LSU-Mississippi State preview

Bryan Lazare, TigerBait.com Senior Writer
Tiger Bait

LSU coach Ed Orgeron has exhibited little patience with his kickers so far this season.

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AP Photo/Scott Threlkeld

After Connor Culp put just one of his six kickoffs in the end zone against BYU, he was replaced by Cameron Gamble one week later against Chattanooga.

Following Jack Gonsoulin’s second miss of a field goal of 40 yards or less, he was benched in favor of Culp in the second quarter of the game against the Mocs.

When the Tigers open Southeastern Conference play against Mississippi State at Davis-Wade Stadium in Starkville on Saturday (6 p.m. Central/ESPN), there will be another change. Gonsoulin will return as the field goal kicker.

“There has been some extreme charting this week,” Culp said. “Kicking is mainly a numbers game. Who kicks the best during the week usually kicks in the games.”

According to coach Ed Orgeron, Gonsoulin made the most field goal tries during practice this week. Gonsoulin is 2-of-4 on field attempts with misses from 34 and 40 yards.

Culp made all four of extra point attempts in relief of Gonsoulin last week. He split a pair of field goal tries – missing from 47 yards and connecting from 45 yards. The 47-yarder was on line, but short. The 45-yarder barely got over the crossbar.

“I felt really good about the 47-yarder after the ball came off my foot,” Culp said. “I was kicking into a little bit of a headwind. The ball jumped up (into the air) quicker and it got caught up (in the wind). The fact that it fell short surprised me.

“We were 0-for-2 when I tried the one from 45. I just wanted to make sure that it went through. I didn’t care if it just snuck over the crossbar. Except for the one which was short, I did well on every kick.”

Culp admitted that he was not expecting to be replaced by Gamble on kickoffs. Now, Culp will be on the sidelines again this week. Orgeron said that he was not sure if Culp would even make the trip to Starkville.

Gamble had been LSU’s primary kickoff man for the past season and a half. Gamble had 14 touchbacks out of 63 kickoffs in 2016. Three of his kickoffs went out of bounds. When head coach Les Miles was fired, there was a philosophy change on kickoffs.

“It is so much better mentally not to have to kick the ball to a particular place,” Gamble said. I just have to kick it far enough to get a touchback. It was nice getting back out there last week. Nothing had changed. When I have a bad kick, I have to stay level-headed.

“(Former LSU special teams coordinator) coach (Thomas) McGaughey told me that a kicker is like a sniper. You have one shot to get it right. If you don’t get it right, you hurt the team. Even if you miss your shot, it’s all about the next one.”

Gamble put three of his eight kickoffs against Chattanooga in the end zone. The Mocs did average almost 22 yards on the five kickoffs which were returned.

Fast facts about LSU

1. LSU has a 51-28-5 record in SEC openers. The Tigers have won nine of their last ten conference openers with the one loss coming against the Bulldogs in 2014. In the last ten years, LSU has played its first SEC game on the road six times. The Tigers won all six games – three times at Mississippi State, two times at Auburn and one time at Vanderbilt. The last time LSU lost a league-opening road game took place at Auburn in 2006.

2. The Tigers have a huge advantage in their series with Mississippi State. LSU has a 73-34-3 record against the Bulldogs. The Tigers have more victories against Mississippi State than any other opponent. LSU has 69 victories against Tulane. The Tigers have won 16 of their last 17 meetings between the teams with the one defeat occurring three years ago.

3. LSU is one of 11 teams without a turnover this season and one of eight teams without a turnover in two games. The Tigers defense has forced three turnovers – two interceptions by cornerback Greedy Williams and one interception by nickel back Kary Vincent.

4. Twenty true freshmen have played in the first two games – the most for any team in the country. Six ture freshmen have started a game – outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson, guards Saahdiq Charles and Ed Ingram, inside linebacker Tyler Taylor, safety Grant Delpit and Vincent.

5. Derrius Guice reached the 2,000-yard career rushing mark on 271 carries – the fewest by any running back in school history. Guice needs only ten rushing yards to move ahead of Domanick Davis into 14th place on the school’s all-time list. Guice trails LaBrandon Toefield, who is next on the chart, by 102 yards. Guice has 2,057 rushing yards.

6. Arden Key needs one sack to move into a tie with James Gilyard and Michael Brooks for tenth place on LSU’s career rankings. Key, who has 17 sacks, is 1½ sacks behind Tyson Jackson, who is No. 9 on the all-time rankings.

Fast facts about Mississippi State

1. Since the start of the 2014 season, the Bulldogs have more 500-yard games than any SEC team. Mississippi State has gained 500 yards 19 times in that span. Ole Miss is second with 16 games of at least 500 yards. LSU is No. 7 with nine 500-yard games.

2. The Bulldogs’ Dan Mullen, who is in his ninth season, is the second-longest tenured coach in school history. Allyn McKeen coached Mississippi State for ten seasons (1939-48). Mullen, who has a 63-42 record, needs three victories to tie McKeen for the second most in school history. Jackie Sherrill is No. 1 with 76 victories.

3. Nick Fitzgerald is one of three returning FBS quarterbacks who ran for 1,000 yards and passed for 2,000 yards in 2016. The other two quarterbacks are Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville and Quinton Flowers of South Florida. Since last Oct. 29, Fitzgerald is No. 1 in the country in touchdowns responsible for with 32. He has rushed for at least 100 yards in seven of his last nine games. Fitzgerald has nine 100-yard rushing games in his career – tying the school record for a quarterback.

4. Running back Aeris Williams picked up the third 100-yard rushing game of his career last week against Louisiana Tech. Williams ran for 107 yards in the game at Ruston. He had 100-yard rushing games against Ole Miss and Texas A&M in 2016. Wide receiver Donald Gray has two 100-yard receiving games in his career – both against FCS opponents. Gray had those big receiving games against Samford in 2016 and Northwestern State in 2015.

5. Bulldogs defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons has blocked two kicks in the first two games of the season. Simmons registered two defensive touchdowns in Mississippi State’s 57-21 victory at Louisiana Tech. It had been eight years since a Bulldogs defensive player had two touchdowns in one game. Johnathan Banks returned two interceptions for touchdowns against Florida in 2009.

6. New defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has had an immediate impact at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs blanked Charleston Southern in the season-opener – their first shutout in three seasons. Mississippi State has given up fewer than 350 through two games. Grantham was the defensive coordinator for Louisville, LSU’s opponent in last season’s Citrus Bowl. The Tigers gained 394 yards in a 29-9 victory.

PREDICTION

LSU has dominated this series since the start of the 2000 season with Mississippi State winning just one time. But, the past three games have been very close – all decided by fewer than six points. In each game, the winning team had to hold off a late rally to secure a victory. The Tigers had great success stopping quarterback Nick Fitzgerald last season, but that was early in the year. Fitzgerald is more polished and more experienced now. Moreover, he will be playing at home. Both teams have rather inexperienced defenses. So, this will be a matchup of the quarterbacks – Danny Etling and Fitzgerald – and the go-to running backs – Derrius Guice and Aeris Williams. Opening conference game jitters will keep the score down. LSU will survive a third consecutive tight game against the Bulldogs.

LSU 24, Mississippi State 20


Here are the statistical comparisons between LSU and Mississippi State.

LSU points per game: 36.0

Mississippi State points allowed per game: 10.5

LSU rushing yards per game: 259.0

Mississippi State rushing yards allowed per game: 85.0

LSU passing yards per game: 207.5

Mississippi State passing yards allowed per game: 89.0

LSU pass completion rate: 67 percent

Mississippi State pass completion rate allowed: 42 percent

LSU total yards per game: 466.5

Mississippi State total yards allowed per game: 174.0

LSU turnovers per game: 0.0

Mississippi State turnovers forced per game: 1.5

LSU sacks allowed per game: 1.0

Mississippi State sacks per game: 2.5

LSU third-down conversion rate: 45 percent

Mississippi State third-down conversion rate allowed: 21 percent

Mississippi State points per game: 53.0

LSU points allowed per game: 5.0

Mississippi State rushing yards per game: 304.0

LSU rushing yards allowed per game: 31.5

Mississippi State passing yards per game: 203.0

LSU passing yards allowed per game: 138.0

Mississippi State pass completion rate: 59 percent

LSU pass completion rate allowed: 48 percent

Mississippi State total yards per game: 507.0

LSU total yards allowed per game: 169.5

Mississippi State turnovers per game: 0.5

LSU turnovers forced per game: 1.5

Mississippi State sacks allowed per game: 0.0

LSU sacks per game: 4.0

Mississippi State third-down conversion rate: 44 percent

LSU third-down conversion rate allowed: 21 percent

Here are the individual statistical leaders for LSU and Mississippi State.

Rushing

LSU: Derrius Guice – 42 carries, 224 yards, 4 touchdowns

Mississippi State: Aeris Williams – 25 carries, 190 yards, 1 touchdown

Passing

LSU: Danny Etling: 31 attempts, 22 completions, 71 percent, 398 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions

Mississippi State: Nick Fitzgerald: 47 attempts, 28 completions, 60 percent, 363 yards, 5 touchdowns, 1 interception

Receiving

LSU: DJ Chark: 7 catches, 180 yards

Mississippi State: Donald Gray: 7 catches, 76 yards, 1 touchdown

Tackles

LSU: Devin White – 14

Mississippi State: Dez Harris – 11

Tackles-for-loss

LSU: Corey Thompson – 3½

Mississippi State: Kobe Jones – 2½

Sacks

LSU: Corey Thompson – 3½

Mississippi State: Gerri Green – 2

Quarterback-hurries

LSU: Donnie Alexander, K’Lavon Chaisson, Deondre Clark, Neil Farrell, Jacob Phillips, Corey Thompson, Ray Thornton – 1

Mississippi State: Dez Harris, Grant Harris – 1

Interceptions

LSU: Greedy Williams – 2

Mississippi State: Mark McLaurin – 1

Pass breakups

LSU: Ed Paris, Greedy Williams – 3

Mississippi State: Mark McLaurin – 2

Return yardage

LSU: DJ Chark – 5 punt returns, 99 yards, 1 touchdown

Mississippi State: Donald Gray – 1 kickoff return, 52 yards

Punting

LSU: Josh Growden – 3 punts, 38.0-yard average

Mississippi State: Logan Cooke – 7 punts, 45.7-yard average

Kick-scoring

LSU: Jack Gonsoulin – 2-of-4 on field goal, 5-of-5 on extra points

Mississippi State: Tucker Day – 2-of-4 on field goals, 8-of-10 on extra points

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