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Behind the Box Score: Mississippi St

Another slow start, another furious finish

Mississippi State v LSU
Ward leaps for joy over the shoutout
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

LSU’s second game against a Power 5 opponent went a lot like the first one: a poorly played first half resulting in a two touchdown deficit. Then, after the coaching staff made adjustments, the LSU offense looked far better once it went into tempo. The Tigers then mount a furious fourth quarter comeback, marked by three consecutive scoring drives.

Only this time, LSU didn’t miss the extra point. Heck, the PAT didn’t even matter because this time, the defense stiffened up and didn’t allow the opposition to respond at all. While the first rally came up short, this one had LSU shot right past their opponent.

This is obviously progress, even if falling behind your opponent is probably not a viable strategy. Eventually, LSU is going to need to put together a game for four quarters, but if you’re going to only show up for one of them, choose the fourth.

15. LSU’s total number of drives. I promise to not spend the whole column comparing the game to Florida St, but this was the big difference between the two games, other than the defense. FSU managed to shorten the game by minimizing the number of total possessions. State was not as effective in this, and it kept giving LSU’s offense a chance to get on track. It finally did.

Early on, this didn’t look like it would be the case. State’s first drive was 9 plays for 87 yards, eating 4:55 of clock. After that, aside from a third quarter 10-play, 34-yard drive taking 4:19 which netted a field goal, State would never muster a drive that looked remotely like their opener.

57%. Will Rogers’ completion percentage. Rogers is a guy who completes over 70% of his passes in an offense designed for efficiency. LSU’s defense completely disrupted that offense, and they were constantly behind the chains, the death knell for a Leach-coached team. Rogers went 24/42 for only 214 yards.

6/15. LSU’s third down conversions. The single most misleading stat of the game because a 40% rate isn’t that bad, but it disguises the fact LSU was 0 for 8 on third down prior to the fourth quarter. The first third down conversion of the game for LSU came on the first play of the fourth, when Jayden Daniels kept the ball on third and goal from the three for a score. So, kind of a big play, as it gave LSU its first lead of the game.

The next time LSU touched the ball, it was clinging to a one-point lead, and starting on its own 15-yard line. LSU put together an 85-yard touchdown drive which ate 6:53 of clock, keyed by three third down conversions. Any one of those go sideways, LSU punts the ball back and it’s a different game. The Tigers would miss the fourth third down, but then converted a fourth down pass for 27 yards. Josh Williams would run the ball in on the next play to take an eight-point lead. Ball game.

10. LSU tackles for a loss. 5 of those were sacks. LSU’s front lived in the Bulldog backfield all game. There was a rough start on that opening drive, marred by missed tackles, but the defense cleaned that up from that point forward. Rogers spent a lot of the game on his back or running for his life, which is what lead to his completion percentage and general ineffectiveness. BJ Ojulari set the bar with 2.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks. Freshman Harold Perkins kept pace with the sacks, and finished with 2 TFL. LSU didn’t simply drop eight, they found a way to create pressure.

11. Jay Ward tackles. Special shoutout to Jay Ward, who moved to nickel and has been LSU’s best defender all year. He had a terrific game, making 11 tackles, 1.5 of them for a loss. He added an interception and a pass breakup. He didn’t just make a lot of tackles, he made a lot of big tackles. He made a stop on 3rd and 1 late in the first, forcing a punt. This was when the LSU offense was doing nothing and the game could have gone sideways. He then broke up a pass on 4th and 2, and assisted on another third down stop in the second half.

21. Fourth quarter points. LSU won by 15. Late touchdowns are good, but some early ones would be nice, too. LSU went from 7 points on 145 yards (48 of those yards and the only score on the last drive of the half) to 24 points off of 271 yards. Slow starts will be the death of this team. Adjustments are wonderful to see, but how about not needing so many adjustments?

Something to work on, right?