"It was just a really bad punt. We just didn't have a chance to get down and make some tackles," said MSU coach Jackie Sherrill.
After the punt return, Mississippi State's defense, seemingly not fazed by the spectacular return, made a big play of their own when T. J. Mawhinny forced LSU quarterback Matt Mauck to fumble on the LSU44. Redshirt freshman DOG safety Rico Bennett recovered the ball at the LSU47.
MSU, behind the passing of quarterback Kevin Fant (5-of-8 for 42 yards during the drive), drove the ball down to the LSU4 only to see the drive stall after two of Fant's three incompletions. Juco transfer kicker Brent Smith came in and made a 21 yard field goal to make the score 7-3 LSU.
MSU's defense would once again make a big play, this time early in the second quarter. After both teams had punted twice, MSU's senior cornerback Korey Banks forced LSU's Devery Henderson to fumble the ball at the LSU20. Senior free safety Josh Morgan alertly scooped the ball up and ran it back to the LSU2 yard line. MSU's offense, on one play, scored the go-ahead touchdown to make the score 10-7 MSU.
After the touchdown drive by the Bulldogs, LSU started the next drive on the LSU36. On the third play of the drive, the MSU defense came up with another big play when junior defensive tackle Tommy Kelly forced LSU quarterback Matt Mauck to fumble the ball at the LSU36. MSU junior defensive end Jason Clark recovered the fumble.
Seemingly with a great chance to pull ahead even more, MSU's offense could only muster 6 yards on three plays. Smith once again came in to try a field goal, but missed the 47 yard attempt wide right.
Unlike Auburn last week, which took advantage of MSU's mistakes, MSU, after recovering 3 LSU first half fumbles, could only take advantage of the fumbles to the tune of 10 points.
LSU seemed to come to life after the missed field goal attempt. Behind their outstanding offensive line and the running of Domanick Davis, LSU drove the ball from their own 30 yard line to score their second touchdown of the night to pull ahead 14-10. Davis had 62 of the 70 yards during the drive.
"I think that drive set the momentum for the rest of the game," said Mauck. "I had the easiest job. I just handed it off to Domanick (Davis) and he did the rest."
MSU, still in the game, didn't help their cause after starting the 3rd quarter off by failing to do anything on their first drive.
Then, the MSU punt return team made matters worse by committing a crucial mistake. After the MSU defense held LSU on a 3rd and 1, MSU's Fred Reid ran into the LSU punter to give LSU a first down.
LSU took advantage of the gift by MSU. After driving down to the MSU36 yard line, LSU scored their 3rd touchdown of the night when Mauck connected with Devery Henderson for a 36 yard touchdown to put the Tigers out front 21-10.
"We came out and ran a post route there, and we came out successful," said Henderson. "I knew I had to make up for the fumble earlier in the game. I thought I was going to fall when I reached the endzone, but luckily I kept my balance and scored."
LSU would come right back later in the 3rd quarter and intercept a Fant pass at the MSU35 and run it back down to the MSU9.
The MSU defense showed some spunk by allowing LSU just 1 yard on 3 plays. LSU settled for a 26 yard field goal to go up 24-10.
The MSU offense, after a 32 yard kickoff return by Fred Reid took the ball out to the MSU38 yard line, drove the ball to the LSU35 yard line, most of it from a 25 yard run by fullback Justin Griffith. After two incomplete passes and a sack of the quarterback, MSU had to settle for a 52 yard field goal by Smith. MSU now trailed 24-13 with 14 minutes to go on the clock.
"The one that has been the most consistent offensively for us has been Justin Griffin," said Coach Sherrill referring to the play of Griffith.
Still not out of the game, MSU would once again be victimized by the running of Domanick Davis. After holding LSU to minus 3 yards on 7 plays in their two previous drives, MSU allowed LSU to score their final touchdown of the night, which made the game 31-13. Once again the MSU special teams made a crucial mistake that allowed LSU to score the TD. MSU was flagged for an offsides penalty on a missed 19 yard field goal attempt by LSU. LSU then brought their offensive unit back in and scored the touchdown.
"We were offsides when they kicked their field goal and they missed it," said Sherrill. "When things go that direction, you're not going to have a chance."
Now with just over 9 minutes left, MSU had to go to their passing game exclusively. Although they completed a few passes and earned 4 first downs on their final three drives, two of the drives ended with interceptions by LSU.
Although dominated on the scoreboard, MSU and LSU were fairly close in yardage, with LSU earning 308 yards and MSU 249. However, once again MSU was held to under 100 yards (88).
MSU quarterback Kevin Fant, seeing two touchdown passes dropped in the endzone, was 15-of-39 with 2 interceptions and no TDS. He also was sacked once.
The MSU defense, showing their best pass-rush of the season, held LSU's Mauck to 52 yards, 36 of those on one play. DT Tommy Kelly had 5 tackles, including 2 for losses, 1 QB sack and a force fumble. LB Mario Haggan led both teams with 17 tackles (11 solo). True freshman Willie Evans, moved from fullback to the defensive line during practice this past week, had 3 tackles (2 solo).
LSU all-everything Domanick Davis amassed 286 total yards (122 rushing, 128 punt return, 36 kickoff return).
MSU will next travel to Columbia, SC to play South Carolina.
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at email@example.com.