By SCOOTER HOBBS
STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State has long been a soothing tonic for whatever ails LSU.
Saturday, for instance, the Tigers got to watch somebody else evacuate for a change.
LSU woke up after an early slumber to silence the dreaded Mississippi State cowbells while routing the Bulldogs 37-7 Saturday.
The massive second-half exodus by Bulldog fans may have been weather-related, but it was a brief and light shower and the march to drier ground was more likely from watching LSU break open the game by scoring with ease on all three of its third-quarter possessions to make the final quarter as meaningless as it was scoreless.
“This team came on the field with an edge,” LSU head coach Les Miles said of the short week his team had after an embarrassing overtime loss to Tennessee Monday night. “There weren’t many smiles in the locker room and around the football office this week.
“This team needed to go out and get a win.”
They came to the right place.
LSU beat the Bulldogs for the 13th time in 14 meetings and they’ve now out-scored State 120-13 in their last three visits to Starkville.
But this one was different after the Tigers blew a 21-0 lead Monday night against Tennessee.
“We came in with a chip on our shoulder,” said Tiger linebacker Kenny Hollis, who delivered the hit of the season in the second quarter, one that left State running back Jerious Norwood with a concussion and sent teammate Jessie Daniels’ helmet and chip strap flying in different directions.
“We were going to be ready to play.”
Quarterback JaMarcus Russell completed a career-high 20 passes on just 23 attempts, including touchdown passes of 14 and 44 yards to Dwayne Bowe, while Skyler Green caught eight passes and set up touchdown drives with punt returns of 37 and 27 yards.
The much-maligned Tiger defense shook off an early faux pas that gift-wrapped State’s only touchdown and stymied the Bulldogs while sacking two quarterbacks six times.
The domination LSU has come to expect here was slow in developing, however.
Xavier Carter’s 36-yard touchdown run on a reverse accounted for over half of LSU’s first-half rushing total.
But after Russell loosened up the State defense in the first half, mostly with short passes and mainly the “bubble screen” to Green that Rohan Davey and Josh Reed popularized during the Tigers’ march to the SEC title in 2001, the Tigers could chose their options in the second half.
“I thought our offense showed some great balance out there,” Miles said. “They controlled the game when they needed to.”
Any chance of a repeat of Monday’s second-half collapse against Tennessee was quickly dispelled.
The Tigers used up over half the third quarter on their first scoring drive of the second half, marching 80 yards mostly on the ground with Joseph Addai for a 24--7 lead, then needed only six total plays for another pair of touchdowns that sealed the deal and all but vacated Davis Wade Stadium.
Addai finished with 86 yards on 17 carries.
“They came out the second half and just shoved the ball down our throats,” Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said. “They pounded us.”
The Bulldogs had only one first down while the Tigers were marching in the third quarter.
“It’s not what I said,” Miles said of the way the Tigers came out in the second half. “I think our guys understood that we needed to play with greater intensity. I didn’t need to say it, although I did.”
LSU survived a sluggish first half that revisted some of the Monday nightmares against Tennessee before the Tigers managed a 17-7 lead.
The Tiger defense jumped off sides on the game’s first play from scrimmage and moments later LSU blew another secondary coverage as State’s Joey Sanders got 30 yards behind the nearest Tiger and scored on a 66-yard pass to give the Bulldogs a quick 7-0 lead.
“Without that play they score no points,” Hollis said. “Most of the other gains they had were by penalty.”
State was little more than a nuisance after that opening shocker, which Miles blamed on a miscommunication.
“We expect that out of our defense,” Miles said. “It shouldn’t be a surprise. There are still some things we need to get fixed, but certainly we expect them to play well.”
After the opening touchdown, the Bulldogs managed only 80 more yards in offense before the Tigers turned the defense over to backups for the final quarter.
“There was one gaffe,” Miles said. “But after that in no way did I ever feel like they were going to mount a sustained drive on our defense.
Sunday, October 2
By SCOOTER HOBBS
Posted by American Press at 2:38 AM