Bulldog Football Scouting Report

The Game: Mississippi State (2-2, 0-1 SEC) resumes the season by hosting #10-ranked Louisiana State (4-1, 1-1). Kickoff at Scott Field is 6:06 for ESPN broadcast. The pregame broadcast begins at 3:00 locally with the full network joining at 4:00.

*Mississippi State has won both home games so far, but this is the first SEC contest on Scott Field. Coach Dan Mullen's teams are 1-3 in conference home openers, the win coming last season over Auburn.

*The last Bulldog win over a ranked opponent was at #22 Florida in 2010. Since then State has lost all ten meetings with ranked teams.

*State has not beaten a ranked LSU team since 1984.

*Mullen is 7-9 on the home field in conference games.

*By beating Troy two weeks ago, the Bulldogs gave their coach his 31st victory at Mississippi State. He is fourth in career wins already, and six behind Emory Bellard (1979-85) at 37.

*LSU owns a 12-year winning streak in the annual series, with State's last success in 1999 on Scott Field.

*Though the series has been contested 106 times, second-most of any Bulldog opponent, only 20 of the games have been played in Starkville.

*There are eight Louisianans activated on the Bulldog roster, four of them regulars—S Quadry Antoine, DE Ryan Brown, DE Torrey Dale, OC Dillon Day, RB Derrick Milton, QB Dak Prescott, RB Josh Robinson, QB Damian Williams.

The Opponent: It says soooo much about the state of this insanely-strong Division that LSU came into the season regarded as third-best in the West. Which happens to be where they stand today, at least in the national rankings. Yet Les Miles' ninth (ninth!) Tiger team is not the same sort of complete September product as before. A lineup loaded with juniors and sophomores continues developing, more so on defense, and makes LSU absolutely a club worth watching the rest of the way. They nearly outscored Georgia on the road as it was, a game that likely would have gone t'other way on home turf, and should be hitting their prime in time for November showdowns with Alabama and Texas A&M. Championships might be just out of reach this season. Yet if they can successfully replace the quarterback and don't get hit hard defensively by the draft, world watch out in 2014.

Offense: Here's why first-half season statistics must be read carefully and discarded quickly: this week LSU ranks just 11th in SEC rushing. Sure, anyone out there really believe this is a lower-third group in pounding ground? The numbers that matter show all four Tiger tailbacks had at least one 100-yard rushing game in September, and they've combined for 14 touchdowns. Soph Jeremy Hill has half of those on 6.9 yards each touch but any of these guys can break it big at any point. Making it easier is an offensive line developing quickly. Technically RG Trai Turner is the lone ‘returning' starter but former tackle Vadal Alexander is doing fine at left guard this season. They're reinforced by big tight end Travis Dickson as a bonus tackle for all intents. Wanna know something really scary? All ten Tigers on the line's two-deep are underclassmen. For that matter there's a single senior of note in this week's starting lineup, but he's the quarterback. Zach Mettenberger isn't just thriving in his last season, he's been brilliant with 13 touchdown tosses (already more than his entire '12 output), and only one of his 128 throws has been picked. And unlike many high-percentage passers who dink and dump Mettenberger will throw bombs into tight spots. Of course having perhaps the best route-running tag team in the league helps. Junior X-receiver Odell Beckham (26 catches, 507 yards, 4 TD) may be the SEC's most explosive play-maker and he's still second in output on his own team to wideout Jarvis Landry (34, 520, 7). All the big plays, running and catching, tend to leave LSU in lots of favorable conversion situations…and they do convert. 17 of 24 red-zone trips have produced touchdowns, and LSU ranks fourth nationally moving the chains on third down.

Defense: The names do change, especially in this '13 case where so much of a lineup needed replacing with seven first-time starters so far. But the sets, schemes, and most of all results remain boringly consistent from season to season. Only Alabama does as good a job stockpiling size and speed on defense, and none do it better. The designated defensive line beast of this season is tackle Anthony Johnson, who is on every watch-list worth naming despite only eight (!) starts in his whole career. The 294-pounder not only has muscle but moves with one of the team's four interceptions. And he's the lightweight tackle, beside 309-pounder Ego Ferguson. The defensive end rotation does put on the pressure with six sacks ‘tween the trio already. Weakside linebacker Lamin Barrow is a rarity of sorts, a senior on defense who could have turned pro after a 100-tackle junior season. He came back and is on similar pace with 30 stops, though mike D.J. Welter (26) is racing him to ballcarriers. Senior safety Craig Loston is the old cat in the secondary with 17 career starts, while corner Jalen Mills has already picked a pair of passes. Backup corner Jalen Collins will step in for nickel packages as needed. The Tigers are admittedly penalty-prone. But they can make up for such gaffes in spectacular fashion; in these last five seasons they have scored a dozen defensive touchdowns and two safeties.

Specialists: Broadcasters had best learn the proper pronunciation of Colby DeLahoussaye now because they'll be saying it for another three years. The freshman has hit all six field goals, with a 49-yarder, and is perfect on PATs too. Jamie Keenh averages 39.9 punting yards, with practically no returns. Speaking of which, Beckham of course fields kickoffs and punts and makes whole stadiums hold breath every time.

Bulldog Notebook: SEC history was made by the Bulldog offense last-time out. Against Troy, both QB Dak Prescott and WR/KR Jameon Lewis scored touchdowns by rushing, by receiving, and by throwing. The SEC Office confirmed no league team can find a game where two players on their team did this specific TD-trifecta it on the same day. NCAA records back to the 1950s show no such instances either.

*Not surprisingly their mutual trifectas included combined efforts, as Prescott caught Lewis' throwback pass for a touchdown; while he threw to Lewis for one score and handed him the ball for another.

*The last Bulldog known to have run/caught/thrown for touchdowns in the same game is James Jones, against Florida State in 1978.

*Lewis has now matched Jones in another category. Both had kickoff return touchdowns in their careers, though not the same seasons as their three-way game. And both were 100-yard returns for good measure. Lewis can do one-better though as he fields punts for State this season.

*Seven Bulldogs have now scored a touchdown this season. This includes a defensive TD as CB Jamerson Love returned his pick on Troy for a 70-yard score. It was the first defensive touchdown for State since the 2012 opener against Jackson State.

*P Baker Swedenburg went into last game 9th in career punts (142) and yards…and is still there as his services were never needed. It was the first time since 2009 (Georgia Tech) a Bulldog team went through a full game without punting.

*Swedenburg's 41.84 yard average is 5th-best in program annals.

*In Mullen's five seasons, his defenses have now scored 11 defensive touchdowns on either interceptions or fumble returns; and three safeties.

*This week Mississippi State ranks 1st in SEC turnover ratio. And the team's three turnovers are fewest in the league.

*The Bulldog offense has produced 60 plays that went for ten or more yards. That's 20% of all State snaps from scrimmage going for double-digit gains. And this doesn't count several big gainers negated by offensive penalties.

*Ten of those plays came in just the second quarter against Troy.

*17 of the 20 State trips to a red zone have resulted in points, with 13 touchdowns. The figure is somewhat lowered though as last game Dogs scored four times starting beyond the 20-yard line.

*State special teams have blocked one field goal (S Nickoe Whitley) and one punt (DT Nelson Adams) this season.

*Senior Whitley had his first two-interception day as a Dog by picking a pair of Auburn passes. He now has 12 career interceptions, tied for second and four short of the all-time record shared by Johnthan Banks (2009-12) and Walt Harris (1992-95).

*Whitley has missed one whole game and parts of others, so he's only accumulated 13 tackles this season. He has 187 career tackles in 38 games.

*After being tied through three games, the team tackles race sees MLB Benardrick McKinney now ahead of OLB Deontae Skinner 24 to 23. Their totals would be far higher of course had State not blown-out Alcorn State and Troy, allowing lots of defensive subbing.

*Senior Skinner is the only defender so far with both a sack and an interception.

*State has only five sacks through four games, each bagging by a separate Dog. The defense had just 19 sacks all last season.

*No defenders has more than 2.5 tackles-for-loss, but 20 different Dogs have made a stop behind the line of scrimmage.

*Injuries have kept State from starting the same four-man secondary in consecutive games.

*In four games this year Lewis has surpassed his 2012 season's receptions, 12 to 10; and he's more than doubled the yardage, 248 to 108 last season.

*In fact Lewis has almost as many yards in one month this season, than the 251 he had in 2011-12 combined.

*In his three starts at quarterback, Prescott is 40-of-68 passing, 58.8%; with three touchdowns and no turnovers. He has only played one complete game at the position, at Auburn.

*Prescott is setting the team's rushing pace as well with 215 yards, and has 5 of the 13 rushing touchdowns by State to date.

*As a situation-substitute last season Prescott was put in positions to run for four touchdowns and throw four more. Adding in his results this season, Prescott has rushed or passed 183 total plays and produced 16 touchdowns. That comes out to a score every 11.4 such plays, and does not even include his touchdown catch against Troy.

*After missing the last three full games and fourth quarter of another, QB Tyler Russell is cleared to resume his senior season Saturday. In less than three quarters on opening day, Russell was 10-of-16 passing for 133 yards.

*All the missed time, especially in the ASU and Troy games, has put Russell behind his former record-setting passing pace. He is still looking for that first TD pass this season, which would give him 37 career and tie Derrick Taite (1993-96) for the program record.

*Russell currently is tied for 4th in career completions at 349, and fifth in career yardage at 4,699.

*Russell's average yards gained per-pass thrown is also fourth-best in Bulldog history.

*As a SEC starter, Russell has completed 58.6% of his passes compared to 54.4% in non-conference game starts. But the average completion in league play is good for 12.6 yards to 13.9 in non-SEC catches.

*Damian Williams became the first true freshman to take a snap at quarterback for Mullen at Mississippi State, working in both the ASU and Troy games.

*A gimpy ankle has cost RB LaDarius Perkins lots of carries his senior season. He's had just 29 touches and 109 yards so far, with no touchdowns. This will obviously make repeating as a 1,000-yard rusher very difficult, after last year he became just the ninth Bulldog to reach that standard.

*Perkins is looking for his first rushing touchdown since last October 20.

*WR Robert Johnson's 158 yards in four games this season almost matches the 164 yards he had all of 2012 in 13 games.

*TEs Malcolm Johnson and Brandon Hill are averaging between them 15.7 yards per catch.

*Johnson, Johnson, and Lewis are the only Dogs with a catch in every game this season.

*Prescott and RBs Josh Robinson and RB Derrick Milton are the only Dogs to have rushed in every game.

*PK Devon Bell has already matched his whole '12 season total of touchback kickoffs, with 13. Over half his kickoffs have reached the end zone, one of those returned for just 11 yards. Only one kickoff has gone out of bounds.

*But Bell is 3-of-6 now for field goals this season with all three misses in the 30-yards ranges. Last game, backup PK Evan Sobiesk was sent in to kick and make a 24-yarder. Sobiesk is 3-of-3 on PATs.

*Senior OG Gabe Jackson has started all of the 43 games played in his career. Tomorrow he should tie Banks for most starts under Mullen at 44.

*Seven true freshmen have played so far: CB Kivon Coman, CB Tolando Cleveland, DT Chris Jones, WR Fred Ross, RB Ashton Shumpert, QB Damian Williams, and WR De'Runnya Wilson.

*True freshmen yet to play are: WR Shelby Christy, OL Jamaal Clayborn, OL Kent Flowers, WR B.J. Hammond, LB Dezmond Harris, DB Gabe Myles, TE Artimas Samuel, OL Jake Thomas, DB Brandon Wells.

*Only three scholarship redshirts from 2012 have yet to play: CB Will Redmond (susp), TE Gus Walley (inj), and DT Jordan Washington.

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