Kendell Beckwith dove as far as he could.
Mississippi State running back Josh Robinson easily cleared Beckwith’s flailing hands during a 66-yard run.
Ronald Martin lunged as hard as he could.
Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott threw his hand toward Martin, pushing the LSU safety to the ground during a 56-yard touchdown dash.
LSU defenders missed tackles, were out of position and had communications breakdowns in the Tigers’ 34-29 loss Saturday, and those two explosive plays represent the biggest miscues — and repercussions — of all.
“Things were just crazy,” linebacker Deion Jones said.
Players dissected film of the stunning defeat Monday and were then pelted with questions about the loss.
How could LSU’s defense allow 302 yards rushing, the most in nearly four years? How could the Tigers allow 570 yards overall, the most in coach Les Miles’ 10 years?
There is no one answer, Miles and players said. There are several.
LSU missed 19 tackles in a game in which Mississippi State ran 73 plays. The Bulldogs got 202 yards rushing after contact, a startling number for a normally stiff unit.
Most concerning, maybe: Mississippi State ran for much of its yards out of three-to-five receivers sets. The Bulldogs spread out LSU, leaving few defenders in what’s known as “the box,” an area extending from the line of scrimmage to the location in which linebackers normally align.
Mississippi State spreading out LSU was a “huge” factor in the game, linebacker D.J. Welter said. It put the Tigers in poor position and that led to missed tackles.
Mississippi State ran for 149 yards out of three-receiver sets, 123 yards with four receivers, and 57 yards in five-receiver formations.
“We should have been inside the box a portion of the time,” he said. “That’s one of the mistakes we made, not getting the correct checks into that.”
The No. 17 Tigers (3-1) host New Mexico State (2-2) on Saturday night in their final nonconference game of the season. It may be the final time for the Tigers to improve on their defensive woes.
LSU’s schedule is stacked from then until December, and it includes a slew of teams that run similar offenses — with similar dual-threat quarterbacks — as Mississippi State.
Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama and Texas A&M are all ranked. Arkansas and Kentucky are showing massive signs of improvement from their cellar-dweller days, and a game at Florida isn’t exactly time to be fidgeting.
“We went out there today, and we worked on stuff like that,” Welter said. “We’re not going to let this game slow us up. We’re going to keep improving.”
So what are they working on? It’s the mental side of the game, according to players and Miles. Don’t expect many new players getting significant playing time.
“Were not going to change personnel, because those men are quality players,” Miles said. “But what those men have to understand is that’s their responsibility.”
The soft interior of LSU’s defensive line isn’t the only thing Mississippi State exposed Saturday. When the Bulldogs got to the second level, there was often no one there. Linebackers were spread out covering four and, sometimes, even five receivers. Safeties were sometimes deep doing the same.
For instance, on Robinson’s 66-yard run, LSU had five players in the box. Mississippi State had six blockers. Beckwith, lined up across from a slot receiver, raced back into the picture, but it was too late.
On Prescott’s run, LSU had five players in the box. State had five blockers.
On both plays — and others throughout the game — communication broke down. “Checks” weren’t made in situations in which State spread the Tigers’ second level thin.
A player can adjust to another defensive set and change alignments with “checks.”
“We have a couple of checks, different ways of getting different people into the box,” Welter said. “We didn’t do a good job of that as a whole, the whole defense. Any of us can check it. We didn’t do a good job of communicating it.”
Jones said: “A lot of communication didn’t get through, like strength calls. It hurt us.”
Beckwith suggested that might have been at fault for some of the communication issues. He’s in his first year playing middle linebacker.
“Just checks. When you’re first learning the position, (there are) things you learn that you’ve got to remember,” Beckwith said. “Certain things we should have done. A lot of things. It could have been prevented. Us checking stuff.”
In end, though, he can’t harp on the woes too long.
“You’ve got to move forward, get ready for this next week,” Beckwith said. “Try not to let it happen again.”