REPORT CARD: LSU vs. Mississippi State

Over the past few years, most people have discounted the Mississippi State Bulldogs – especially when they faced the LSU Tigers.

While the Bulldogs haven't always been in the SEC Western Division celler, the Tigers seem to always have their number. Nick Saban made hammering Mississippi State a regularity during his half-decade stay in Baton Rouge.


Aside from an overtime thriller in his first game against State in 2000, the score usually reflected a sound LSU thumping of the pups, usually in the neighborhood of something to zero.


Sylvester Croom was greeted to the SEC quite rudely a year ago as Saban's Tiger sliced through his club 51-0. However, Omarr Conner and the Bulldogs had different plans for LSU when the Bayou Bengals visited Starkville this season.


With the Tigers coming off a tough loss to Tennessee and State coming off several strong defensive showings against some of the best teams in the SEC, Conner and the gang was thinking upset.


Knocked out of last year's contest in Baton Rouge after a miserable performance, Conner sent a message LSU's way on the third play from scrimmage last Saturday. Taking advantage of a befuddled Tiger secondary, Conner found Joey Sanders all alone on a 66-yard pitch and catch for an early 7-0 lead.


Inspired, the Bulldogs seemed well on their way for the potential upset. However, the defense on which State had hung its hat, fell prey to an LSU offense starving for nourishment. The Tigers ripped off 37 unanswered points and by the time a light mist begin to fall in the third quarter, LSU had yet again emptied Davis-Wade Stadium, the third straight such occurrence in Starkville for LSU dating back to the Bulldogs' last win – a 17-16 win over the Tigers in 1999.


LSU defeated the Bulldogs for the 15th time in 16 years widening the advantage in the Tigers' longest running series with an SEC opponent.


In the aftermath of the Tigers pitiful 56-yard offensive performance in the second half against Tennessee, LSU rolled to 400-plus yards of total offense and scored touchdowns on its first three drives of the second half soundly disposing of the Bulldogs.



The Offense:


This was a game LSU needed.


After struggling offensive for the first three quarters versus Arizona State and the entire second half and overtime against Tennessee, LSU was in desperate need of this tune-up game.


Opening the season against two top 15 teams, Mississippi State was just what the doctor ordered for this offense offering a sacrificial lamb on which JaMarcus Russell and his offense could fatten up.

While Russell still scrambled a more than his massive frame would allow absorbing more sacks than Miles would have liked, the sophomore signal caller was a sparkling 20 of 23 (a new LSU record) for 197 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both of which were to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.


Russell showed better leadership and confidence, especially in the second half, leading the Tigers on three, touchdown-scoring drives to open the third quarter and remove any doubt of a Bulldog comeback.


While Russell was near-perfect percentage-wise, the LSU backfield ground out 180 rushing yards, led by Joseph Addai's 86 yards on 17 carries. Addai put the exclamation point on the victory scoring LSU's final touchdown, a one-yard plunge late in the third quarter.


Shyrone Carey got in on the act displaying some pretty nifty moves and Justin Vincent, who is running solidly on the third team (which isn't such a good thing), actually showed some promise netting four carries for 22 yards.


The Tiger receiving corps is still battling dropped passes, but the full return of Bowe as a weapon was a positive.


The offensive line was dominating – most prominently in the second half - handling an above-average Mississippi State defensive front.


Overall, LSU scored more points against State than Auburn (28) and Georgia (23), but there was nothing about it all that flashy.


Grade: B+



The Defense:


It would have been interesting to have taken a poll of Tiger fans after Mississippi State's initial possession of the game.


Not to open a book that should have been burned after 1999, but when Omarr Conner connected with Joey Sanders on a 66-yard touchdown pass on the third play of the game (Sanders had no one within 30 yards of him), the name Lou Tepper was the first to come to mind.


There was a mixup in LSU's zone coverage and Sanders was left alone streaking down the seam. Conner's pass was a bit underthrown, but Sanders had time to slow down, snare the pass and scamper downfield with (in true Tepper fashion) linebacker Cameron Vaughn scrambling in pursuit.


As horrifying as LSU's blown coverage was at the time, the touchdown subsequently was the Bulldogs only score of the game. The Tigers surrendered 80 yards on the Bulldogs' first possession – 66 on one play – but gave up only 149 yards the rest of the way.


While LSU's defense struggled in applying pressure on the quarterback versus the Sun Devils and Tennessee, the Tigers lived in State's backfield pressuring Conner most of the day.


LSU has had few problems stopping the run this season. For the second week in a row, the Tigers bottled up one of the SEC's premiere running backs reducing Bulldog tailback Jerious Norwood to nine yards on seven carries. (Norwood left the game in the second quarter with a concussion after being leveled by LSU linebacker Kenny Hollis.) The LSU defense held the SEC's best back – Tennessee's Gerald Riggs - to 86 yards earlier in the week.


Aside from the early blunder, Bo Pelini's defense performed well and receives its highest marks of the season.


Grade: B



Special Teams:


How many punts has Chris Jackson downed inside the 10 this year? Make that the five yard line.


Jackson is growing into the SEC's most efficient punter with his angled kicks and pooch punts constantly pinning opponents deep in their own territory. He has also done an outstanding job on kickoffs keeping kicks away from dangerous return men and collecting a few touchbacks.


Skyler Green had another brilliant effort returning kicks returning five punts for 87 yards, including a 37-yarder, as well as logging a 30-yard kickoff return. However, as electrifying as Green can be, doesn't it always seem he gets tackled by the kicker/punter just before he is about the break a kick for a touchdown?


When Miles arrived in Baton Rouge, he said the coaching staff was going to make a sincere commitment to special teams. Kicker Ryan Gaudet even promised the Tigers were going to do a ‘hell of a lot better job' this season.


Both men kept their promise as LSU's special teams have been just that – special.


However, the Tigers did earn one low mark in the Mississippi State game. PAT specialist Colt David pushed his first offering of the second half a bit right and hit the goal post, logging LSU's first missed PAT of the season.


Grade: B+





Few fans want to cut Les Miles any slack right now.


Despite a win Saturday, the Tiger faithful will not soon forget LSU's stinging loss to Tennessee earlier in the week.


With fans wanting to burn Miles at the stake, the first-year coach said during a midweek meeting with the media how the start of this season has been anything but normal (with all of the distractions) and how emotionally spent his team has been.


Kudos to Miles for managing to keep his team focused in light of last Monday's meltdown versus the Volunteers. It was important to go on the road in the SEC (granted it was against Mississippi State) and bring home a win.


There was little LSU had to do in this game other than line up and play football. The Tigers were more talented than Croom's team and played to their strengths punishing the Bulldogs into submission.


While Miles did very little award-winning coaching in this outing, he has been on the receiving end of some rather harsh criticism over the last week and deserves a break after notching this big win.


Grade: A-

Tiger Blitz Top Stories