September 26, 2009 10:12:00 PM
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State was six inches away from scoring a go-ahead touchdown against the No. 7 team in the country.
With 1 minute, 8 seconds left in Saturday''s game against the LSU Tigers, the Bulldogs were turned away.
On fourth down, MSU senior quarterback Tyson Lee, of Columbus, kept the football on an option keeper and was stopped just short of the goal line.
Lee had the opportunity to pitch the ball to tailback Anthony Dixon, but tried to score himself.
"I tried to knife it inside and just wasn''t able to do it," Lee said. "It''s a game of inches and LSU won out this time."
Even though Lee threw four incompletions on the final series, the missed opportunity to score from inside the 1-yard line proved to be the difference and allowed LSU to escape with a 30-26 Southeastern Conference victory in front of a crowd of 53,612 at Davis Wade Stadium.
"We''ve got to do a better job of finishing the game," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "We had an opportunity to win, which is amazing with four turnovers in the first half. When the biggest plays were there to be made at the biggest times of the game, (LSU) made them."
Dixon took a pitch from Lee for 18 yards to set up a first-and-goal at the 2. Dixon carried two more times to nose the ball inside the 1.
On third down, Mullen call a jump pass, but LSU''s Chad Jones batted down Lee''s pass to tight end Marcus Green, who was open in the end zone.
"We thought we had it set up and they had everybody crashed up the middle," Mullen said. "We had a guy standing there all by himself. It''s a jump pass and Tyson was supposed to jump up and throw it. We just didn''t get him to jump high enough."
After Lee didn''t score on fourth down, the Tigers (4-0, 2-0 SEC) felt it had dodged a bullet, and coach Les Miles credited the defense.
"They played with character and heart," Miles said.
MSU junior center J.C. Brignone was disappointed the offense didn''t have what it took to score. He could see the goal line as he lined up.
"We were right there," Brignone said. "That just comes down to who wants it more. We played good all of the way down to the goal line, but just couldn''t finish."
Dixon (27 carries, 106 yards) had his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game for the Bulldogs (2-2, 1-2 SEC).
He would have liked to have carried the ball once more to see if he could have gotten six inches.
"I thought I could get it in there," Dixon said. "I was hoping for that, but our coaches are excellent coaches and they made the decisions they thought we could get. We live and die as a team and we move on."
The teams took turns on getting leads in the first half.
LSU got the scoring started when Patrick Peterson intercepted Lee and returned it for a 37-yard touchdown with 12 minutes, 47 seconds left in the first quarter. The conversion failed.
Dixon scored the first of his two rushing touchdowns on a 2-yard run at the 7:14 mark. Sean Brauchle added the extra point to give MSU a 7-6 advantage.
LSU answered with a 5-yard scoring pass from Jordan Jefferson to Brandon LaFell with 3:45 remaining in the first quarter.
Dixon''s 1-yard touchdown run put the Bulldogs back on top 14-13 at the end of the first quarter.
The only scoring of the second quarter was a 22-yard field goal by Josh Jasper that gave the Tigers a 16-14 halftime advantage.
LSU didn''t waste any time expanding the margin on its first offensive possession of the second half, as Jordan hit LaFell with a 58-yard strike with 13:30 left in the third quarter.
After MSU''s Lee found Green on a 50-yard scoring play at the 6:33 mark of the third quarter to make it 23-21, the Tigers got the biggest play in terms of yardage. With 14:36 left in the game, Jones broke loose on a 93-yard punt return to score.
The Bulldogs had attempted to kick the football short and away from the speedy Trindon Holliday when it got into the hands of the athletic Jones.
"He made a great decision to pick up the football and run with it," Miles said. "When he was going down the field, it was great to see the support from the team. They were running with him all the way."
MSU got its only other points on a 22-yard field goal from Brauchle and a safety when LSU punter Derek Helton stepped out of the end zone when he was backed up inside the 5-yard line late in the fourth quarter.
Lee was 15 of 38 for 172 yards) with one touchdown, a career-high three interceptions, and the run that came up short.
Mullen didn''t question Lee''s decision or his choice to have Lee in the game down the stretch.
"I thought he was playing pretty good, so we just decided to stick with him and let him finish it out," Mullen said.
MSU will continue a three-game homestand against Georgia Tech at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.