the success he's had this year.
"By far it's been my best season," he said.
Loston's Pick-Six Part of Successful Season
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