"They have an outstanding football team," Croom said. "But to be honest I never dreamed we would get drummed like that today." In fact this nightmare was the worst defeat for a Dog team since the 2001 squad was shut out at Florida 52-0.
"Some days you can't put it together," said quarterback Kyle York. "Today was one of those days."
Though the Tigers were prohibitive favorites the day turned out far worse than anyone on the MSU sideline feared. LSU piled up 599 yards on offense with frightening ease, averaging 7.4 yards each time the ball was snapped. By contrast State was limited to a mere 130 yards, the lowest output since 2000, and never came close to scoring a point of any sort.
Worse than losing the game, the Bulldogs also lost their quarterback for at least a week. Omarr Conner was sacked from behind on the third snap of the third quarter and carried off the field with a strained knee ligament. "We'll know tomorrow," Croom said of the starter's status, "but I don't think it will be very positive."
And really there was nothing positive to point to in the rout. York avoided injury in a half of work but had no better results, as the two quarterbacks were a combined 8-of-26 for just 90 yards and four interceptions—three charged to Conner. The sophomore, who missed a good bit of practice with a hurting left shoulder, struggled both with timing and getting any time to throw the ball.
The ground game was even less effective with a net of only 40 yards. It wasn't hard to see the problem, either. "They were whipping our offensive linemen and tackling our backs very well," said Croom of the overpowering Tiger defense. LSU linemen seemed to spend as much time in the Bulldog backfield as State's own backs.
"They ran to the ball well," said tailback Jerious Norwood, limited to 17 yards on ten rushes. "We played hard but they out-did us today. LSU's defense was just clicking today."
The Tiger offense wasn't too shabby either, mixing pass and run at will. The wildest cat was Alley Broussard, listed #3 on the tailback depth chart but ending up first in rushing (73 yards on 13 carries) and scoring with the first three LSU touchdowns. When the Bengals opted for the air the three quarterbacks were a combined 18-of-22 for 327 yards and pair of scores.
"They mixed it up," nose tackle Ronald Fields said, "aired it out and then ran. But we couldn't tackle, we had people flying around the ball and they were breaking tackles." That included Broussard's first score, as he bounced through left guard and off linebacker Marvin Byrdsong at the goal line for a 11-yard score less than three minutes after kickoff.
If the Bulldogs meant to respond, a turnover in the red zone was not the way. On second down Brandon Wright caught Conner's pass but was stripped by cornerback Corey Webster at the 18-yard line. Six plays later Broussard had his second score, this time on a one-yard lunge through right guard.
Even when the Dogs got gifts they could not take advantage. LSU's first negative play came on a fumble forced by cornerback Mario Bobo and recovered by Darren Williams. When State had to punt it back LSU again dropped the ball and Cody Upton fell on it. But on second down Conner forced a throw for Tee Milons that was picked off by Webster at the Tiger 30-yard line.
"Those are the things that get you beat," Croom said.
And beaten-up. Soon the ball was again in the Bulldog end zone, again via a Broussard rush as he bounced off his own blocking back and ran otherwise untouched around right end. The defense got no credit for a missed PAT, but LSU's defense did get on the board when Conner was again harried and hurried into an unwise throw. In the grasp of a Tiger he flipped the throw right to defensive end Marcus Spears at the 35-yard line. He easily jogged into the end zone for the 27-0 lead at 12:26.
LSU was able to alternate quarterbacks early and backup JaMarcus Russell scored the first touchdown pass of the afternoon on a 12-yard slant pattern to Early Doucet at 2:37 before intermission. "They weren't doing anything we didn't practice," linebacker Kenny Kern said, "we just weren't physical up-front like we were supposed to be."
Not that any additional scores were required. The Bulldog offense was utterly shut down, producing only one first down on their own efforts in the half. State snapped the ball ten times in the first quarter for just 23 yards, and by intermission the stats read 59 yards on 24 plays. The Bulldogs were shut out in a first half for the third time this season, and have only the touchdown against Maine in the first quarter to show for eight pre-half quarters.
And moments into this last half the Dogs were without a starting quarterback after Glen Dorsey slammed Conner down on the LSU sideline. Croom blamed himself for having Conner in to take more damage with the score 34-0 and game out of hand. "We were going to run him one more series because I wanted him to leave the game with some confidence. Right now I don't expect him to play next week."
Russell extended the lead to 41-0 as he scored on a scramble and eight-yard ramble at 10:10. He nearly did it again a series later on an unplanned keeper, only to have Quinton Culberson jar the ball free at the two-yard line for Clarence McDougal to recover. Not that the turnover had any effect on the outcome. And in the fourth period reserve quarterback Matt Flynn found Xavier Carter at the MSU 40-yard line. He spun past David Heard and was gone for the 67-yard touchdown play.
LSU's last points came on a 37-yard field goal by Ryan Gaudet with 9:33 still on the board. The Bulldogs made no use of the remaining minutes to evade the SEC shutout. The Tigers, who have won five-straight from State, have also allowed just 19 points in the last four victories. "I expected more out of our team," said Fields, the Bogalusa native who ends his career winless against the home-state side.
So did Croom. Maybe the coach wasn't looking for a big birthday surprise in Baton Rouge, but he certainly thought Mississippi Sate would put on a better party. "I thought we had a good week of practices, I thought we had good plans," he said.
"But right now we don't execute very well. We don't block very well and we don't tackle well at all."