REPORT CARD: LSU 48, Mississippi State 17

The first half of LSU's 2006 waltz will come to an end this Saturday when the Tigers venture into ‘The Swamp.' Truly, LSU's schedule this season fits the pattern of a waltz exactly – home, home, road, home, home, road, home, home, road, home, home, road.

With five games already in the books (yes, it's already October), LSU has appeared to have established its identity. On offense, JaMarcus Russell's arm and the hands of several talented receivers are the driving force. Defensively the Tigers are a force to be reckoned with that few in the SEC and nation can rival. All that remains now is the execution.

 

Homecoming is this weekend. No, not LSU's and not against one of those teams you welcome into your stadium with 100 percent confidence that they're going to collect their check and leave meekly while the alumni enjoy themselves tremendously. No, the Gators have designated the Tigers as their homecoming opponent this year.

 

That can either be taken as a throwback to days of yore when schools weren't afraid to test their mettle against anyone else on the same day the homecoming queen is crowed, or maybe it's a little bit of a psychological tactic – make the more than worthy opponent feel like they are being regulated to a slot that would normally be reserved for the ULLs, Idahos and Buffaloes of the world.

 

Regardless, everyone can now stop going back to Auburn and instead worry about facing yet another Top 5 ranked team on the road. But before they do, they still must take a look at what happened in Tiger Stadium last Saturday.

 

 

THE OFFENSE

 

For the second week in a row, LSU's passing attack led the way. JaMarcus Russell was nearly perfect, throwing for a career-high 330 yards while completing 18-of-20 passes with three touchdowns. A quick note, the last time Russell had numbers comparable to that was last year, when he completed 17-of-21 passes against Mississippi State.

 

Craig Davis, Dwayne Bowe and Early Doucet combined for 16 catches, 267 yards and all three receiving touchdowns and showed once again the dropped balls of last year are indeed things of the past. True freshman tight end Richard Dickson even got into the act with a 55-yard reception.

 

Again LSU showed there aren't many teams they are going to be able to establish the run against, and if not for long runs late in the game by Jacob Hester against Mississippi State's back-ups, the Tigers would not have likely finished with over 100 yards rushing as a team (At the end of the third quarter, LSU had only 26 yards rushing on 22 carries).

 

There were a few breakdowns on the offensive line, especially after Will Arnold left with an injury, but while the line still is mostly unable to open holes for any of the Tigers' running backs, they gave JaMarcus Russell enough time to pick MSU apart.

 

A slight deduction for Matt Flynn's pick-six.

 

GRADE: A

 

 

THE DEFENSE

 

Take away Flynn's pick-six and Sammy Joseph's breakdown in coverage with 9:57 to go in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided, and the Tigers' defense only allowed three points.

 

Before the rains came and the game had its first break at halftime, Mississippi State had minus five yards rushing on 15 carries and Omarr Conner had completed just 6-of-15 passes for 78 yards. All total, the Tigers held the Bulldogs to 14 yards on the ground and gave up just 226 yards combined.

 

Five more sacks were added to LSU's season tally, Craig Steltz hauled in his fourth interception of the year (the Tigers' ninth!) and five of Mississippi State's first seven possessions of the day were three-and-outs, including the first three.

 

It may not have been a perfect game, but as far as the starters were concerned, it was darn close.

 

GRADE: A

 

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

 

A muffed snap on LSU's final PAT attempt of the day was the main blemish the Tigers suffered on special teams. Actually, it was pretty much the only one.

 

Eight kickoffs, two punts and five punt returns made up the bulk of LSU's special teams performance, and the Tigers managed to come through with flying colors.

 

Following an LSU score, Mississippi State never started with the ball farther than their own 32 yard line and, on five occasions, the Bulldogs began possessions at their own 20 yard line or worse.

 

Chris Jackson averaged 40.5 yards per punt, and Colt David extended his consecutive successful PAT streak to 57 – third place in school history.

 

The only number we would like to see inflated was LSU's modest 9.8 yards per punt return. But no muffed punts and a nearly 10-yard average is just fine.

 

GRADE: A+

 

 

COACHING

 

Once again the coaching staff played to their team's strengths and didn't try to fit a round peg in a square hole. Definite kudos for letting the ball fly and not worrying about the disparity on the stat sheet.

 

It worked…again.

 

On top of that, the coaching staff once more prepared the Tigers for another unexciting opponent and had them at the top of their game from the opening whistle. For the most part, they even kept their intensity up following a lengthy weather delay.

 

But we do have to call one thing into question.

 

With 10:35 to go in the second quarter, JaMarcus Russell hit Dwayne Bowe in the end zone to put LSU ahead, 35-0. That probably should have been the end of Russell's day. Instead, Russell returned for the rest of the second quarter, then started the third quarter, then got the nod after the lengthy weather delay and even came back in to replace Matt Flynn at the end of third quarter.

 

Certainly it was important to solidify LSU's passing attack with the starters, as that will be the Tigers' bread and butter for the remainder of the year. Yes, it was important to reestablish momentum against MSU, but risking Russell for that much time could have been costly.

 

GRADE: B+


Tiger Blitz Top Stories