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LSU running back Leonard Fournette (7) and Mississippi State defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons (98) chase after a Fournette fumble during the second half Saturday Sept. 17, 2016, at Tiger Stadium. LSU won 23-20.

As Mississippi State slowly — and then very quickly — overcame a 20-point second-half deficit, Arden Key and his LSU defensive teammates were overcome with one emotion.

“We were pretty shocked,” the hybrid outside linebacker said.

Afterward, they took the blame.

“I felt we kind of let off the gas toward the end,” Key said, “and it cost us almost.”

LSU’s defense might have pulled its foot off the accelerator, but the offense did not.

The Tigers’ second-half woes against JacksonvilleState and then the Bulldogs last week are rooted in turnovers, penalties and a handful of untimely incomplete passes. LSU coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s offensive play-calling didn’t change much (22 passes to 26 runs), but the execution, for whatever reason, did.

The result: one touchdown on 10 significant drives (discounting the final two drives of each game).

“We felt like we were moving the ball great,” receiver D.J. Chark said. “We just had a few turnovers that kind of messed things up. We felt we were still dominant. We felt like they couldn’t really stop us, but we were stopping ourselves.”

No. 17 LSU (2-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) meets Auburn (1-2, 0-1) on Saturday night having found what appears to be a solution at the quarterback position. It’s got another problem: second-half scoring.

An analysis of LSU’s 10 significant second-half drives in games against JSU and State reveal two problems: turnovers and penalties.

Four of the 10 drives ended in turnovers: two lost fumbles (one from QB Danny Etling and another from RB Leonard Fournette); a turnover on downs after another Fournette fumble; and an interception from Etling in the end zone.

Three of the drives were dragged down by an offensive lineman’s penalty. Center Ethan Pocic, in his first play at left tackle against State, was called for holding on third-and-5 on a 19-yard first down completion to receiver Travin Dural. Pocic slid to tackle after an injury to K.J. Malone.

Against JacksonvilleState, Maeau Teuhema was flagged for holding on a similar play. His hold, also on third-and-5, negated a first-down completion to tight end Colin Jeter.

“Execution. Coaches were calling the right plays,” Dural said. “Had a couple of penalties, a couple of turnovers. We just need to execute better. We had guys getting open.”

Etling misfired, too, and LSU receivers dropped at least three passes in final two quarters of those games. Etling’s second-half numbers (5 of 16) are in stark contract to what he’s done in first halves (20 of 28).

“We had a chance to run away with it in the second half,” Etling said after the win over the Bulldogs. “We just let it slip.”



 Drive start

 What led to its end



 Own 36

 INT in end zone



 Own 43

 Teuhema hold on a FD completion



 Opponent 45




 Own 41

 Etling sacked and lost fumble



 Own 34

 INC on third-and-2


 MS 3Q

 Own 13

 False start on second-and-2


 MS 3Q

 Own 29

 Fournette lost fumble


 MS 3Q

 Own 7

 Pocic hold on a FD completion


 MS 4Q

 Own 1

 Fournette fumble on 4th down


 MS 4Q

 Own 19

 Chark -4 reverse run on 2nd down



 Own 27

 4 turnovers; 3 penalties; 1 3rd down INC; 1 2nd down run loss

 22 pass-26 run

*Called plays (an Etling scamper is counted as a pass)

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.