It was a once-in-a-lifetime night for the Mississippi State football program Saturday in Starkville.
For more than 20 years, the Bulldogs had been LSU’s whipping boys.
AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis
But, on this night, Mississippi State handed the Tigers their worst loss in a series which began in 1896. The Bulldogs routed LSU 37-7 – a score which was not indicative of what happened on the turf at Davis Wade Stadium.
LSU scored points on one of its ten series. The Tigers punted seven times and turned the ball over on downs twice late in the game. Meanwhile, Mississippi State scored its 37 points on seven straight series. Then, toss in nine penalties which resulted in 111 yards.
In a 17-minute stretch to start the second half, the Bulldogs outscored LSU 20-0. During that time, Mississippi State picked up 195 yards on four possessions. The Tigers had three possessions in that period and gained a mere 21 yards.
Derrius Guice ran for only 76 yards and Danny Etling completed less than 50 percent of his passes (13-of-29). On the other sidelines, Aeris Williams rushed for 146 yards and Nick Fitzgerald accounted for 268 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers would point to a lopsided Bulldogs victory.
The tone for the game was set very early when a 67-yard touchdown pass from Etling to DJ Chark was called back due to an offensive pass interference penalty on Stephen Sullivan. LSU never got those seven points back.
Many of the other Tigers penalties were costly. A holding call on Chark wiped out a touchdown run by Derrick Dillon. LSU did come back to score a touchdown on that possession.
On Mississippi State’s go-ahead field goal drive in the second quarter, K’Lavon Chaisson committed a personal foul and John Battle was flagged for pass interference.
With the Bulldogs leading 17-7, the Tigers came up with a stop on the first series of the second half, but Donnie Alexander was whistled for a targeting foul. Mississippi State kept the ball and drove for a field goal.
Many people will blame the penalties for the defeat. But, those flags are not the issue. The crux of the matter involves what took place at the line of scrimmage. LSU was whipped soundly on both sides. The Tigers got handled up front not by an Alabama or a Florida or a Georgia, but by a Mississippi State.
LSU has not defeated the Crimson Tide in recent years primarily because of what has taken place on the line of scrimmage. Saturday’s game looked like those games. The players in the maroon jerseys seemed to be a lot like those players in red jerseys.
Guice was not a factor. The Tigers are not going to win many SEC games when Guice does not make a major impact. LSU ended up with only 133 rushing yards. Meanwhile, Mississippi State finished with 285 rushing yards. Those stats would imply the Bulldogs coasted – which they did.
Now, coach Ed Orgeron must find a way to get a better performance from his offensive and defensive linemen. Tigers fans were hoping that the guys in the trenches would be good enough to do the job against Southeastern Conference teams. The worksheet from the conference opener would say no.
There is not much Orgeron can do with personnel on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Two true freshmen are alternating at right guard. Left tackle K.J. Malone would probably be better suited at right tackle. If a tackle gets injured, someone with no experience must play.
Things are worse on the defensive line. Starting defensive end Rashard Lawrence, the best lineman missed his second straight game with an ankle injury. Orgeron said that there was no guarantee Lawrence will play next week against Syracuse.
Frank Herron, who would be Lawrence’s replacement in the lineup, is out due to a suspension. It sounds like Herron will not be available until the middle of next month. In an attempt to get the best three linemen on the field, Greg Gilmore was shifted from nose tackle to defensive end.
Ed Alexander started at nose tackle, but went out with an injury before halftime. Alexander’s absence pushed Glen Logan into the lineup. Apparently, the coaching staff didn’t think Logan was good enough to be on the field. Logan started against Chattanooga, but not against Mississippi State.
True freshman defensive end Neil Farrell got into the game in the second half and was promptly ejected for targeting. Farrell will not be eligible for the first half of the Syracuse game. At the end of Saturday’s game, the defensive linemen able to play were Christian LaCouture, Gilmore, Logan and Deondre Clark.
Orgeron has two non-conference games to see if improvement can be made. LSU’s next SEC challenge takes place in three weeks against Florida in The Swamp. It is time for everyone to sit back and see if the Tigers team which goes to Gainesville performs better than the one in Starkville on Saturday.