November 11, 2012 12:28:24 PM
BATON ROUGE, La. - What did we learn?
- Saturday's contest in Tiger Stadium basically came down to two plays.
For a fleeting moment, Mississippi State University was starting to produce that unique feeling that an upset was brewing in the cool night air of Tiger Stadium.
Two plays ended that notion quick, fast and in a hurry with two plays. A pair of plays that turned the momentum toward the home team and transformed the silent 92,831 in the Tiger Stadium stands to the raucous environment that it advertises itself.
It was a two plays that essentially became the difference in why the home team was a consistent Top 10 perennial power and the one was a team that is still trying to find a victory against a respectable Southeastern Conference opponent.
A fumble inside their own territory and a pop-up kickoff was easily turned into two touchdowns giving much-needed confidence to an LSU offense that was trotting field goal kicker Drew Alleman on the field way too often for its coaching staff's liking.
While ahead 7-6 in the second quarter, No. 22 MSU (7-3, 3-3 in SEC play) was trying a toss play away from their sidelines for the first action for redshirt freshman Derrick Milton. After he fumbled the pitch and LSU recovered the ball 14 yards behind the mishap, Milton wouldn't get another opportunity Saturday evening.
More importantly for MSU's upset chances, the Tigers would respond three plays later to take its first and last lead of the game on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Zach Mettenberger to Jarvis Landry.
Unlike its effort in the home debacle against Texas A&M University, MSU didn't mentally get lost as they drove down the field to achieve a 47-yard field goal by Devon Bell to make it a 13-10 deficit. The career long kick in the swirling wind gave the freshman kicker confidence but also his team momentum knowing they would get the ball first in the second half.
Then Dan Mullen, the special teams coach at MSU, ordered a pop-up kick that was fair caught by LSU with 35 seconds left in the half. The field position allowed LSU to try a last ditch drive and the Tigers were able to 71 yards in just four plays culminating in a 20-yard touchdown strike from Mettenberger to tailback Spencer Ware on a wheel route. Two blown coverages and Mettenberger found wide open LSU receivers with perfect strikes from the pocket to confuse the MSU secondary.
LSU has won 19 straight and 29 of 30 when scoring over 20 points in a game. Miles, who celebrated his 59th birthday Saturday with a win, is now 49-0 at LSU when the Tigers go over the century mark but hold their opponent to under 100 yards on defense.
- Zach Mettenberger has all the confidence in the world after back-to-back impressive performances leading the LSU offense from under center. Mettenberger earned his first back to back 200-yard passing games this season with 273 yards and the pair of touchdown passes off MSU miscues. The Tigers junior quarterback built off his confidence last week against the University of Alabama to shred MSU defenders for a 19-for-30 passing.
- With all the talk after two straight losses about slow starts for MSU, the Bulldogs held a lead after one quarter in Tiger Stadium for the first time since 1994. It wasn't critical how Mullen's squad started but on Saturday night it became evident the finish of the first half is what caused MSU's first three-game losing streak since Mullen took the head coach job in Starkville in 2009. The Bulldogs actually got off to an impressive start to this contest by being able to walk the football down the length of the field against LSU and score the game's first touchdown.
- Mississippi State can't do much of anything in the run game without junior tailback LaDarius Perkins. The Bulldogs junior tailback was held out of Saturday's action with what team officials and MSU coach Dan Mullen confirmed was a right quad injury. Mullen said after the game in Baton Rouge, La., that the injury occurred Wednesday in practice but consistent training staff meetings weren't able to get him healthy enough to play.
Perkins, who made the trip to LSU this weekend, was officially ruled out by the MSU coaching staff after they saw the 190-pound tailback attempt to execute in pre-game warmups. Saturday marked the first game Perkins was forced to sit out in his college career.
Two weeks ago, Perkins was leading the Southeastern Conference in rushing but after just 80 combined yards by the Bulldogs star in the backfield against No. 1 University of Alabama and No. 15 Texas A&M University.
In the 13 straight games since 2000 that LSU have won, the Tigers have dominated the rushing yardage statistic by over a 2-to-1 ratio in those matchups. Saturday night was no different as the Tigers outrushed MSU (7-3, 3-3 in SEC play) 119-47. LSU is now 49-0 under Les Miles when the Tigers rush for more than 100 yards as a team and hold their opponent to less than 100 yards rushing.
MSU tied its season-low mark of rushing yards as they had 47 yards against the University of Alabama in a 38-7 loss in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Mullen is now 0-7 when his MSU teams are held below the century mark as a team in the ground game.
The Bulldogs, who gave Griffin his first career start, were unable to establish any kind of run game and the unbalanced attack bothered Mullen when he looked at the stat sheet.
In his first three years in Starkville, Mullen has led the first (2009), second (2010) and fifth-best (2011) rushing attacks in the SEC but that was mostly to being able to turn and hand the ball to a star tailback that would eventually play in the National Football League. MSU's three-man rotation of Griffin, Josh Robinson and Derrick Milton simply couldn't get the job done against an aggressive LSU defensive front.
- Against the number two passing defense in the country, MSU completed 69.2 percent of its passes (27-of-39) for two touchdowns and one interception. The 69.2 completion percentage marked the highest completion percentage by a LSU opponent since Auburn completed 19-of-27 passes (70.4 percent) in 2003. Mississippi State held a lead after one quarter in Tiger Stadium for the first time since 1994. Junior quarterback Tyler Russell set career highs in passing yardage (295) and completions (26) and broke the single-season school record with his 17th touchdown pass of the season in the third quarter, while tying the single-season school record with his sixth 200- yard passing game of 2012, giving him seven for his career (tied for sixth). In the single-season MSU record book, Russell tied for third in touchdowns responsible for (19), moved to third in passing yards (2,249) and jumped to fifth in total offense (2,280). Russell threw for 295 yards and has 3,918 for his career, passing Tommy Pharr (3,720 from 1967-1969) for seventh all-time in school his- tory in career passing yards.
- Senior wide receiver Chad Bumphis extended his school record with his 20th-career touchdown reception, while moving to third all-time on the school's all-time receiving yardage list (2,024). Bumphis tied a career high with nine catches and notched 140 receiving yards, the most allowed to a wideout by LSU since Sept. 24, 2011 (19 games). Bumphis is tied with Tennessee's Justin Hunter for the SEC lead in touchdown receptions (eight), which is one shy of Justin Jenkins' school record set in 2003. Bumphis finished the contest with nine receptions, passing Jenkins (2000-03) for third all-time in career pass receptions (144). Bumphis notched his sixth-career 100-yard receiving game, tied for third most in school history. His three in 2012 alone are seventh in school history for a single season.
What we heard?
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen:
LSU head coach Les Miles:
"I just think that Mississippi State under Dan Mullen is a much better football team then they have been. They played a very competitive game. They are much improved. The question was whether this football team would come to play after playing an emotional game a week ago. There is not any question that they were. There is a fundamental feeling in this stadium and in our football building that we are just catching speed. We are just getting the pace that we need. We are not going to sacrifice our movement and our improvement based on the fact that we played a tough game."
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger
"You're seeing the coaches have more confidence in us. They are mixing it up, more run‐pass, and being more balanced. Guys are making plays, having confidence, and having fun out there. That's all you could ask for, to have fun out there. We are playing the game we love."
Mississippi State senior cornerback Johnthan Banks
"We just got the wrong check. LSU caught us in a bad play, in busted coverage. They found it and they made a play. They executed and we didn't. And that was about it."
"When you do that stuff against good teams they're going to capitalize on it. We've got to get back to the drawing board on Monday and fix our mistakes and get ready for Arkansas."
Mississippi State junior quarterback Tyler Russell
"We felt like some of their players are pretty good rushing the passer, so we did some things to try to get the ball out quick. And it was effective. Unfortunately they made more plays than we did and sometimes that happens. I felt all our guys fought to the end. Sometimes you can fight as hard as you want and not win a game. If you take anything good out of that, I'm proud of our offense and the defense for not giving up. I put so much time into watching film this past week. I knew what they were going to do before it even happened, so it was just go out there and take control and make plays. And we were able to do that at times."
Mississippi State offensive coordinator Les Koenning
"We put a lot on (Tyler) this game. He had some checks and he really did a nice job getting us in the right plays and putting the ball in the right spots. And when you a quarterback that can do that you're proud of what he can do."
"Well, obviously (Perkins) has done a really good job. Not having Perk is a big deal for us. We need to get him well and get him back on the field. I'll be a lot happier."
"I don't know about shifting, we missed on a third down conversion. It was third and short and it was tough when you miss on it. Those are the ones that hit you and get you. In big ball games like this it doesn't matter what you say or do, everything is magnified. Every little thing become a really, really big thing. And you have to execute at a high level and you can't make mistakes."
University of Arkansas (4-6, 2-4 in Southeastern Conference)
MSU will try to avoid its first four-game losing streak since 2005 when they host Arkansas (4-6, 2-4 in SEC) on Senior Day at Davis Wade Stadium next Saturday (11:21 a.m., SEC Network).
"I thought we had a good week of practice and we improved but not enough to win football games," Mullen said. "Good football teams continually improve and are better in November then when they started in September. If we want to finish this good-to-great season off, we need to come with a higher level of performance next week."
The Razorbacks, who were a preseason Top 10 team in every poll, still bring to Starkville the third-best passing attack in the Southeastern Conference led by quarterback Tyler Wilson. The problem for the Hogs, who are coached this season by former Louisville and Michigan State head coach John L. Smith, is defense. Arkansas ranks near the bottom in the SEC in nearly every statistical category including allowing 32 points per game against league foes.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
4. Scandals in the Nunnery BOOK REVIEWS