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Post-game at Davis Wade Stadium - No. 10 LSU 59, MSU 26 - Lack of MSU defense makes Mullen's QB debate irrelevant




Matt Stevens


STARKVILLE - What did we learn? 




- The drama all week and all Saturday leading up to kickoff simply didn't matter.  


The buzz surrounded the player Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen would pick to play quarterback but it was MSU's defensive malfunctions that led to the Bulldogs 21st defeat against LSU in its last 22 series games. LSU is now 21-1 under head coach Les Miles following a loss.  


In the 59-26 loss to No. 10 LSU, the answer of MSU's starting quarterback became a irrelevant trivial question that drug on past the announcements of the starting lineups and concluded as a afterthought when MSU (2-3, 0-2 in Southeastern Conference) failed to stop the Tigers offense in any significant way.  


The 59 points put up by LSU (5-1, 2-1) is the most points scored in the rivalry since 1969 when the Tigers won 61-6 in Baton Rouge. The 26-point margin is the largest of each of LSU's five straight wins over a Dan Mullen led MSU squad. LSU's 59 points were the most allowed by the Bulldogs since Tennessee scored 59 on Nov. 15, 2003.  




- Zach Mettenberger set himself apart Saturday as arguably the most dangerous pocket passer to face Mississippi State since Dan Mullen took over the Bulldogs program.  


The 6-foot-5, 235-pound quarterback simply carved out a overmatched secondary in a 59-26 road victory and in the process taking all the emotion from the 57,113 in attendance. Mettenberger brilliantly executed LSU's pro-style attack to the tune of 340 passing yards and a 86.2 percent completion percentage. 




- Of LSU's 123 yards rushing in the first half, 103 came on two big touchdown runs by Jeremy Hill and Kenny Hilliard. The Tigers, which struggled to run the football against Georgia last week, piled up 223 yards on the ground and had three different players record a rushing touchdown. 


MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins' mayhem and havoc philosophy was supposed to confuse and physically pound quarterbacks such as LSU's gunslinger in Mettenberger. Neither of those things happened Saturday night as he systematically picked apart the MSU defense. Mettenberger finished 25 of 29 for 340 yards and two touchdown passes. It would take until the middle of the second quarter for him to misfire for a incomplete pass. MSU came into the weekend second in the SEC in total defense and third in passing defense after feeding on the fledgeling offenses of Alcorn State, Auburn and Troy. MSU's aggressive blitz schemes were more than acceptable against the tempo offenses of the first four weeks but couldn't handle the professional approach of LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. LSU typically kept a blocker at the line to deal with the extra blitz defender and relied on the ability of Beckham and Landry to fool MSU's inexperienced secondary.  




- LSU came into Starkville fourth in the SEC in pass offense but defensive players said they prepared to stop the Tigers rushing attack and making a recently confident Mettenberger beat them.  






- At every home game of Dan Mullen's 55 previous contests as the head coach of Mississippi State, the school announced a starting quarterback.  


This streak stopped Saturday.  


Mississippi State officials did not release a starting quarterback before the opening kickoff and the video board announcement of the starting lineups 25 minutes before the scheduled start time did not include a quarterback.  


Dak Prescott got his fourth consecutive start and led the Bulldogs to a touchdown drive that was completed with a 28-yard touchdown run by the 240-pound signal caller. Russell played mostly through the second quarter and ended the first half 5 of 8 for 117 yards and two touchdowns through the air.  


MSU senior quarterback Tyler Russell is medically cleared for contact and his coach Dan Mullen has said up until Thursday night that Russell will start. However, on his radio call-in show Thursday night Mullen dropped a "you'll just have to wait and find out" line when asked about the starting quarterback. 


Over the last few weeks, with Russell on the sidelines battling concussion symptoms from the season opener loss to Oklahoma State, fans had clearly gotten behind the idea of starting Prescott after successful performances against Alcorn State, Auburn and Troy. 




- It certainly wasn't the fault of the offense. The Bulldogs scored 26 points. During the team's 14-game losing streak to LSU, the program has topped 26 points just once, scoring 38 in 2000 during an overtime contest. MSU averaged 7.0 yards per play. It is the fourth-straight week the Bulldogs have surpassed 6.0 yards a play.  


Senior quarterback Tyler Russell threw two touchdown passes, surpassing Derrick Taite (1993-96/38) for the program's career touchdown passes record with 39. Russell's two touchdowns accounted for during the game gave him 42 in his career, surpassing Wayne Madkin (1998-2001/41) and moving into a tie with John Bond (1980-83/42) for third on the program's all-time list. Don Smith (1983-86) is the MSU career leader with 52 touchdowns accounted for. In Russell's last two games against LSU, he has completed 33-of-49 passes for 441 yards and three touchdowns  


In Russell's last two games against LSU, he has completed 33-of-49 passes for 441 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott picked up 103 rushing yards, giving him 289 in the last three contests. Prescott ran for a 28-yard touchdown during the first quarter. In three home games this season, he has accounted for eight TDs. In the last three games, Prescott has accounted for 841 yards of total offense, an average of 280.3 per tilt. In the last four games, Prescott has rushed for six touchdowns.  






What we heard? 




Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen:  




"I want to give LSU some credit, they made a lot of big plays out there. They have a lot of talented players and it showed at times. I thought we did a great job of battling for three quarters, but we wore down a little bit there in the fourth quarter and didn't finish. If you are going to play the top teams in this league you have to finish and play the entire game. We didn't finish well there at the very end."  




On the play of Dak Prescott and Tyler Russell 


"They did a good job. Like I've said, it's always good to have two starting quarterbacks. We have two and they can do some good things for us. I thought they did a pretty good job while they were in the game. They made some good plays, some good checks and made some things happen for us. That's what you want. There are some things that we will look at that went wrong that we can improve."  




On LSU's offensive performance 




"We missed some tackles early, but their quarterback is really good and their receivers are really good. We didn't want to let them run the ball, but we gave them a lot of one-on-one match ups. I get frustrated when we are missing coverages, but give LSU's kids some credit. We had guys in position to make plays and their kids made some spectacular plays throughout the whole day. That's what you need to do to win football games at this level."  




Freshman defensive end Chris Jones: 




On LSU's offense 




"They came out passing and kind of caught us off guard. That really surprised us because that not what they do. We spent all week trying to stop the run in practice." 




On the play of Zach Mettenberger 


"He is a good quarterback. He has good wide receivers so they were able to make some big plays."  




On his personal game play 


"I came in trying to prove a point, great players make big plays in big games. So I want to be a great player. My whole focus is to make big plays when I get my chance and my number is called. I am trying my hardest to make big plays."  




Junior defensive end Preston Smith  




On the difference between the third and fourth quarter 


"I feel like we didn't play the best football we know how to play. We kind of made too many mistakes and LSU capitalized off of it."  




On Zach Mettenberger's improvement as a quarterback  


"He is strong. His throwing has improved a lot and he has two great receivers to throw to, so he has improved a lot. He has a lot to work with."  




Sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott  




On the secret to a two quarterback system 


"Just having confidence in each other and supporting the other guy when he is in there and backing him up every play and letting him know what you saw when he gets off the field and just being supportive of each other."  




On executing the offense  


"I did alright. There are things I definitely need to fix and things we need to work on to get better as a team and things I personally need to get better at."  




What's next? 




Homecoming game vs. Bowling Green (6:30 p.m., FSN South) 




MSU's defense will get away from SEC foes for another week when they battle Bowling Green in the school's homecoming game before having 10 days of preparation for a home game against Kentucky.  


"This is why guys come to this school and play at Mississippi State, to play in big games like this (Saturday night)," Mullen said. "Now we've got to teach them how to finish a game like this." 


The contest will mark the first meeting ever between the schools on the gridiron. The game will also mark the first time in his coaching career MSU coach Dan Mullen will face Bowling Green since leaving the Falcons program as a quarterback coach from 2001-02. While working at Bowling Green for head coach Urban Meyer, the Falcons put up 6,627 yards of total offense and scoring 81 touchdowns during that span. In 2002, quarterback Josh Harris threw for 2,425 yards, ran for 737 yards and completed the campaign as the nation's third-leading scorer. 


Bowling Green (5-1) has only played one game out of the state of Ohio and that was a 42-10 loss at Indiana on Sept. 14. The Falcons are second in the Mid-American Conference in passing, rushing, total offense, rushing defense and first in time of possession. The Falcons also lead the MAC in total defense by allowing just 356.8 yards per game.  


Sophomore quarterback Matt Johnson averages 245.8 yards per game and led in the backfield by sophomore tailback Travis Greene's 110.2 yards per game on the ground.  




All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.



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