That was the sort of thorough ass kicking that almost no one reading this has ever witnessed in an LSU – Mississippi St game. Think 2014, only without the fourth quarter heroics. Mississippi St. had not beaten LSU by more than 7 points since 1991. Since then, they had only beaten LSU twice, regardless of the margin.
LSU simply does not lose to Mississippi St like this unless two things are true: State is pretty good, and LSU is terrible. Look, even Curley Hallman didn’t lose to Mississippi St. this badly. Let that be your guide.
All of the little issues in the first two games which weren’t really issues because LSU was playing outmatched foes with no chance of winning became significant tonight. LSU couldn’t throw the ball. The defense couldn’t stop the run. And eventually, the failure in one phase lead to a failure in the other.
LSU committed a bushel of penalties, usually at the worst possible time. The first two scores by LSU were taken off the board thanks to penalties. An already thin defensive line had two players ejected for targeting the quarterback, both on late hits when Fitzgerald didn’t even have the ball.
Yes, there were bad calls. Even though few people talked about it, I thought the defensive pass interference on John Battle was especially weak. But here is the thing. LSU fans were sporting the “it’s just the refs” line last week and the week before. There comes a point that committing a bunch of penalties is on you. It’s not always someone else’s fault.
LSU got off to a sluggish start, which is to be expected in a hostile road environment. But at the end of the first quarter, the scoreboard showed zeroes. State had two decent drives, but the Bulldogs went 0 for 2 on 3rd downs, forcing the punts.
Then came State’s first scoring drive, an 8-play, 65-yard touchdown drive. Nick Fitzgerald dove across the goal line and set the home crowd into a frenzy. No big thing, LSU calmly responded with an 8-play, 65-yard drive of their own which did not feature a single pass. LSU took the first haymaker, and responded with one of their own.
LSU aided State’s next field goal drive with two different 15-yard penalties, but stiffened up and held State to a field goal. The crowd was back in it, but things weren’t especially dire. LSU would go three and out, their first of the game, on the next possession, but this was still a close, back and forth slugfest.
State went backwards on its first two plays of the next possession, setting up 3rd and 11 with about two and half minutes left in the half. LSU was in a great position. Get the long stop, then get the ball back for a chance to run the two minute drill and score some points to tie it up or maybe take the lead before the half. Instead, no one bothered to cover Farrod Green, and he rumbled down the sideline for 22 yards and a huge conversion. One third down conversion and two minutes later, Nick Fitzgerald was crossing the goalline again.
This was the moment the game changed and the panic set in. Instead of, at worst, LSU being down a field goal and maybe even tied or ahead, LSU was down by two scores and kicking off to start the half. State and the crowd smelled blood. LSU forced yet another 3rd down to start the drive, and State failed to convert until yet another flag came down. A wholly unnecessary roughing the passer and targeting call on LSU kept the drive alive, kept the tide against LSU, and eventually would lead to a field goal.
LSU responded with a failed drive marked by an egregious drop by Russell Gage on 3rd down. LSU would never threaten again. State would score a touchdown on their next drive, and the rout was on.
This team fell apart. There’s almost no positives to take from this game. State averaged around six yards per rush, moving the ball at will. Nick Fitzgerald, who started slowly, eventually found his form and ended the day 15 for 23 and 180 yards. He also added 88 yards rushing and two more touchdowns on the ground to go with his two in the air. Our vaunted secondary got housed by a running quarterback.
Danny Etling was 3 of 7 for 31 yards at the half. He finished the game 10/23 for 104 yards, which isn’t much better. He looked awful all night, missing targets while also running for his life. Derrius Guice ran for 76 yards on 15 carries, a quiet night in which he was outrushed by the opposing quarterback.
At the first sign of adversity, this team folded. They made repeated errors and committed a rash of turnovers when the game was still close. And they failed on defense in the most critical third and long of the game, and failed to execute on their own 3rd down that could have kept the game close.
This team is young and talented, but talent will only get you so far. They were sloppy, unfocused, and worse yet, this team gave up in the second half. There is simply no excuse to lose by this margin. The moment it got tough, this team got frustrated and gave up.
Let’s get a jump on Tell the Truth Monday and say that Ed Orgeron did not have his team mentally ready to play.