REPORT CARD: LSU vs. Miss State

Despite the signs outside of Davis Wade Stadium that state artificial noisemakers are not allowed inside, the din of cowbells could be heard almost constantly throughout the course of LSU's 45-0 thrashing of Mississippi State.

At times the clanging may have had the Bulldogs fans' desired effect. But for the most part it seemed like the Tigers had a fever, and the only prescription was more cowbell.  


There was rain. There was rust. There was good, and it far outweighed the not-as- good. Without question though, the most important outcome of LSU's 2007 season opener was that the No. 2 team in the nation began its campaign with a convincing win. What might be overlooked about this Southeastern Conference divisional matchup, however, is the fact that this marks the first time since 2003 that LSU has opened up its conference schedule with a win.


During their last three seasons, the Tigers have played for a spot in the SEC Championship Game from behind after losing each of their conference openers. Two losses to Auburn and one to Tennessee by Week 3 of the season through that stretch have previously put a damper on the month of September for LSU. True enough, this game took place in August and there are still four playing dates ahead in September, but being unblemished after the first conference game is important.





For the bulk of the first half, LSU looked like a team with a first-year starter at quarterback, a first-year offensive coordinator, and a starting five on the offensive line that had 39 starts between them coming into the season.


The first touchdown didn't come until the 5:52 mark in the second quarter, and previous drives were hampered by penalties that LSU coach Les Miles attributed to "nerves."


Undoubtedly the offense is playing catch-up to the defense to start this season. And against Mississippi State, an average starting field position on its own 43-yard line in the first half and its own 44-yard line in the second half benefited LSU. Short fields were one of the reasons that the Tigers amassed only 347 yards on offense and the reason why six of seven scoring drives took less than 2:39 apiece.


As promised, running back by committee ruled LSU's backfield. Jacob Hester proved to be steady. Early Doucet served as a security blanket for Matt Flynn and was the only receiver with more than one reception. And embattled Tiger Ryan Perrilloux can finally be talked about for what he's doing on the field instead of off of it.


With four gifts from the Bulldogs in the first half, however, there should have been more than 17 points on the board after the second quarter for the Tigers.







With six interceptions and a fumble recovery to their credit, the Tigers made Thursday night look like a video game. It took four games in 2006 for LSU to equal the 2007 season opener's turnover margin.


The Tigers defense did what a defense is ultimately expected to do – keep its opponent from scoring. Along the way, it held Mississippi State to just 10 yards rushing, 136 yards through the air, and 3-of-14 on third-down conversions.               


Out of Mississippi State's 14 possessions, nine lasted three plays or less. The Bulldogs' leading rusher, Anthony Dixon, was held to 29 yards. Only three of the Bulldogs' 59 offensive plays went for 20 yards or more, and none of them were rushes.


From start to finish, LSU's performance was dominating. Four sacks, eight tackles for loss, four passes broken up, and 122 yards in return yards on four of its interceptions were just some of the statistics for the defense.


Actually, there was one Bulldog who managed to score Thursday night on a 20-yard field goal. Unfortunately for the home team, he was the student who put one between the uprights for the Hardee's Kick for Tuition. No Tigers were on the field at the time.







LSU's "punt ugly" formation wasn't quite as ugly as it had been in the past with Patrick Fisher doing the kicking. Fisher managed to get all seven of his punts off in under 2.29 seconds, and it only appeared Mississippi State really got close to one. Two pooch punts sailed into the end zone on Fisher, but after that he got LSU out of really bad positions with booming punts. He averaged 44.9 yards per kick.


Colt David had only one field goal opportunity and made good on it. He also hit on all six of his PAT attempts.


Kicking off from the 30 didn't hurt the Tigers as newcomers Josh Jasper and Andrew Crutchfield pinned the Bulldogs deep and/or gave the gunners time to get downfield. Mississippi State's average starting field position was at its own 26-yard line in the first half and at its own 27-yard line in the second half. The Bulldogs had only one kickoff opportunity, and Trindon Holliday managed to return that kick 26 yards.


All-in-all okay, but there were definitely a few times that made you wonder what would've happened if Virginia Tech had been the one doing the rushing.







There didn't appear to be much if any confusion on the part of the players. Even with a new offense in place, Matt Flynn had plenty of time to audible prior to just about every play at the line of scrimmage. The defense looked like it knew exactly what Mississippi State was going to do on almost every play, and the head coach notched a conference-opening win for the first time in his LSU career.


With the Hokies coming to town next week and less-than-optimal weather conditions, opening the offensive playbook entirely wasn't an option. But rushing Flynn purposely so many times was a cause for concern, and he was in the game a tad too long. Of course, that does give Virginia Tech's defense one more thing to think about.


Playing on a Thursday night was an unusual situation, one the Tigers coaches handled coming into the season well.



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