Tigers Use Turnovers To Maul Dogs 29-7

How can a team run seven more plays, earn a few more yards, even end up ahead in possession time…and still take a lopsided road loss? Simple. The Bulldogs turned the ball over often enough to give host Louisiana State more than enough unintended assistance in punching out a 29-7 victory at Tiger Stadium.

Mississippi State returned from their initial road trip of the season with a 1-2, 0-2 SEC record, while the #15-ranked Tigers improved to 3-0, 2-0.

It was not as if LSU required too much help in their own lair…but the visiting Bulldogs were more than capable of damaging their own cause. Five times a MSU pass ended up in Tiger hands, and these turnover were converted into three field goals and one touchdown. A sideline to State's suicidal efforts was miserable kickoff work. LSU began one field goal-producing drive on their 42 after returning the opening kick; and began the game's really decisive touchdown drive in the third period when the kickoff sailed out of bounds.

Such short-field starts meant LSU could be more than content with 264 yards of offense, because they rarely needed to advance very far to get in scoring position. The primary scorer being placekicker Josh Jasper, who celebrated the evening with a school-record five field goals. Four came in the first half to tie the record by intermission, and give his team a 12-0 lead at the break.

Mississippi State's only offensive outburst came at the opening of the second half, and briefly gave the Bulldogs hope as they got within a 12-7 difference. But then came that botched kickoff, a short drive sparked by Tiger quarterback Jordan Jefferson, and the end of MSU hopes that the ten-year losing streak to LSU would not grow. Not only does that string extend, but State has not won a game in Baton Rouge since 1991.

State won the toss and deferred, giving LSU first shot with the ball. A good one too, as the return got back to the Tiger 42-yard line. The boo-birds were busy early two snaps netted nothing, but on third down with State blitzing Jefferson saw acres of space to scramble for a 14-yard gainer. Jefferson also converted 3rd-and-2 on his own steam, but another third-and-short didn't get enough yards on a completion. Jasper knocked the 44-yard field goal through at 9:38.

State worked for one first down on their first turn, with RB Robert Elliott squirting for five on 3rd-and-3. A swing throw to WR Chad Bumphis got five more yards. But a swing the other way to Bumphis lost three, and QB Chris Relf was blind-sided for a sack and fumble that OT Derek Sherrod fortunately fell on. The punt gave LSU possession at their 30.

The initial first down needed a three-yard dive by Ridley to convert, but LSU followed that with a quicker strike to Russell Shepherd in a big void on the left sideline. That completion netted 22 yards to State's 37-yard line. On a shorter toss Rueben Randall spun out of CB Corey Broomfield's tackle and down to the 25-yard lind. The drive continued into the second quarter with LSU facing 3rd-and-11 at the Bulldog 15. Jefferson's throw was low and deflected by LB K.J. Wright, so Jasper was again called on and made good from 32 yards.

Starting from the 23 after a well-covered kickoff, Relf got a little time and WR Brandon Heavens went up for a 22-yard catch. On third and short a pitch to Ballard netted nothing but Mullen didn't hesitate. RB LaDarius Perkins squirmed somehow far enough to draw a generous spot and first down. Soon enough it was 3rd-and-1 and this time State went to the air with Relf aiming for WR Arceto Clark on the left hashes. Tiger corner Pat Peterson came over the back for a tip, caught his own carom at the two-yard line, and as Clark begged for a flag took off the other way. Sherrod ran him out at LSU's 48-yard line.

Shepherd's smart running got his team as far as the Bulldog 34 when on third down S Chris White blitzed Jefferson into incompletion. LSU didn't mind settling for Jasper killing a 51-yard field goal at 7:37 for the 9-0 lead.

Bumphis chose to come out of the end zone and State wished he hadn't as he was caught at the 14-yard line. Relf moved the chains with a keeper out to the 33 and Perkins produced another first down. Disaster awaited though as on 3rd-and-5, with with linebacker Kelvin Shepherd in his face, Relf unwisely unloaded long in the general area of Bumphis. Morris Claiborne came down with it though and returned 30 yards until Relf himself knocked the Tiger out of bounds at the Bulldog 42.

When play resumed Ridley instantly broke the middle for 20 yards, and when Jefferson scrambled to the sideline S Cameron Lawrence wrapped him up a little too late for a free 15 yards. The Tigers lost any chance at more than another field goal though with a false start foul, and a couple of unproductive rushes that had the boo-birds back. On third-and-long Jefferson was stuck by S Nickoe Whitley with the pass falling harmlessly. It gave Guess Who his fourth chance, this good from 37 yards at 1:18. State settled for running, literally, out the quarter down 12-0.

Relf ran a delay himself and got to the MSU 48 where Tiger safety Karnell Hatcher smacked helmet-to-facemask, with Relf crumbling down dazed. The change worked out well for State though as Tyler Russell immediately hurled it long and complete to Clark, a to the Tiger 35; then came back with a 16-yard strike to Bumphis. Russell even ran for five fast yards, setting up a one-yard squirm by Ballard for first-and-goal at the six.

Ballard made it first-and-goal at the six, and Russell got another five on his own steam. On third down FB Pat Hanrahan cleared the way for a Ballard touchdown dive at 8:11.

State attempt at a high kickoff landed out of bounds so the Tigers had fine starting position. And they used it well. A 15-yard strike to Terrence Tolliver had them well into State territory. On third and long State rushed just three but coverage still broke down for a completion to Randall down at the Dog 18. Two snaps later Jefferson read support rightly and was able to ramble across the goal line 16 yards away at 5:16.

Down a dozen again State needed something to happen fast. It did, but not the way the Dogs wanted. LSU was offsides on third down so Russell smartly used the free play to find Clark for 25 yards. Mullen used a timeout to beat a delay penalty, but coaching couldn't prevent what was coming. Because on 3rd-and-7 a quartet of Tigers swarmed through non-existent protection. Russell tried to unload as he was being grabbed by Tyrann Mathieu; his desperate flip deflected and caught by Drake Nevis.

Put in business on the Bulldog 28, Jefferson immediately looked long and Tolliver was behind State safetys at the ten-yard line. Two rushes took care of the touchdown at 1:23.

As if MSU hadn't had enough kickoff return woes, a penalty meant starting at the 12-yard line now. The quarters changed with State having moved chains once, but this wasn't going to be a drive either. Russell again was pressured and this time it was Claiborne getting the pick and return to the Bulldog ten. Three Ridley attempts just delayed the inevitable Jasper appearance, to set the LSU game record with his fifth three-pointer at 12:05.

And the Dogs weren't through throwing the ball to the wrong team, as on first down at the MSU 42 Russell left his throw high. Peterson made another brilliant athletic move to come down with the ball five yards across midfield. This turnover produced no points, but did give Jasper a chance to punt for a change. It was downed at the Dog three. Ballard rushes netted a couple of yards and Heath Hutchins punted this time, from back of the end zone for a 42-yarder. It was brought all the way back by Peterson of course but a blocking foul negated his chance to get points.

State even managed to come up with a Tiger turnover before the evening ended, as Alfred Blue was stripped with CB Damein Anderson recovering…and fumbling himself so that CB Maurice Langston could fall on the odd double-drop that at least will look good on somebody's stat sheet.

Jefferson was 10-of-16 passing for 97 yards, not a big night but sufficient to the need. He also ran for 40 net yards on ten tries and was only sacked once. Ridley mustered 78 yards on 19 carries, and Randle was the favored target with four catches and 34 yards.

Before he was knocked out of the affair Relf was 5-of-8 for only 35 yards with a pair of picks. He had 46 net yards on seven rushes. Russell was 5-of-10 for 81 yards with three interceptions and ran for 16 yards.


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