Tigers too much for Miss. State

If nothing else LSU wanted to send a message to the rest of the college football nation in their 51-0 romp over Mississippi State – Meet the 2004 Fighting Tigers.

"Well I think our goal was in this game today was to get this team to establish an identity," LSU coach Nick Saban said.  "I haven't been particularly pleased with the toughness that we've played with mentally or physically – the kind of relentless, competitive spirit that we demonstrated consistently, or the way that we've executed and gone out and kind of knocked the other guys out. 


"I really do believe that this team has been affected by everybody else who worries about the results of winning, rather than beating the other team.  And I think there's a tremendous difference in that psychologically.  This is the first game I thought today that we actually went out and beat the other team like we want, dominate the line of scrimmage, and I was particularly pleased with the way the team as a whole did that."


LSU's domination of the Bulldogs (1-3, 0-2) showed in nearly every facet of the game for the Fighting Tigers (3-1, 1-1), and other than the score there were several statistics to back up such an assertion.


By a count of 599 to 130, LSU produced more yards offensively.  The Fighting Tigers amassed 272 yards rushing on 58 attempts, completed a total of 18 passes for 327 yards, and executed 12-of-15 third down conversions successfully ultimately collecting 31 first downs to Mississippi State's single digit output of seven.


Bulldogs' first-year coach Sylvester Croom knew afterwards there were few words to describe his team's third consecutive loss since beginning the season with a win.


"There isn't a lot to say here," Croom said.  "Where I come from we call that a good old fashion ‘butt whooping'.  I commend Nick (Saban) and their team."


The Fighting Tigers got on the board first with a business-like drive to open the game, during which Marcus Randall completed the only two passes he attempted.  Meanwhile, Justin Vincent, Joseph Addai, and Alley Broussard did the legwork to move LSU down the field.


Broussard rambled in the final 11 yards of the 7-play, 74-yard march right up the middle of Mississippi State's defense, capping the 2:42 possession.


It wouldn't take the Fighting Tigers long to add to their total when on the Bulldogs' ensuing possession Corey Webster stripped the ball out of Brandon Wright's hands on Mississippi State's second play from scrimmage and then recovered the fumble at the Bulldogs' 18 yard line.


"We kept trying to throw the ball up the field, which we planned to do coming into this ballgame because they were a bump team," Croom said.  "But a couple of our smaller guys, Tyler (Threadgill) and Jonathan (Lowe), who we thought might could get by them on a couple of times, and we did get by them on a couple of times but we didn't make the plays.  We had opportunities to make plays.  Whether it was the throw or the catch, we didn't make them.  When we complete a pass on our first throw, when we make a first down, we fumble the football.  Those things will get you beat."


Six plays later, Broussard was crossing the goal line once again, this time from a single yard out after he and Shyrone Carey shared the duties in getting the ball close to the end zone.


With Randall still at the helm, the Fighting Tigers did put up more points with another 7-play drive.  This one covered 68 yards, and after a completion to Davis down the middle put LSU within striking distance Broussard rushed in from 16 yards out for his third touchdown of the game.


"I was particularly pleased with the way Alley Broussard ran the ball for the second straight week," Saban said.  "All the backs did a good job out there, but his toughness brings something to the table that can be a little bit contagious for your team relative to the excitement that he can generate; especially in those guys that play the tough positions like the offensive linemen."


Averaging 5.6 yards per carry, Broussard led the Fighting Tigers with 73 yards on 13 attempts.  He was one of six LSU backs to take a handoff or a toss in addition to rushing attempts by Randall and JaMarcus Russell.


"I just felt more relaxed, felt more confident playing," Broussard said.  "It's just a difference from last year to this year.  Now I can see the holes better, my reads, the defense is slowed down a little more.  Not taking anything away from Mississippi State, they still played hard, but that's what I see out there.  I think I played with more confidence this game."


Bulldogs' quarterback Omarr Conner provided the Fighting Tigers with another score on Mississippi State's ensuing possession with the aid of Cameron Vaughn. 


Vaughn had Conner wrapped up in the backfield when the Bulldogs' starter attempted to throw the ball away.  He did, but threw it away into the awaiting arms of Marcus Spears who returned the interception 35 yards for a score to help give LSU a 27-0 lead.


"Cameron (Vaughn) did a great job getting pressure on him and that was an attribute to it," Spears said.  "And I think anytime you get those guys running sideways and kind of look for some things to happen you gets them in bad positions.  And fortunate enough I was there.  He gave me a gift and I proudly accepted it."


Despite the effectiveness of LSU's offense in the first half, there were a few miscues that prevented the Fighting Tigers from padding their advantage.


The first occurred when Craig Davis was relieved of a completed pass by Mario Bobo on LSU's third possession.


Mississippi State gave the ball right back by virtue of a three-and-out, but the Fighting Tigers never took control as the punt hit the back of Daniel Francis and was recovered by the Bulldogs.


LSU would catch a break, however, when Webster came up with his second turnover of the day.  This time he did so the more conventional way for a cornerback, with an interception.  Webster's pick was anything but conventional though, as he made the interception while diving, rolling, and one-handed.


"Coach Saban preached all week we needed to start creating more turnovers," Webster said, "and I just had that in my mind in the back of my head ‘I can't let this go' ‘cause you know you've got to take advantage of the opportunities.  We let a couple of those slip away from us, so I just wanted to make sure I could take advantage of it and hold onto the ball."


Russell was inserted in favor of Randall on the Fighting Tigers' next possession, their fourth, and brought LSU all the way down to the Bulldogs' three yard line.  A fumbled exchange with Vincent killed the drive there, and the Fighting Tigers would have to wait until after another Bulldogs' three-and-out before getting their final score prior to halftime.


The last touchdown finished off a 6-play, 43-yard drive, and came about when Russell hit Early Doucet on a slant that saw the freshman wide receiver spin away from one Bulldog before dragging defensive back David Heard a couple of yards into the end zone.  Twelve yards were covered in all by Doucet, and with 2:29 remaining in the second quarter LSU established a comfortable 34-0 cushion.


Neither LSU quarterback had much of a problem moving the Fighting Tigers through the air over the first two quarters.  Randall finished the half a perfect 7-of-7 for 103 yards, and Russell added a 5-of-8 for 91-yard performance to give LSU 194 yards passing.


"Once Marcus (Randall) came to the sideline I asked him how did he feel out there, how things went," Russell said.  "Once he told me I felt like I was already in the groove before I went out there.  He did a pretty good job explaining things, how everything went, and once I got out there I felt a lot more comfortable than when I did before I went in."


Overall the Fighting Tigers out gained the Bulldogs 353-59 yards offensively in the first half, and Mississippi State netted a mere 15 yards rushing on 13 attempts.  An 0-for-4 conversion rate on third down did little to help the Bulldogs' cause, while a 6-for-6 showing on LSU's part in the same statistic allowed drives to continue for the Fighting Tigers.


Mississippi State's offense was so ineffective in the first half, they never managed to cross midfield on their own.  The Bulldogs' only foray into Fighting Tigers' territory came courtesy of their recovery of the punt that bounced off of Francis.


Such offensive ineptitude would continue as Mississippi State failed to move past the 50 yard line for the duration. Their own 45 yard line would be the closest the Bulldogs would get in the second half.  For all of two plays over the final two quarters, Mississippi State was also without the services of Conner.


Glen Dorsey hurried the Bulldog, eventually driving him to the ground.  Conner remained on the turf well after the whistle blew, and required assistance getting off of the field.


"We'll know tomorrow, but I don't think it will be very positive," Croom said of Conner's status.  "I blame myself for that.  We were still trying to win the game.  I was going to let him play one more series because I wanted him to leave the game with some confidence."


Conner's injury gave way to Kyle York entering the game, but the forced substitution mattered little to the outcome.


A 4-of-12 showing for 44 yards and three interceptions proved to be Conner's bottom-line, and York managed only slightly better as he completed 4-of-14 attempts for 46 yards with one interception.

"He told us to play at full speed," Travis Daniels said of the way Saban had the team approach the game.  "Don't worry about results or anything like that, just go out there and try to dominate the guy in front of you.  You do that and everything else will take care of itself."


As if the better parts of the first half were still in effect, LSU under Russell took their opening possession of the third quarter following the Bulldogs' three-and-out, and used just 2:56 off of the clock to cap the third of four seven-play scoring drives against Mississippi State.


Taking over at their own 49 yard line following a punt, the Fighting Tigers kept the ball on the ground for the most part, though Russell did find Dwayne Bowe twice with passes en route to the end zone.

Bowe hauled in a 12-yard pass on the second play of the possession, and then four plays later found himself alone near the sideline at the Bulldogs' eight yard line for a 17-yard reception.


Scrambling for the final eight yards himself, Russell ended the 51-yard drive at the 10:10 mark in the third quarter, and Chris Jackson's PAT made the score 41-0.


Although he failed to get into the end zone for the first time this season, Bowe did lead the Fighting Tigers with six receptions for 99 yards.  He was followed closely by Craig Davis, who caught five passes for 93 yards, including a one-handed snag in the flat from Randall that seemed destined to sail over his head.  Davis turned that first reception of his into a 19-yard gain to give LSU a first and

10 at Mississippi State's 22 yard line.


"I'm particularly pleased with the way Craig Davis is playing," Saban said.  "He's probably had more opportunities to make big plays and we haven't gotten him the ball than anybody else on our team.  He's played extremely well this year, and Dwayne (Bowe) has too.  What I'd like to see Dwayne do is not have some of those little lapses that he has now and then relative to his focus and concentration.  And I think that will contribute even more to his consistency as a player."


Six other Fighting Tigers were credited with catches, and LSU's only other touchdown through the air besides that of Doucet came from fellow freshman Xavier Carter.


Tee Milons' three catches for 37 yards led the Bulldogs.


Following the Fighting Tigers' previous possession when Russell was hit at the Mississippi State two-yard line and turned the ball over, Matt Flynn took over the quarterback duties and hit Carter on a 17-yard pass that turned into a 50-yard dash afterwards for the end zone with 14:45 remaining in the game.


It would be Flynn's first of only three passing attempts, and he would finish up connecting on 2-of-3 for 87 yards.


Keron Gordon would halt Mississippi State's next drive with an interception, and LSU then completed its final scoring drive – it's fourth culminating in seven plays.  Unlike the previous three, this one would end in a field goal, a 37-yarder by Ryan Gaudet.


Following the Bulldogs' eighth punt, LSU began its 12th possession on its own 19 yard line, and simply consumed the 7:19 left in the fourth quarter.  They did so mostly behind the running of Jacob Hester and Jason Spadoni, but on the Fighting Tigers' first third down situation of the drive, Flynn

connected with Bennie Brazell for a 20-yard gain to keep the drive alive.


"We did drive the ball in the second half," Saban said.  "We turned the ball over inside the five yard line twice today, which is never good.  But I think a lot of players got to play today.  I was pleased with the way we came out early in the second half and reestablished what we wanted to do, and then we just started playing a lot of players which I think is important for the future as well."


Ali Highsmith led LSU's defense with four tackles, and recorded the first sack of his career in a game where 11 different Fighting Tigers recorded at least one solo tackle.  An additional 15 LSU players were credited with at least an assist.


"We took that challenge," Spears said.  "We took that challenge that coach Saban gave us earlier this week, and we understand that if we play that way, if we play the way we played today, we'll be successful.  And that's the main thing we want to take away from this game."


According to Saban there are still things to correct, but as Spears pointed out, the coach's call has been answered.


"I know we made some mistakes and we turned the ball over, but we were kind of sacrificing that today to get the kind of effort and toughness and resiliency as competitors that we want to try to get," Saban said.  "And I think that was most important to establish and reestablish on our team.  And I was very happy and proud of the way the team responded to that challenge.  I thought some of the older guys on our team demonstrated some playmaking today that has been absent that I think some of our younger guys need an example for.  And I think that's also a real positive for our team." 

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