Tigers Hope the Trend Continues

Is Saturday's matchup against Mississippi State just what the doctor ordered for an LSU team that is still searching for an identity? Time will tell.

If a poll was conducted on which conference opponent LSU fans would like to see their Tigers play the most in their first road SEC matchup of the year then Mississippi State would be the overwhelming winner.

 

The Tigers have dominated the series – one that dates back to 1896 – at a 2 to 1 ratio. The two teams have met on the gridiron 102 times with LSU holding a 66-33-2 advantage against a school it has played more than any other in the history of LSU football.

 

LSU’s dominance of late is even more glaring as the Tigers have won 16 of the last 17 including nine straight.

 

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  • Mississippi State’s only win during that span was in 1999 when the Bulldogs took a 17-16 victory in Gerry Dinardo’s final year at LSU. That snapped a four-game winning streak for the Tigers in Starkville, and Dan Mullen will be looking to accomplish that same feat this Saturday as LSU is riding a four-game win streak in games played at Davis Wade Stadium.

     

    LSU (3-0, 1-0) is No. 7 in both the AP and Coaches’ Poll after defeating ULL, 31-3, last Saturday, while Mississippi State (2-1, 1-1) pulled an upset by getting a 15-3 victory on the road at Vanderbilt.

     

    The Tigers, however, head to Starkville still in search of their identity on the offensive side of the ball. LSU’s offense continues to misfire and Gary Crowton’s unit is ranked last in the Southeastern Conference averaging 325.7 yards a game.

     

    The lack of big plays in the passing game is an area of concern for Crowton and the Tigers, but it’s overshadowed by an ineffective running game that features one of the top backs in the country in Charles Scott, but one that is tenth in the league at 163.7 yards a game.

     

    “I think there is not one piece that’s broke,” head coach Les Miles said regarding his running game. “If it was, it would be easy. But it’s a combination, and we have to settle in and just execute better.”

     

    Mississippi State, on the other hand, seems to have a firm grasp of what type of team it will be when the offense is on the field.

     

    “We are going to be a running football team. We need to run the ball to be successful,” said Mullen.

     

    In three games, Mississippi State has rushed the football very effectively. It boasts the fourth best rushing attack in the conference and is ranked No. 20 in the country with a ground assault that chalks up 221 yards an outing.

     

    The Bulldogs have one of the best in the SEC to carry the rock in 6-foot-1, 235-pound senior Anthony Dixon.


    Dixon, who has rushed 41 times for 215 yards and a touchdown, has played in only two of the first three games, but he’s averaging 5.2 yards a carry and 107.5 yards a game.

     

    Dixon leads an offense that is ranked only two spots higher than LSU and that averages 349.3 yards of total offense.

     

    The Tigers expect a heavy does of the big bruising back between the tackles on Saturday, and that would be a change from what they encountered in their first three victories.

     

    “I think that kind of plays into our strength a little,” said junior linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. “They’re going to line up and try to run the ball at us, and I think our defensive line will do their job and let our linebackers and safeties make plays.”

     

    The Tigers will also see a two-quarterback system for the first time this year as Mullen will play both Tyson Lee and Chris Relf in the first half, and then will likely go with the hot hand for the final 30 minutes.



    LSU's defensive front hopes to bounce back against MSU

    Each signal caller has had his moments this season, and their numbers are about the same. As a whole, though, MSU is dead last in the conference with 127.7 yards passing a contest.

     

    Lee, a 5-foot-10, 200-pounder who has started all three contests, has passed for 216 yards and completed 28-of-38 passes with a touchdown. He’s yet to throw an interception and has also rushed 12 times for 30 yards and a score.

     

    Relf provides more of a dual-threat as he is second on the team with 178 rushing yards on 28 attempts and he is tied for the team lead with one score. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound sophomore has also completed 14-of-25 through the air for 167 yards with three scores and a pair of interceptions.

     

    LSU did not sack the quarterback at all against ULL last week and freshman defensive end Chancey Aghayere said part of that was due to the defensive line not being overly aggressive because of the Ragin’ Cajuns propensity to throw screen passes.

     

    Aghayere said that the defensive line knows it needs to do a better job of getting after the quarterback this week, and that subject came up early on Monday morning.

     

    “Creating more pressure on the quarterback and getting after them is something we started talking about on Monday,” he said. “We need to create more pressure because that will take away some of the pressure on our secondary and let them play looser and make plays.”

     

    The Tiger defense has allowed only six touchdowns over the last six quarters and finds itself ranked No. 14 in the country and No. 3 in the SEC yielding 11.7 points a game.

     

    The LSU offense hopes to improve its standing against a Bulldog squad that surrenders 313 yards a game, and one that has been a Jekyll and Hyde of sorts through the first three weeks.

     

    Mississippi State held Jackson State and Vanderbilt to 194 and 157 yards, respectively, but in between Auburn rolled up 589 yards – 390 rushing – in a 49-24 victory over the Bulldogs.

     

    LSU senior tight end Richard Dickson says he isn’t worried about the Bulldog defense that showed up at Auburn because he knows first-hand just how physical it is when the Tigers and Bulldogs square off.

     

    “Everybody on offense respects Mississippi State’s defense,” he said. “Every year we’ve played them they had one of the most dominating defensive lines we’ve played and they’re real physical. It’s always been one of our toughest games – line versus line. They play hard and aggressive, and have a real solid front seven.”

     

    LSU will look to start 4-0 for the third consecutive year and the Tigers defeated Mississippi State, 34-24, last season to hit that mark. However, it was then when LSU fans started to question the Tiger defense that proceeded to give up 51 points to Florida the following week and 52 points to Georgia two weeks later.

     

    This year, it’s the offense that has been the hot topic of debate, and LSU fans hope the Tigers leave Starkville with some of the answers they’ve been searching for, along with a little consistency.


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