RECAP: LSU 48, Mississppi State 17

BATON ROUGE – Saturday's Mississippi State-LSU game in Tiger Stadium was delayed for 52 minutes in the second half by lightening.

But nature's aerial display paled mightily when compared to the lightening and thunder from the arm of LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell. The strong-armed junior led LSU to touchdowns on its first five possessions and eventually a 48-17 win over the hapless and thoroughly defeated Bulldogs by completing 18-of-20 passes attempted for 330 yards and three touchdowns. 


"Obviously JaMarcus Russell and our passing game had a great day," LSU coach Les Miles said. "He is a tremendous weapon for us. He really performs when called on."


The win improved LSU's record to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the Southeastern Conference a week before a trip to Florida for a crucial SEC match up between two top-10 teams. Mississippi State continued what has already become a woeful season by sinking to 1-4 overall and 0-3 in the SEC. The road stays bumpy for the Bulldogs who return to Starkville to host a fourth-ranked West Virginia squad that features some of college football's best skill position talent.


The game was effectively over before most fans wiped the sleep from their eyes after the pre-noon start. Russell struck the Bulldog defense over and over with long passes that allowed him to compile 272 yards in the first half.


By the time a severe storm rolled through with 10:31 remaining in the third quarter, the Bulldogs and most of the fans realized the game was well out of reach, something that surprised Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom after what he said was a good week of practice.


"We got beat today by a very good football team and we knew that going in they were going to be a good football team," he said. "I was anticipating us getting off to a much better start in the game than we did."


The Tigers gained 446 yards in all, a full 200 more than its opponent. Mississippi State quarterback Omarr Conner finished with a respectable 15 completions in 28 attempts for 212 yards and one touchdown. But, his production was overshadowed by the lack of production by a Bulldog rushing attack that managed just 14 yards.


LSU's rushing attack struggled most of the contest but was able to eventually cap the 100-yard mark as three different runners scored touchdowns and almost evenly split 29 of the 38 Tiger carries for 108 yards.


Mississippi State's first of many mistakes was made when kickoff returner Derek Pegues grabbed the opening kick three-yards deep in the end zone and decided to tempt fate on a return. Pegues was tackled by a host of Tiger special teamers at the Bulldog 13. Two rushes and a feeble pass attempt netted Mississippi State five yards, giving the Tigers advantageous field position at their 44 after the fourth down punt.


LSU needed just six plays to score as Russell connected with Craig Davis for 20 yards, Dwayne Bowe for 25 yards then Davis again for nine yards to end the six-play drive and give the Tigers the first score. The point after by Colt David staked LSU to a 7-0 lead with 10:55 remaining in the first quarter.


Another inept offensive try by the Bulldogs netted just three yards on the ensuing possession, giving LSU its second shot to score. The Tiger drive started at the Bulldog 49, moved quickly to the six-yard line thanks to a 31-yard completion from Russell to Bowe and ended with a six-yard plunge by tailback Charles Scott. The touchdown drive lasted just four plays and 2:12 and gave the Tigers a 14-0 lead with 6:47 remaining in the opening quarter.


A block in the back penalty during the kickoff return pinned the Bulldogs at their 10 on the next drive. After managing one yard, Mississippi State punted and gave the Tigers a chance to twist the dagger deeper.


A nifty 22-yard punt return by Chevis Jackson gave the Tigers a first down at the State 37. A swift 37-yard pass from Russell to Early Doucet gave the Tigers a 21-0 lead on the next play. The throw and catch ate just 17 seconds and briefly paused on the route with 3:40 to play in the first quarter.


The Bulldogs earned a moral victory by picking up a first down on their next possession.


Then, they were demoralized by the Tiger offense when LSU again claimed possession four plays later. Russell completed a 15-yard pass to Doucet on first down from the LSU 28. Russell then shifted in the pocket long enough to find tight end Richard Dixon 55 yards down the field, giving Scott his second scoring chance on the first play of the second quarter. Scott obliged and plunged into the end zone from inside the one-yard line with 14:56 to play in the half and running the score count to 28-0 after the point after.


Mississippi State may as well have not possessed the ball at all on the ensuing drive.


After a personal foul call against the Bulldogs pushed the ball inside their 10, State punted again, giving the LSU offense more practice. Seven plays after regaining possession, Russell spotted Bowe alone in the back of the south end zone and drilled another touchdown pass. The uncontested toss capped a 54-yard drive that consumed just 2:50 and gave the Tigers a five-touchdown lead with 10:35 to play in the half.


The Bulldogs salvaged a modicum of dignity on their next possession by driving into LSU territory for the first time. The 11-play drive eventually stalled at the Tiger 15 giving Adam Carlson the chance to add three points to the visitor half of the scoreboard with a 32-yard field goal with 4:50 remaining in the first half.


Mississippi State had another chance to threaten to score late in the half when it recovered a Russell fumble at the LSU 43. But, two sacks in three plays rapidly closed the opportunity and the half ended after a Bulldog punt into the end zone.


The Bulldogs scored the first points of the second half thanks to a gift from Tiger backup quarterback Matt Flynn who threw a second-down pass straight into the gut of Pegues.


The MSU cornerback intercepted Flynn at the Tiger 23 on the west sideline then raced across the east side of the end zone untouched for a touchdown with 3:07 remaining in the third quarter to cut the lead to 35-10.


Flynn's inability led to Russell's return and the return of LSU's 32-point advantage. Russell led his team on a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended on a five-yard leap into the north end zone by tailback/fullback Jacob Hester. The score ran the score to 42-10 with 13:01 to play in the game.


"We took him (Russell) out of the game and put him back in the game," Miles said. We told him to engineer a drive and he did so. We have a responsibility of play. We don't want to finish the game sloppy."


The Bulldogs cut into that lead again with 9:57 to play when Conner found a streaking Tony Burks in the south end zone in single coverage. Conner heaved a 46-yard bomb to the wide out. The point after ended a five-play, 79-yard drive and cut the LSU lead to 42-17. 


LSU extended the lead again on the last meaningful drive of the game by leaning on a running game that had been left in the wake of the dominant passing attack. The Tigers attempted just one pass in a 13-play drive that spanned 80 yards and was capped by a one-yard plunge by Alley Broussard and featured a 23-yard run by Hester. The missed point after ran the final score to 48-17.


"We took care of business," Miles said. "It's nice to come off a victory and look forward to playing an opponent that we can get excited about."

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