STARKVILLE, Miss. - LSU’s first foray into Southeastern Conference play this season didn’t have many surprises.
The Tigers defense excelled for the third consecutive week, holding the top-ranked offense in the conference to 193 yards, keeping it out of the end zone and forcing two turnovers.
LSU ran the ball effectively for the third consecutive week, gaining 148 yards (led by Spencer Ware’s 107) after gaining 175 in the first two games.
Quarterback Jarrett Lee was efficient for the third consecutive game, completing 21-of-27 for 213 yards and a touchdown to Rueben Randle, though he did throw his first interception of the season. Lee focused on Randle (six catches for 98 yards) and freshman Odell Beckham (eight catches for 61 yards).
Perhaps not as expected but as a bonus, freshman place-kicker Drew Alleman made all four of his field-goal attempts (from 21, 42, 41, and 29 yards), never allowing the Bulldogs to get in front of the Tigers while LSU’s offense was struggling to find the end zone.
It all added up to what’s expected whenever LSU plays State - a Tigers victory. This one was No. 3 LSU 19, No. 25 Mississippi State 6 in a bruising battle in which the Tigers finally put away a gutty Bulldogs team and silenced a cowbell-clanging crowd of 56,924 at Davis Wade Stadium in front of a national audience on ESPN on Thursday night.
It was LSU’s 12th consecutive victory and 19th in 20 seasons against State. The Tigers return to nonconference play at West Virginia on Sept. 24 while State tries to regroup after falling to 1-2 and 0-2 in the SEC as well as certainly out of the national rankings.
“That’s the kind of defense we needed tonight,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “We knew it was going to be a very physical game, that style of game. And the defense came to play. We’ve got to get this game out of our system. We’ve got to improve. And we have an extra day or two to prepare. We look forward to it.”
LSU had a 6-3 lead after a first half dictated by the defenses. The Tigers began the third quarter running right at the Bulldogs as Ware carried on the first four plays and gained 16 yards, but a 2-yard completion from Lee to Jarvis Landry and an incompletion by Lee led to a punt.
State took a different approach by throwing deep on its first play, but Morris Claiborne intercepted at the LSU 22. The Bulldogs defense and Tigers mistakes moved LSU in the wrong direction.
Chop block and false start penalties on Will Blackwell, a delay of game penalty, and a sack helped push the Tigers back to their 4 before they punted from the 9. State took over at midfield and overcame a false start of its own as Chris Relf completed an 11-yard pass to Arceto Clark on third-and-10 and got 15 more yards on a roughing-the-passer penalty against Bennie Logan. That gave the Bulldogs a first down at the 24, but a sack of Relf by freshman Anthony Johnson, a 1-yard loss by Relf and an incompletion stalled the drive. Derek Depasquale kicked a 42-yard field goal to tie the score at 6-6.
A personal foul against State’s Wade Bonner got LSU started and Lee’s completions of 6 yards to Beckham and 10 yards to Randle and an 11-yard run by Michael Ford pushed the Tigers to the Bulldogs 39. That drive stalled when Randle dropped a third-down pass, and Alleman’s 41-yard field goal gave LSU a 9-6 lead entering the fourth quarter.
The Tigers finally found the end zone when Lee threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Randle for a 16-6 edge with 11:56 remaining. Claiborne’s second interception of the game set up Alleman’s fourth field goal, from 29 yards out, to complete the scoring with 2:53 remaining.
“I like (Lee’s play),” Miles said. “I felt he gave us leadership. ... He stepped up. They kind of crowded the box, kind of tried to take away the run. That gave us an opportunity to have some one-on-one routes.”
State received the opening kickoff and, much like Oregon on the first possession of the season opener, seemed overwhelmed by LSU’s defense. Vick Ballard was stopped for no gain, setting the tone for a game in which the SEC’s leading rusher was held to 38 yards (112 below his average) on just 10 carries. Then Relf was sacked for a loss of six by Kendrick Adams, the Bulldogs committed false start, and on third-and-21, Relf kept for four yards.
To add injury to insult, starting right guard Tobias Smith suffered an injury to his left knee, joining starting left tackle James Carmon, who injured a knee last week against Auburn, on the sideline.
The Tigers marched down the field, deftly mixing the run and the pass. Spencer carried seven times for 31 yards and Lee completed his first four passes for 39 yards, but his first incompletion, to Deangelo Peterson on third-and-goal at the 4, stalled the drive after 16 plays and 77 yards. Alleman’s 21-yard field goal agve LSU a 3-0 lead.
The Bulldogs followed that with a very similar drive, holding the ball for 14 plays and converting three straight third downs before Relf was stopped for a 2-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 7. Depasquale’s 26-yard field goal tied the score.
State’s defense surrounded the line of scrimmage to slow down the Tigers running game. Back up at the 5, Lee threw a 31-yard completion to Randle to ignite a drive late in the second quarter. LSU reached the Bulldogs 25 before Lee misfired on third-and-4. Alleman’s 42-yard field goal with 1:18 left sent the Tigers into halftime with a 6-3 lead.