Dominant second half fuels LSU past Mississippi State, 31-16
For most of the first half Saturday night at Tiger Stadium, the LSU offense was stuck in neutral, unable to make plays and unable to get out of its own way.
Fortunately, the LSU defense was simply outstanding and kept the Tigers in the game against favored Mississippi State.
Then came the second half.
The defense continued its fine play while the offense awakened, scoring 24 points in the second half.
The result was a 31-16 SEC victory over a veteran team.
Brian Kelly started two freshmen on his offensive line as the first-year Tigers head coach continues to search for the right combination. Clearly, he is not afraid to play his most talented players, regardless of age.
Jayden Daniels was inconsistent throwing the ball but when it mattered most, he made plays in the fourth quarter on the ground and through the air.
Malik Nabers came up big with big catches as Daniels’ top target.
Defensively, Jay Ward and BJ Ojulari were absolute beasts, creating havoc, making plays all over the field.
Here are my Quick Takes from LSU’s 31-16 victory over Mississippi State:
**LSU won the toss and elected to receive.
**LSU came out going with a tempo, no-huddle attack.
**Daniels hit Kayshon Boutte on the second play of the game for a gain of 18 yards.
**The Tigers had two false starts which crippled the drive before three passes from Daniels were off the mark.
**Mississippi State went for it on fourth-and-one from its own 22-yard line and Dillon Johnson converted on an inside run.
**State went 87 yards in nine plays with Jo’Quavious Marks racing 37 yards for a touchdown off the left side. Major Burns blitzed, was there and completely missed Marks, who then ran untouched for the score.
**State missed the extra point.
**LSU had a third false start on its second offensive possession.
**The Bulldogs went for it again on fourth-and-one at the LSU 40-yard-line but Johnson was stopped cold by Burns, who was shaken up on the play.
**LSU had just 49 yards of offense in the first quarter.
**On the first play of the second quarter, State went for it again on fourth-and-one from its own 29-yard -line and got stuffed by Mekhi Wingo, giving LSU a very short field.
**It did not matter. LSU gave it right back on a fumble but the Tiger defense rose up again and got another stop.
**Gregory Clayton Jr. then made a poor decision to field a punt at his own five-yard line, rather than letting it go. He was tackled immediately, putting LSU in the hole.
**Mississippi State got a big punt return and a short field and took advantage of it, going 48 yards in just three plays with Will Rogers hitting Rara Thomas on a 13-yard touchdown pass to make it 13-0 with 2:14 to play in the half.
**LSU went 75 yards in seven plays with Daniels hitting Jaray Jenkins on an eight-yard touchdown pass. Jenkins caught it at the two-yard-line and bulled his way into the end zone to cu the deficit to 13-7 with 46 seconds left in the half. Jenkins was shaken up on the play, limping off the field.
**On the drive, Daniels accounted for every yard. He ran three times for 48 yards and completed all four of his passes for 27 yards and a score.
**LSU had four penalties and a turnover in the half. Daniels accounted for 110 of the 145 total yards in the half.
**The Tigers got a stop to start the second half and the offense stayed hot, at least long enough to cut the deficit to 13-10 on a 35-yard field goal by Damian Ramos to cap a 69-yard drive in nine plays. After looking very good, Daniels then made two bad throws to open receivers and made a bad choice on third down, trying to go to Boutte when Malik Nabers was wide open in the end zone.
**The Bulldogs got the points back, driving 34 yards in 10 plays. BJ Ojulari stalled the drive with a big sack but Ben Raybon, who earlier missed an extra point, drilled a 45-yard field goal right down the middle to make it 16-10 with 6:31 to play in the third quarter.
**Kelly decided to go for it on fourth-and-four near midfield in the third quarter. Daniels did not see an open receiver underneath and tried a very low percentage throw down field and was well off the mark.
**State then opted to go for a fourth-and-two at the LSU 42-yard line but Rogers had his pass broken by Jay Ward, who played a terrific game.
**LSU got the huge break it needed when Austin Williams muffed a punt and long snapper Slade Roy recovered at the MSU 10-yard line as the third quarter came to an end.
**The Tigers capitalized in full to take their first lead of the game at 17-16. On third-and-goal from the three-yard line. Daniels dropped back and, as he most often does, took off up the middle, fought off a tackle and scored and LSU too a 17-16 lead with 14:11 to play in the game. LSU overcame yet another false start penalty on the first play of the possession.
**The touchdown was the first third down conversion of the night after LSU had failed on its first eight attempts.
**LSU then got the big drive it needed, melting time off the clock in the process, going 85 yards in 14 plays, taking 6:01 off the clock.
**Josh Williams capped the huge, impressive drive with an eight-yard touchdown run, just reaching the ball across the goal line to give LSU a 24-16 lead with 6:53 to play in the game.
**The Tigers got another stop and then hit State with a kill shot as Armoni Goodwin broke a run straight up the middle, running through a tackle and racing 47 yards for a score to take a 31-16 lead with 4:50 to play in the game. The run capped a four play, 59-yard drive.
**Jay Ward then sealed the deal, picking off a throw by Rogers over the middle on a poor decision and throw.
LSU played well defensively in a win over Mississippi State in Starkville last season. With a more aggressive approach under new coordinator Matt House, the Tigers played even better this year in beating the Bulldogs in Tiger Stadium.
The defense held the statistic-happy Air-Raid offense of State to just 289 total yards. Rogers was just 24 of 42 for 214 yards with a touchdown and an interception. LSU sacked him four times.
The offense came alive in the second half, perhaps an indication of what is to come.
Goodwin ran hard while John Emery got his first action.
Daniels finished 22 of 37 for 210 yards and a touchdown and rushed 16 times for 93 yards and a score. Goodwin had nine carries for 75 yards and a touchdown. Nabers had six catches for 76 yards.
In the kicking game, Ramos made a field goal and the Tigers recovered the muffed punt leading to a touchdown but the kickoff and punt coverage was awful and kickoffs were not good so there is much to work on in the third aspect of the game.
Entering the season, there were two pivotal games for LSU in the first half of the season, against Florida State and against Mississippi State.
Consider the Tigers even now.
They lost as a favorite against the Seminoles.
They won as an underdog against the Bulldogs.
The Tigers get what should be a breather against New Mexico next Saturday before traveling to the Plains to meet Auburn.
The foundation to become a championship contender is not going to built overnight but Kelly has started to build it in proper fashion and the first tangible result was obtained on this night.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…