STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State wasn’t the only team to beat LSU on Saturday.
The Tigers didn’t do themselves any favors, either.
In a 37-7 loss Saturday night at Davis Wade Stadium, LSU was called for nine penalties for 112 yards — including two flags that negated two scores — and lost two key defensive players prematurely for targeting.
Just three weeks into the season, LSU has drawn 30 penalties for 272 yards, including a season high against Mississippi State.
"Have to run (players), limit playing time," coach Ed Orgeron said of possible solutions. "Each player is going to run for the amount of penalties that he has, and if that doesn’t work, the whole team is going to run. We have to coach them better. We have referees at every practice; we've worked on it; we've filmed it. But those guys have to believe that it's wrong."
And as Saturday night showed, many penalties were more than just harmless speed bumps.
First, a 67-yard pass to DJ Chark was wiped off the scoreboard thanks to an offensive pass interference call against wide receiver Stephen Sullivan.
The play would’ve given the Tigers a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. It also would have been the longest offensive play of the season for LSU. It was the second touchdown negated for Chark this season after a punt return was called back against Chattanooga the previous week.
Later in the first half, Derrick Dillon appeared to score his first collegiate touchdown on a 13-yard jet sweep — but it, too, was called back because of a holding penalty on Chark.
By the break, LSU had six penalties for 72 yards, giving it 23 first-half penalties through the first 2½ games of the season.
"You have good plays and plays that are designed to hit and big plays,” quarterback Danny Etling said. “(Penalties) are huge momentum killers. You can't have penalties.
"Coach O did a great job this week of punishing us for penalties we had last week and bringing referees in to make sure we had clean practices and all those things, and then we go out and unfortunately we don't perform the way we should. We had too many penalties and it costs you a game."
While LSU managed to cut down the number of penalties in the second half — the Tigers had three for 40 yards — the severity of the calls dramatically increased.
Three plays into the second half, linebacker Donnie Alexander was sent to the locker room for targeting when he went helmet-to-helmet on MSU wide receiver Jesse Jackson.
That play was an incomplete pass, and it would’ve forced the Bulldogs to punt. Instead, the drive continued, eventually resulting in a 45-yard field goal.
Just a few minutes later, defensive lineman Neil Farrell followed Alexander. He was also called for targeting, having run into MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, colliding helmet-to-helmet in the process.
The Bulldogs eventually scored a touchdown on that drive to go up 27-7 in the third quarter.
"Mental discipline," defensive end Christian LaCouture said. "For us, we have to make sure we have refs coming to practice and tell us, 'You're doing this. You're doing that.' It helps us a lot, but we have to make sure we go from practice to bringing it to the game."
LSU is on pace for 120 penalties for 1,088 yards by the end of the regular season.
At 90.7 yards penalized per game, the Tigers would surpass the school record for most penalty yards in a single season. The current record is 880 penalty yards, set by the 2007 team.
Over the last three years, LSU averaged 75.3 penalties for 623.7 yards per season.
"We never quit, but I’m embarrassed by the lack of discipline we had out there as a unit,” Etling said. “That starts with myself. I’m more mad and I’m more ready to go and ready for next week. I want to get back after them.”