STARKVILLE — If there was a loss that stood out the most to Mississippi State football fans in 2009, it was the home defeat to LSU.
The 30-26 loss could have been the Bulldogs” first win against the Tigers since 1999. The sequence of events in the final minute of the game, however, made the result the most distinguishable of MSU”s seven defeats last season.
Four plays that started from the LSU 3-yard line, including a pair of stuffed runs by tailback Anthony Dixon, ended with former quarterback Tyson Lee being stopped at the goal line on an option keeper.
Considering the Bulldogs gave up a punt return for a score and committed four turnovers, they were fortunate to be a foot away from clinching the win.
“Those are things we can correct,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said of the turnovers and the punt return for a touchdown.
MSU (1-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) will head to Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday looking for redemption, not just for last year”s “White-Out” loss but for its 17-14 to Auburn a little more than a week ago. The Bulldogs, as they did against LSU (2-0, 1-1) last season, failed to score against Auburn on the last drive of the game.
The disappointment derived from five dropped passes and inconsistent play against Auburn has made MSU more confident. The team feels the ability to take advantage of the opportunities it creates from its improved play will help it win close games.
“When we continually make every play in a game, we”re going to be a championship level football team,” Mullen said.
Offensively, MSU has devoted more time toward 7-on-7 drills, hoping to reduce the number of dropped passes and to help the passing game. The Bulldogs had 129 passing yards last week and no scores. Backup quarterback Tyler Russell said the performance was a hit to the offense”s confidence.
Russell and starter Chris Relf will continue to share series as they have in the first two games.
No. 15 LSU has taken criticism after nearly blowing a 30-10 lead in a 30-24 win to then No. 18 North Carolina, which was without more than 10 regulars. Against Vanderbilt, LSU needed a 17-point fourth quarter to pull away for a 27-3 win.
The Commodores held quarterback Jordan Jefferson to 96 yards on 8 of 20 completions, and he could be sharing snaps with one-time starter Jarrett Lee. Whether Lee, whom head coach Les Miles said has “earned the right to play,” gets on the field is unclear.
“I have no problem putting him in the game, and I look forward to those opportunities,” Miles said Monday. “I can only tell you it is a game feel and not something we are envisioning.”
MSU defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said the Bulldogs have planned for Jefferson, whom he thinks has settled in to being LSU”s hands-down starter. Jefferson threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns against the Bulldogs last season, but he enters Saturday”s game averaging 113 yards per game.
“They”ve established an identity through the years,” Diaz said. “But when you look at the body of work of Jordan Jefferson, we expect to see him. He”s done a lot of good things there. I don”t think one quarter or anything like that should affect that.”