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Wednesday WayBack, 2003: LSU 41, Miss. State 6

What if I told you a 41-6 blowout could be a harbinger of problems to come?

It didn't end well for ol' Jackie.
It didn't end well for ol' Jackie.

Our weekly looks at LSU football past is back now that we're reaching the offseason's barrens, picking up where we left off in 2003, as LSU heads to Starkville for the Jackie Sherrill retirement tour.

The Tigers were fresh off of what I still consider the biggest win in the program's modern era, the 17-10 win over seventh-ranked Georgia, a game that bears remembering from time to time for every LSU fan. I very distinctly remember a sense of foreboding, because I was quite sure that this team wasn't playing its best football yet and the thought of the 1997 upset loss to Ole Miss after beating No. 1 Florida was never too far from my mind. State wasn't very good, but at the time none of us knew how bad yet, and the idea of overlooking anyone just didn't seem like a great idea.

The Setting

  • The Bulldogs were 0-3 and struggling. After back-to-back losing seasons it was pretty clear that their long-time coach would not be long for Starkvegas. At the end of the season, the program would be on NCAA probation and Sherrill would be replaced by Sylvester Croom, the first (and still the only Ed. Note: apologies, yes I forgot about Kevin Sumlin & Joker Phillips temporarily) Black football coach in SEC history.
  • No road trip for your intrepid student reporter. I watched this one over at a buddy's apartment with a crowd, cold beer and some burgers on the grill. This party was significant for being the first time yours truly was actually able to contribute to the number of ladies on hand. 2003 was a good year.

The Game

  • I keep trying to remember whether Kevin Fant was the State quarterback that threw five interceptions in the 2007 Thursday night opener. This stretch of God-awful pocket quarterbacks at Miss. State between Wayne Madkin and the Dan Mullen era all kind of run together.
  • Things didn't start out well for LSU's offense in this game, and later on I'll detail how a couple big plays masked some problems that weren't solved yet. Seven plays for 37 yards combined on the first two offensive possessions, with a turnover. State managed to string together a nice 10-play drive before Nick Turner fumbled it, though Matt Mauck would give it right back to the home team four plays later.
  • Frankly, this Mississippi State team just wasn't good enough to take advantage of these mistakes, and LSU's defense was too good to tire out this early. Even though we still hadn't seen the unit's classic lineup form yet.
  • Shyrone Carey got going on this drive and finished with a nice game, but his success was also somewhat indicative of the 03 line that was, at this point, still underachieving. He was the most creative runner on the team, a shifty start/stop guy that didn't need huge holes. But he wasn't a back you could really rely on at 5-6 and maybe a buck 80. I can't lie though I always had a soft spot for him after watching him just dominate the New Orleans Catholic League at Archbishop Shaw in the late 90s.
  • The defense took over from here. Hunt's interception and return set up another short score for Carey, and a few minutes later Travis Daniels' pick-six made the game a seemingly insurmountable 24-0 at the half. But the Tiger offense was just 2-5 on third down and hadn't really found any rhythm.
  • A nice touchdown pass like Mauck's 36-yarder can also help to cover for a lot of ills. Mauck's performance was pretty efficient overall (12-19, 171 yards, 1 TD & 1 interception), but nothing special, especially considering the competition.
  • Big day for the Tiger safeties, as Daniels and Hunt combined for 12 tackles, 3 pass break-ups, 2 interceptions and a fumble recovery. But it was freshman LaRon Landry that led the team with 11 tackles and a partial punt block. He was on his way to a lot more playing time.
  • That Vincent kid looks pretty good. Maybe he should start getting more carries?
  • Final score 41-6, but looking beyond, the offensive performance wasn't anything to brag about. 354 yards, 4-11 on third down. And while the Tigers rushed for over 160 yards, the big plays masked some real inconsistency. The two leading carriers (Carey and Joe Addai), combined for 75 yards on 23 carries, with ypc numbers of 3.8 and 2.5, respectively. LSU's offensive line, the clear strength of that side of the ball, wasn't playing the kind of dominant football it was capable of, and a wakeup call was coming.