It was no mystery for LSU heading into its game against Mississippi State. For the Tigers to have a good chance for a victory, they would have to get the ball into the hands of Domanick Davis – the most dangerous all-purpose player in the Southeastern Conference.
Little did they know it would only take one touch for Davis to put LSU on the scoreboard. And late in the second quarter, the Tigers turned almost exclusively to Davis to help them take the lead over the Bulldogs for good.
LSU opened the game with a kickoff to Mississippi State and held the Bulldogs to four yards on their first three plays. Jared Cook punted away from his 38 and sent a low, bouncing ball in Davis' direction.
Davis picked the ball up on the first bounce and got key blocks from Jack Hunt and Corey Webster. A shimmy and a shake later, he was running alongside Demetrius Hookfin on the way to a 78-yard touchdown.
"If they blocked the gunners, it's a possible six points," said Davis. "After that, you make one or two miss and it's wide open. It's too much of an opening to not get six points."
Davis had proven he could cover the distance on punts, returning kicks to the end zone against Virginia Tech and The Citadel only to have them negated by penalties. Upon reaching pay dirt against Mississippi State, Davis peered behind him for yellow flags.
"Yeah, I took a quick look down the field," he admitted. "The fans were still acting up, so I knew they didn't have any flags."
The Bulldogs answered LSU with a 21-yard Brent Smith field goal on their next drive and took a 10-3 lead following a Tiger turnover in the second quarter. With the Tigers mix of passing and running failing to net much progress, the LSU coaching staff decided to deliver a dose of MSU medicine to the Bulldogs' own defense.
"We came out and we tried to do some different things," said quarterback Matt Mauck, "and then we just said ‘Hey, lets just pound it down their throat until they stop us.'"
Running back LaBrandon Toefield was coming off a dominating performance against Miami of Ohio and looked to be the ideal back for a physical contest against Mississippi State, but head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher thought Davis would be better suited for what the Bulldogs were showing defensively.
"They (Mississippi State) were in a lot of eight-man fronts, and they were angling and slanting," Saban said. "When they angle and slant – just like Illinois did last year…in the Sugar Bowl – Domanick has got really quick feet and he can make the jump-cuts to cut the ball back and get on the weak side of the defense. That's what he was doing a lot today and he's really good at doing that."
Davis took the ball seven straight times, starting at the LSU 30 and advancing to the Mississippi State 13-yard line.
"They were kind of giving up. They didn't want it," Davis said of the Bulldogs' defense. "We were hitting them straight in the face on every play. They kind of let up a little bit and we took advantage of it."
For a change of pace following a Mississippi State timeout, the Tigers handed off twice to Toefield who brought them to the 5-yard line. Appropriately, Davis finished things off with a touchdown run to the right side.
"I had the best seat in the house. I didn't have to do anything – just hand it off and watch," said Mauck. "I thought that before that drive, (Mississippi State) still thought they were in the game. After that drive, I think we kind of put a stop to it. We said we're here to dominate the game."
Davis' 286 total yards against in the Tigers' Southeastern Conference opener place him atop the league and second in the nation in all-purpose yardage with 197.25 per game – just three-quarters of a yard behind the NCAA leader.
The Davis Drive
1-10 @ -30 Domanick Davis rushes for 7 yards
2-3 @ -37 Domanick Davis rushes for 5 yards
1-10 @ -42 Domanick Davis rushes for 8 yards
2-2 @ 50 Domanick Davis rushes for 13 yards
1-10 @ +37 Domanick Davis rushes for 3 yards
2-7 @ +34 Domanick Davis rushes for 11 yards
1-10 @ +23 Domanick Davis rushes for 10 yards
1-10 @ +13 LaBrandon Toefield rushes for 3 yards
2-7 @ +10 LaBrandon Toefield rushes for 5 yards
3-2 @ +5 Domanick Davis rushes for 5 yards
TOUCHDOWN, LSU 14, Miss. State 10 (1:03 2nd Qtr.)
NCAA All-Purpose Leaders (through 9/28)
Michael Turner N. Illinois 198.00
Domanick Davis LSU 197.25
Andre Forde Buffalo 193.00
Larry Johnson Penn State 188.75
William White Army 180.25
SEC All-Purpose Leaders
Domanick Davis LSU 197.2
Kwane Doster Vanderbilt 157.8
Artose Pinner Kentucky 153.0
Derek Abney Kentucky 145.0
Taylor Jacobs Florida 133.8