This was an ugly, boring game for a half. LSU was plagued by the sort of mistakes that have dogged the team for the last few years: miscommunication, false starts, and too many men on the field. Southern Miss went into the half tied, but it felt like they were ahead. LSU was getting outplayed in its own stadium.
This was a major test for interim head coach Ed Orgeron. How would the team respond to a lackluster first half?
By outscoring USM 28-0 in the third.
When the dust settled on that third quarter, on another big third down stop and a big hit by the defense to drop the receiver well short of the line, the game was essentially over. A tense struggle had turned into a laugher in fifteen minutes of game time.
It all got started when Derrius Guice, who had a solid but unspectacular first half, busted a 61-yard TD run on the opening drive of the half. For the first time of the night, USM was on their heels and struggling to respond. They would respond… poorly.
Jamal Adams got his hands on the ball when the refs, who did not have their best night on the season, were slow to whistle a pile dead. Southern Miss scored a touchdown on a similar slow whistle, but this time, it gave Adams time to strip te ball, and then pick up the same fumble he caused. Two plays later, Derrius Guice had his second touchdown of the half, and the rout as on.
Heck, we even had time to trade long punts before the game got completely blown open on an 80-yard touchdown pass to DJ Chark. Malachi Dupre would even get into the scoring with a long touchdown catch of his own, and the LSU faithful celebrated by evacuating the stadium en masse.
Outside of the heroes of the third quarter, the player who truly deserves a spotlight is Kendall Beckwith. He was everywhere all night long. He finished the game with 15 tackles, 2 for a loss, and had 9 midway through the second. He kept LSU in the game, almost single-handedly, before the rest of the team showed up to help him out.
Danny Etling had a fairly dismal first half, going 4/9 for 65 yards plus -8 yards rushing. Those big plays transformed his line to 11/18 for 276 and 3 TD. More encouragingly, Malachi Dupre caught two of those touchdown tosses, and cracked the 100-yard barrier for the first time all year.
The game started terribly, and looked as if the team had regressed after a brief blip against Mizzou. Instead, the party continued to roll.