The Tigers overcame the vaunted daytime jinx (a 3-10-1 record in 11:30 a.m. starts) in a contest that was moved up for Jefferson Pilot television — the first morning game in Baton Rouge in five years — to improve their overall record to 3-1 and 1-0 in the Southeastern Conference. Mississippi State fell to 1-3 (0-2 SEC).
In a first half that was not pretty offensively for either team, three LSU turnovers turned into ten MSU points, while State managed just 88 rushing yards to LSU's 256.
Mississippi State won the toss and deferred to LSU, but in what LSU head coach Nick Saban called a "mental error," team captain Bradie James elected to kickoff rather than receive.
The Tiger defense, however, forced State to go three-and-out and punt from its own 38 yard-line. In a scene that has become all too familiar to Tiger fans, Davis grabbed a low, bouncing punt at the LSU 22. He quickly cut to his right, allowing a State cover man to fly by, then darted back up the middle of the field for a 78-yard touchdown return. The strike gave LSU a 7-0 lead with 13:01 to play in the first quarter.
The touchdown return, what should have been Davis' third of the season but was the first not negated by penalty, moved him into third place in the LSU record books with 890 return yards. It was LSU's first return since his 71-yard strike last, and the first for LSU against Mississippi State since Eddie Kennison's 100-yard score in 1994.
"It feels really good," Davis said of finally having one of his returns count. "Everybody was on their blocks and my boys are playing hard. …If everybody executes the way they are supposed to, everything will work out fine."
"LSU's a good football team," MSU head coach Jackie Sherrill said. "They are similar to Auburn in personnel except that they (LSU) have a better returner. There's no question that they do a good job and (Domanick) Davis is not easy to get your hands on. I think that we would be able to make some plays on him today, but we just couldn't get our hands on him. … The first punt that went for a touchdown was just a really bad punt. We just didn't have a chance to get down and make some tackles."
LSU quarterback Matt Mauck was not very effective in the first half, completing only two of six passes for nine yards. The second half saw LSU begin to run an option, at which Mauck's effectiveness saw a slight increase. He finished the game 4-of-12 passing for 52 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown strike to Devery Henderson, and rushed eleven times for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Mississippi State quarterback Kevin Fant was ineffective, finishing 15-of-39 for 122 yards with two interceptions. Backup Kyle York, who came on late in the fourth quarter, also yielded a turnover to Demetrius Hookfin, who scampered for a 49-yard return.
On the Tigers' first true possession of the game, Mauck took a second-and-8 snap, rolled to his right and turned up the field without properly tucking away the ball. MSU linebacker T.J. Mawhinney stripped the ball away and Rico Bennett recovered for the Bulldogs at the LSU 47.
Mississippi State's offense advanced to the LSU 5, but the Tiger defense held for 21-yard Brent Smith field goal that cut the Tigers lead to 7-3 with 5:02 remaining in the first quarter.
Another LSU turnover led to Bulldog points with just over nine minutes remaining in the first half. After catching a short pass deep in LSU territory, Henderson lost the ball MSU corner Korey Banks was making the tackle. Josh Morgan recovered for the Bulldogs and returned the ball to the LSU 2. On the very next snap, tailback Dontae Walker crossed the goal line to give Mississippi State a 10-7 lead.
Less than three minutes later, Mauck coughed up the Tigers' third turnover of the half when defensive tackle Tommy Kelly got a clean shot on him. Mississippi State took over at the LSU 36, but the Tiger defense held the Bulldogs to five yards on the possession. Smith's attempt from 47 yards was short and wide right, giving LSU the ball back at its own 31 with 5:50 to play in the half.
LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher apparently learned from the Tigers' passing inadequacies and stuck to a strictly ground oriented-attack that turned out to be extremely successful.
Davis ran seven consecutive times, pounding out 57 yards to the State 13 before being spelled by LaBrandon Toefield, who was able to bring the Tigers inside the five yard-line. Davis returned to power his way from five yards out into the end zone for his second score of the afternoon.
"Just feed me, just feed me," Davis said of his string of carries. "The guys were blocking; they did a really good job. They do their part, I do mine."
"They were in a lot of eight-man fronts," LSU head coach Nick Saban said of the MSU defense. "They were angling and slanting. When they angle and slant — just like Illinois did last year in the Sugar Bowl — Domanick has really quick feet and can make the jump cuts to get on the weak side of the defense. That's what he was doing a lot today, and that's what he's really good at."