BATON ROUGE, La. – After vowing all week to correct mistakes made last season, Mississippi State made too many Saturday night and got walloped by No. 15 LSU, 29-7, in front of 92,538 at Tiger Stadium.
Last year, MSU committed four turnovers in a 30-26 home loss to the Tigers. This time, the Bulldogs committed five turnovers, and that was the main culprit in their 11th straight loss to LSU.
MSU (1-2, 0-2 SEC) hasn’t won in Baton Rouge since 1991.
Chris Relf and Tyler Russell combined to throw five interceptions, with Russell throwing three. Those were the difference, as MSU actually outgained LSU in total yardage, 268-264.
“That’s two years in a row against this team we’re minus-4 in turnover ratio,” MSU head coach Dan Mullen said. “You’re not going to win any football games turning the ball over in that fashion. A lot of people have responsibilities on the turnovers – I do, certainly the quarterbacks do, certainly the offensive line does, and the receivers do.”
State trotted out all-black uniforms for the first time ever – it wore black jerseys in a 31-3 loss to Alabama last year – but that fashion statement was about the only statement the Bulldogs made Saturday.
MSU looked to be making a statement to open the second half, when Russell led them into the end zone.
Relf played the entire first half, but Russell finally got his chance when Relf got banged up following a 13-yard run on that opening drive. The next two plays were passes by Russell covering 17 and 19 yards.
Vick Ballard had two big third-down runs, including the touchdown from a yard out to make it 12-7 at the 8:11 mark of the third quarter.
It all unraveled after that, however.
After MSU’s kickoff went out of bounds, LSU (3-0, 2-0) went 60 yards in seven plays, with quarterback Jordan Jefferson scoring on a 19-yard touchdown run at the 5:16 mark.
Then Russell was intercepted when he got hit while releasing the ball, which didn’t go anywhere except in the arms of defensive tackle Drake Nevis. Three plays and 28 yards later, Stevan Ridley stuffed it in from 1 yard out for a 26-7 lead with 1:23 left in the third.
“When you take momentum and just hand it back to them, you can’t do those things,” Mullen said. “To be a great team, those can’t happen.”
Jefferson, who struggled against Vanderbilt the previous week, was efficient against MSU. The junior was 10 of 16 passing for 97 yards, and rushed for 40 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
“I felt like the quarterback play was better and felt like it will continue to be better,” LSU coach Les Miles said.
Ridley led LSU with 78 yards on 19 carries. The Tigers had 69 rushing yards in the first half, 98 in the second half.
“I thought when we did what we were supposed to do, I thought we made it hard on them,” MSU defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “That’s not taking anything away from them, I thought they played hard and ran hard and made plays when they had to, but there were a couple plays there in the third quarter when we just weren’t where we were supposed to be, and LSU’s going to punish you if you’re not where you’re going to be.”
Josh Jasper’s four first-half field goals tied the school’s single-game record and gave LSU a 12-0 lead at the break. That was a testament to MSU’s gritty defense, which got put into bad spots after two Relf interceptions but managed to put LSU in third-down passing situations.
Relf’s first pick was a nifty tip-drill job by All-SEC cornerback Patrick Peterson, but the second was an ill-advised jump ball under pressure that Morris Claiborne easily hauled in to set up Jasper’s final field goal 1:18 before the half.
Peterson had two interceptions.
Jasper broke the record with a 21-yarder early in the fourth quarter to give LSU a 29-7 lead.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571
BRAD LOCKE / NEMS Daily Journal