October 6, 2013 1:54:49 AM
Slim Smith - [email protected]
Entering Saturday's game against No. 10 LSU, Mississippi State's defense was a source of optimism. The Bulldogs were ranked second in the Southeastern Conference in total defense and third in pass defense.
They can't say that anymore.
In fact, there are an awful lot of things that cannot be said of MSU anymore.
It is not the mere fact MSU fell to LSU for the 14th consecutive time, and the 21st in its last 22 meetings. Heck, even in some of MSU's better seasons, beating LSU has been virtually impossible.
So, no, Saturday's 59-26 loss is probably not much of a barometer.
MSU was a pretty mediocre bunch before LSU rolled into Davis Wade Stadium and started ringing the scoreboard like a pinball game.
At most schools, you recognize the players by their numbers. On Saturday, you needed dental records, so badly and repeatedly burned were MSU's young and hapless defensive backs.
LSU senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger and junior receiver Odell Beckham Jr. basically played catch all night. It should be noted Mettenberger is auditioning for the NFL this season, moving up the draft board with each outing, so prolific has he been since coming under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Beckham, a junior, looks like a top draft pick, too.
Even so, this was too easy.
Mettenberger was 25 of 29 for 340 yards and two touchdowns, both to Beckham, who had nine catches for 179 yards.
With its defensive liabilities, the Tigers gave up yards and points in bunches, but whenever the game got a little hairy, there was Mettenberger firing darts to Beckham, who was always ridiculously open.
So there you have it. In typical MSU fashion, there is always much to grouse about and just enough promise to keep the diehards coming back.
Following MSU is like one of carnival games. You come so close to winning the teddy bear, so close you are compelled to try again and again. By the end of the night, you've spent the rent money.
It would be the height of blind delusion to suggest the Bulldogs might have won this game, even though MSU led with six minutes left in the first half and had driven deep into LSU territory with a chance to take the lead entering the fourth quarter.
You could see it coming. MSU, down just 31-26, ripped down the field to the LSU 7-yard line, then flopped around like a fish on hot pavement before Devon Bell missed a 42-yard field goal.
It's always something.
It's not that the Bulldogs didn't make some plays. On offense, they made a bunch, in fact. MSU gained 468 yards, and for the better part of three quarters matched LSU's offense blow for blow.
Even on defense, there were moments of stubborn resistance. You want to know how frustrating it was? In the first half, LSU ran for 123 yards on 18 carries. Two of those carries accounted 113 of those yards. Say this for the Bulldog defenders: When they miss a tackle they REALLY miss.
That's how what might have passed for a somewhat competitive game turned into a laugher.
Both teams made plays Saturday night. LSU made the plays that mattered, so MSU slips to 2-3 (0-2 in the SEC) and looks ahead to a dwindling number of teams on its schedule it can beat.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]