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First Impressions: LSU 23, Mississippi St 20

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Don’t let the scoreboard fool you

Mississippi State v LSU
Still the man
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Well, that was exciting wasn’t it?

LSU took a boring, uncompetitive, easy won and turned it into a bit of a nail biter at the end thanks to two Leonard Fournette fumbles, the worst onside kick coverage in LSU history, and an assist from the booth review.

It never should have come to that, but it was set up a third quarter in which LSU had three possessions, and went three-and-out twice. The one time LSU didn’t go three-and-out, they went three-and-fumble. However, this inept display of offense resulted in all of three Mississippi St. points, so it seemed like no big deal in the end.

LSU got the football back early in the fourth quarter at their own one yard, thanks to yet another loss for the special teams unit. And then the offense got to work. LSU went on a 13-play, 65-yard drive which ate up 7:01 of clock, yet the ESPN crew kept complaining about the two incompletions Danny Etling threw on the drive. They were wrong. That drive was a thing of beauty. It flipped field position, bled the clock, and then ended when Fournette’s fourth down conversion was reversed on “indisputable” video evidence that seemed anything but.

State would drive 66 yards down the field in nine plays, again assisted by an “indisputable” replay decision which overruled an incompletion call on the field. I do not think that word means what the SEC thinks it means.

One awful onside kick coverage and a short drive later, a game which had been seemingly been salted away was now competitive again. LSU would go three-and-out on its drive, but then Josh Growden blasted a huge punt to flip field position. The defense would answer the call and Arden Key would sack Damian Williams on fourth down to end the threat.

Now, everyone is going to flip out over State’s comeback and use it to support some conclusions already made. Really, it required absurd good fortune from the replay officials and a slight redefinition of the word “indisputable”, as well as two fumbles from the usually reliable Leonard Fournette. OK, the specials teams breakdowns are a legitimate issue with this team, but the rest of it was a series of fluke occurrences in which State almost pulled off a damn miracle.

And even with a string of ridiculous good fortune, state’s comeback come up far short. Their final drive was still about fifty yards away from a low percentage field goal attempt. Outside of Cam calling up a wide receiver run, a play which had not come close to working all game, it’s hard to complain about a single play call during the comeback. To their credit, State took advantage of their good fortune, but there wasn’t a whole lot of LSU meltdown going on. It was State getting good luck, and then taking advantage. Hey, the other team is trying to win, too.

This is a shame, because the needlessly exciting finish is going to detract from what was a great game by LSU. The defense finally showed up and shut down the opposing offense. State had one good drive after a questionable fumble call, assisted by a questionable reception call, in which they gained 66 yards and cut a 17-point lead to 10. Then they had a 32-yard drive to get within 3. Their previous 10 plays went for 16 total yards, and their next 4 went for -6.

Danny Etling had a game in which he looked like an SEC quarterback. He went 19/30 for 215 yards and a TD with no picks. Yes, his production slowed in the second half again, but he was excellent on what should have been the game-ending drive. He went 3/5 for 36 yards, rushed for another 3, and helped the offense drive down the field. Fournette’s fumble puts a bad stain on that drive, but that really was exactly what we want to see out of the quarterback and the offense.

Leonard Fournette started to look like himself this week. He rushed 147 yards on 28 carries. He scored 2 touchdowns. But his two second half fumbles, especially the one late in the fourth, were the kind of mistakes he cannot make. That final play looked as if he’d run forever if he doesn’t fumble, and if it wasn’t fourth down, the recovery would have stood. That’s just bad luck all the way around. Still, when you are Galactus, Eater of Worlds, you cannot leave behind table scraps.

This was the game LSU needed. The team finally played the way it was capable of playing. Yes, State almost made a miraculous comeback that would have defied all logic. And honestly, it wasn’t all that close to almost. So even fans get to be happy. They can still complain and complain and complain.