“It was not the game that we’d all have scripted,” said LSU coach Les Miles. “We played a very physical defense and matched that physicality, or exceeded it. The team is set to go into a two week phase where we’re going to improve. We’ve got to play better than that.”
The score line hides what was an otherwise impressive performance statistically. In his first career start, redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee completed 18 of 27 passes for 261 yards, connecting seven times with Brandon LaFell, for 100 yards. Lee also found Demetrius Byrd for a 43-yard strike that would be the Tigers’ final points.
“That’s all we want from Jarrett Lee is to get the ball to the guys that the play calls for,” Miles said. “Read it and throw it, and he did that. I thought he handled the game very well.”
Andrew Hatch did not take a snap tonight, which Miles attributed to the concussion he suffered Sept. 20 at Auburn. True freshman Jordan Jefferson did make his way into the game, falling just short of a rushing touchdown early in the second quarter.
“I would have liked to get Jordan into the game more without question,” Miles said. “He’s going to be a heck of a player and I’m glad we got him in in the heat of the game.”
The LSU defense held the Bulldogs to just 285 yards and forced six punts. However, LSU’s negative two turnover margin led to a Bulldog touchdown. Mississippi State managed 110 yards on the ground, a stat Miles attributed to an unbalanced line formation that had not shown up in the Bulldogs’ film.
“There were a lot of mistakes made that allowed their offense to move the ball,” he said. “We didn’t adjust to an unbalanced formation until the second half … and they used a couple of routes that worked against our linebackers, and our linebackers made those adjustments late.”
The night’s miscues did not slow down junior tailback Charles Scott, who tallied more than 100 yards rushing for the fourth-straight game. Scott powered his way to 142 yards and two scores against what Miles called a “very physical” defensive front.
“A win is a win and we will take it,” Scott said. “We need to go back and watch film and be very critical of ourselves … because we have opponents down the road that will make us regret the mistakes we made tonight.”
Those mistakes were a repeated topic of conversation in the Tiger’s locker room. Looking around at the various players, one would suspect that LSU had also been a victim of the upset frenzy, and not the potential No. 2 team in the country.
“I told my players that I don’t take this as a W,” said junior defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois. “It can go in the stats as a W but I’m not taking it. Because I know we can execute better. Mississippi State has a great quarterback, a great running back, and a great scheme. They play downhill and they took it to us the best that they could.”
Jean-Francois said the Tigers’ Oct. 4 bye week is coming at a perfect time, both for physical and mental reasons.
“We had blown coverages, we were over pursuing. We were prepared, but it felt like at one point everyone got frustrated and that got to us. Going into this bye week we’re just going to break down film going from the first game to this game. Then we’re going to break down all of Florida’s games, all of the games we’ve played against them, and all of the games they’ve played against other teams. When we go to Florida we won’t have this problem again.”
While Miles did not know the specifics of the injuries to either Jean-Francois or Charles Alexander, he said both are considered minor and should not sideline either lineman.
When asked about the injury, Jean-Francois seemed almost insulted that someone thought he’d sit out the clash with the Gators.
“Right when I leave here I’m going straight to the training room,” he said. “I’m just going to put some ice on it and just get it straight.”
Tonight was the Tigers’ second-straight game without senior linebacker Darry Beckwith. But, as serious as the injury looked against North Texas, Miles was optimistic about Beckwith’s chance of return for Florida.
“There’s a legitimate chance that [Beckwith] will be back for Florida,” he said. “If he gets playing time in our practice week then I’ll look forward to playing him.”
Charles Scott and linebacker Kelvin Sheppard both left the game with minor injuries, but returned to the field later in the game.
With his two field goals Saturday night, one from 38 yards out and the other from 39, along with his four PATs, kicker Colt David passed tailback Dalton Hilliard on the Tigers’ all-time leading scorers’ list. David now sits in the No. 2 spot with 307 points. With 307 points, he is just 11 points shy of tailback Kevin Faulk, who holds the No. 1 spot with 318.
David is also just 19 PATs away from holding the No. 1 spot for most PATs in SEC history. Only Tennessee’s Jeff Hall and Florida’s Jeff Chandler rank above him.
Charles Scott’s 142 yards and two touchdowns give him a season total of 536 yards and six touchdowns after four games. Scott’s total for all of 2007 was 330 yards and five touchdowns. At this pace, his regular-season total would be 1,608 yards and 18 scores. No LSU tailback has broken even 1,200 in the tenures of either Les Miles or Nick Saban.