September 27, 2008

Tigers hold off Mississippi State surge

In a week of upsets, the Mississippi State Bulldogs made a push to follow the trend.

But unfortunately for the maroon and white faithful, the Bulldogs were unable to complete the task falling 37-27 to the defending national champion LSU Tigers setback in front of 92,710 at Tiger Stadium.

"I thought we played hard," said Mississippi State head coach Sylvester Croom. "There was a lot of passion and commitment throughout the course of the game. We got better at a lot of things. The passion and the commitment to the way we played is something we haven't seen in all three phases all year and I was very pleased with that."

The Tigers compiled 427 yards of offense in the game with 261 yards passing and 166 via the ground.

MSU had a tough time stopping Heisman candidate Charles Scott. Scott tore through the Bulldog defense to the tune of 142 yards and two touchdowns on 27 totes.

"Mississippi State came to play today," Scott said. "A win is a win and we will take it. We need to go back and watch film and be very critical of ourselves and see what we can do better because we have opponents down the road that will make us regret the mistakes we made tonight."

Jarrett Lee completed 18-of-27 passing for 261 yards, two scores and an interception through the air.

"He threw some doggone good footballs," said LSU head coach Les Miles. He passed for some yards and I think we're very capable throwing the football with him there."

Brandon LaFell led the LSU receiving corps grabbing seven passes for 100 yards along the way.

It was Mississippi State started the game with a bang. Derek Pegues returned the opening kickoff 59-yards down the right sideline to the LSU 32-yard line. The offense took the field and fizzled from there but Adam Carlson provided the Bulldogs with the first points of the night with a 42-yard field goal.

But LSU countered on their ensuing possession to tie the score. The Tigers went 52 yards in six plays and nodded the score on a 38-yard field goal by Colt David with 11:18 in the first quarter.

LSU went on to take the lead before the end of the opening quarter. The Tigers churned out a 15-play, 88 yard drive and were able to overcome a 2nd-and -30 at midfield after a sack and fumble. Scott capped off the drive with a 1-yard run with 1:03 left on the clock. David added the point after for the 10-3 advantage.

LSU padded its lead on their next possession as they went 61-yards in eight plays and took a gamble going for a 4th-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line. Scott blasted up the middle for the touchdown and David kicked the extra point for a 17-3 lead with 10:10 in the second quarter.

Pegues provided another spark for MSU when he picked off a Lee pass and returned it to the LSU 37-yard line. But the Bulldogs failed to achieve a first down for their third consecutive series and were forced to punt.

Another LSU turnover on the next possession gave the Bulldog offense another chance. Jessie Bowman recovered a Quinn Johnson fumble at the LSU 47-yard line. This time State was able to capitalize moving into the end zone in six plays as Christian Ducre punched it across the goal line on a 5-yard run with 2:20 remaining before the half. Carlson booted the PAT cutting the lead to 17-10.

LSU wasted little time extending their lead on out to start the second half. The Tigers followed huge runs by Scott but scored in a bizarre way. Lee connected with LaFell on an 8-yard pass but Pegues knocked the ball loose at the 1-yard line. The ball went into the end zone and Richard Dickson fell on it for the LSU touchdown. David provided the extra point for the 24-10 advantage.

LSU padded the score on its next possession when David drilled a 39-yard field goal with 4:42 in the third quarter putting the Tigers up 27-10.

Mississippi State responded with points of their own during the next series. The Bulldogs orchestrated an 18-play, 74 yard drive that moved the chains five times before Anthony Dixon plowed in from a yard out. Carlson connected on the extra point cutting the lead to 27-17 with 10:25 remaining in the game.

"I was just fighting to get into the end zone," Dixon said. "It was a run play to the left and I just turned it up and tried to get it into the end zone."

But LSU took some of the momentum away with 4:54 on the clock when Lee found Demetrius Byrd on a 43-yard scoring strike. David put the PAT through for the 34-17 advantage.

MSU made a rally attempt on the ensuing drive when starter Tyson Lee led the offense 68 yards in five plays and to paydirt with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Ducre. Carlson added the point after bring the deficit back to 10 with 2:40 to go.

The Bulldogs then attempted and recovered an onside kick but Dixon was called offsides by the officials and the possession was negated into a rekick. LSU snagged the next try and ran out the remaining time.

Perry Riley led the LSU defense with nine tackles followed by Curtis Taylor and Jacob Cutera with six stops each.

Ricky-Jean Francois had the only Tiger sack in the game.

State accumulated 285 yards of offense with 175 passing and 110 on the ground.

Lee was a surprise starter at quarterback for MSU and played the entire way under center. He finished the contest 17-of-26 for 175 yards and a touchdown and also added four rushes for 18 yards.

"I liked his tempo and I like the way he was in command throughout the course of the game," Croom said. "He made some excellent throws. The thing he did tonight that he hadn't been doing that I was very pleased with, when things broke down he was very decisive about what he was going to do, whether he was going to throw it away or pull it down and run."

Lee had a rather successful debut as the starting signal caller and was excited about the chance when he was named the No. 1 on Thursday.

"It was a great opportunity," Lee said. "I just want to thank Coach Croom for the opportunity and the coaching staff for believing in me enough in such a big game to give me the go."

Lee found several targets throughout the game. Ducre made four catches for 34 yards and a touchdown while Brandon McRae also snagged four balls for 14 yards. [db]Jamayel Smith also had a 41-yard reception for his only touch.

Dixon paced the Bulldog rushing attack with 50 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown.

Dominic Douglas made 11 tackles to led State defensively followed by Wright with 10 stops, a sack and a forced fumble. Pegues made eight tackles along with a forced fumble and Marcus Washington also made a strip.

LSU remains perfect on the season at 4-0 and improved its record within the Southeastern Conference to 2-0.

The Bulldogs dropped to 1-4 overall and remain winless in league play at 0-2.

While his team has dropped its last three games, Croom saw signs Mississippi State is improving.

"Our practices were excellent all week and we have to continue to prepare with the same commitment that we did this week," Croom said. "We have to continue to execute better, which we did in this game and play with the same passion and enthusiasm throughout the course of the game like we did tonight. I think we can win some ball games."

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