STARKVILLE — The Mississippi State football team”s home opener and likely its Southeastern Conference Western Division title hopes were spoiled Thursday night after another deflating loss to LSU.
On a night where points were at a premium, No. 3 LSU physically took away everything No. 25 MSU wanted to accomplish in a 19-6 victory before a crowd of 56,924 at Davis Wade Stadium.
With a little more than five minutes left in the contest, MSU (1-2, 0-2 SEC) had just 6 yards total offense in the second half.
The loss, which puts MSU at the same record it was last year at this point, is the second time in Dan Mullen”s 28-game head-coaching career in Starkville that MSU failed to score a touchdown in a game.
“We got our butts kicked out there tonight,” Mullen said. “We didn”t do a good job of blocking them at all. Their guys made plays (and) our guys didn”t.”
LSU controlled the ball for 21 minutes of the second half and had a 15-minute, 40-second edge in time of possession, which enabled it to take the crowd out of the game. In the final quarter, LSU had an edge of 313-134 in total yards before settling for a 361-193 advantage.
LSU (3-0, 1-0) put MSU behind schedule on drives with 15 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Defensive end Kendrick Adams used his speed to record two tackles for loss, one sack, and a forced fumble.
“They make tackles in the open field,” Mullen said. “They”re a very, very athletic group and very well coached.”
The longest play MSU had on first down was a 6-yard carry by senior tailback Vick Ballard in the first quarter. LSU”s defensive front forced a MSU spread offense that gained a school record 1,176 yards in its first two games to go backward 15 times on first down.
“I can assume they really kicked our rear end on first down tonight and that made all the difference in the game,” Mullen said.
After a three-and-out to start the game that included a sack and
penalty, LSU held the football nearly seven and a half minutes and came away with a 21-yard field goal by Drew Alleman. The drive was nearly two minutes longer than any drive on the Bulldogs this season.
MSU”s defense had difficulty getting off the field in part because LSU converted 6 of 14 third downs. It seemed like the Tigers were most effective on third-and-short situations even when the Bulldogs had nine defenders within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.
“We wanted to be better in our run game, especially against a team that committed, like LSU, to running the football,” MSU defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said.
MSU responded with a 57-yard drive that ended with a game-tying 26-yard field goal by senior Derek DePasquale. The Bulldogs kept the Tigers at bay with runs up the middle mostly by quarterback Chris Relf.
MSU”s only other score came after a defensive stand gave the offense a a short field. MSU needed to go only 25 yards after getting the football at midfield to get into DePasquale”s range for a 42-yard field goal to tie the game at 6.
The last time MSU failed to score an offensive touchdown was a 31-3 loss in 2009 to the University of Alabama, which went on to win the national championship that season.
Mullen has similar thoughts about the LSU squad that walked away from Davis Wade Stadium with a dominant victory.
“We played the No. 1 team in the country (tonight),” Mullen said. “I”m sure they are at this stage in the season.”
Since taking over in Starkville, Mullen”s teams had eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in all but the 2009 Alabama loss. A fast, blitzing defense that dominated a depleted offensive line held MSU to 52 rushing yards on 34 attempts.
“They really didn”t confuse us, but we just went up against a good defense and didn”t make any big plays all night,” MSU redshirt freshman offensive tackle Blaine Clausell said. “We just really stopped ourselves. They were just too physical for us to handle.”
Relf”s night, which ended early after backup Tyler Russell replaced him with 10:08 left in the game, was 11-for-17 for 96 yards. He had only 10 rushing yards.
“I never thought we got into much rhythm offensively, but (Relf) did hold on to the ball a little bit too long there,” Mullen said.
Relf, who took three sacks, seemingly spent the second half holding on to the football waiting for receivers to get open against an aggressive man-to-man coverage.
“They can cover you, and that”s more on your receivers than on Chris,” Mullen said. “Our guys have to get open, but there”s times he”s got to know (to) get rid of the ball because we don”t want to have negative plays.”
With the same record after three games as in 2010, MSU now has a nine-day break before it plays host to Louisiana Tech (1-1) at home next Saturday.