By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
BATON ROUGE, La. – Mississippi State put up a much better fight than it had the previous two weeks, but it couldn’t chase off its Tiger Stadium demons.
The No. 22-ranked Bulldogs lost their third straight game, falling 37-17 to No. 9 LSU in front of 92,831 on Saturday night. It was MSU’s 11th consecutive loss here, the last win coming in 1991.
After being outscored 76-20 by Alabama and Texas A&M, MSU (7-3, 3-3 SEC) finally found some offense, just not as much as LSU (8-2, 4-2). And unlike in those games, this one wasn’t sealed up until the fourth quarter.
“The kids played hard out there for us tonight. That’s not good enough. We’re in here to win football games,” MSU head coach Dan Mullen said.
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger built off his breakout performance against Alabama the week before, completing 19 of 30 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns.
He led Tigers to six scores on six red zone possessions, three of them touchdowns
Mettenberger’s top target was Jarvis Landry, who had nine catches for 109 yards.
MSU’s Tyler Russell matched Mettenberger, completing 26 of 38 for 295 yards. His 14-yard touchdown pass to Chad Bumphis brought State within 20-17 early in the third quarter, but other opportunities were missed.
It was 23-17 when MSU took over at its own 34, but the drive was stopped when Russell couldn’t convert a third-and-2 on a QB sneak.
LSU then went 80 yards in 11 plays, with J.C. Copeland’s 1-yard plunge giving the home team some breathing room.
It wasn’t over yet.
MSU had a promising drive that reached LSU’s red zone but was snuffed out. Russell, who hadn’t been sacked all night, was dropped on consecutive plays to force a turnover on downs with 6:26 left.
That preserved a 30-17 LSU lead. MSU threatened to score again, but Craig Loston returned an interception 100 yards for a TD.
Running on empty
MSU was playing without starting tailback LaDarius Perkins, who had a quad injury. The Bulldogs rushed for 47 yards on 24 carries.
Chad Bumphis led the MSU receivers with nine catches for 140 yards.
State finished with 351 total yards, while LSU totaled 392.
“I think we played a lot better this week than we did last week,” Mullen said. “I thought we had a good week of practice, and we improved. Obviously not to the extent that we need to to win games.”
The Tigers didn’t let last week’s 21-17 loss to Alabama carry over to this one.
“The question was whether this football team would come to play after playing an emotional game a week ago,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “There is not any question that they were.”
MSU scored first for the fifth time this year, going 74 yards in 10 plays. Dak Prescott hit Marcus Green for a 9-yard touchdown and 7-0 lead.
LSU reached the red zone on its next two possessions but settled for field goals. It got a big break when MSU tailback Derrick Milton lost a fumble, giving the Tigers the ball 21 yards from paydirt.
Mettenberger found Landry for a 19-yard TD to give LSU its first lead of the night at 13-7.
After a 47-yard Devon Bell field goal with 48 seconds left in the half, LSU covered 71 yards in 35 seconds, as Mettenberger hit Spencer Ware for a 20-yard score and 20-10 halftime lead.
“That’ll kind of kill you a little bit,” cornerback Johnthan Banks said. “Just had too many mistakes tonight.”
MSU did a solid job against LSU’s rushing attack, which gained 119 yards. That’s 81 yards below its average coming into the game.