Published November 20, 2014
The third-ranked LSU Tigers have been ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs.
LSU opened the season with a tremendous performance against a talented Oregon squad, besting the Ducks in Cowboys Stadium by a 40-27 final. The Tigers followed that effort last weekend with a 49-3 romp over a far-less formidable Northwestern State squad.
"I liked the way our team played this game," said LSU head coach Les Miles after the Northwestern State tilt. "I felt that we came out and played with intensity in all three phases."
Mississippi State entered last week's game against Auburn having scored 30- plus points in a school-record four straight games, while scoring 50 in consecutive games for the first time since 1914. One of the streaks was extended, as the Bulldogs put up 34 points against the Tigers, but they surrendered 41 points in the disappointing setback. MSU is now 1-1, as the club rolled over Memphis in the season opener by a 59-14 final.
"We played the defending national champions and now we are going to play, in my mind, the number one team in the nation," said Bulldogs' head coach Dan Mullen. "That's life in the Southeastern Conference. Psychologically, we are just going to buckle up and go play hard."
LSU leads the all-time series with Mississippi State by a 68-33-3 margin, and the Tigers have won the last 11 meetings.
Exceptionally efficient was the best way to describe the LSU offensive attack in the win over Northwestern State. Quarterback Jarrett Lee played the entire first half for LSU and completed 9-of-10 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown. With the Tigers up on Northwestern State 28-3 at the break, Miles decided to rest Lee and give Zach Mettenberger some snaps in the second half. Mettenberger, a sophomore transfer, connected on 8-of-11 tosses for 92 yards and a score.
"It was a great experience, being my first collegiate playing time," said Mettenberger after the game. I threw a touchdown pass. I'm glad Coach called that pass for that situation. It went up big. You don't really expect to throw a touchdown pass, but it was a great experience and I'm looking forward to a lot more here."
Jordan Jefferson, the regular starter for LSU at QB, continues to be suspended indefinitely after an off-season bar fight. Through two games without him, the Tigers are averaging 44.5 ppg and have just two turnovers. Lee, who is dealing with a minor ankle injury, has yet to throw an interception, and Michael Ford leads the ground attack with 168 yards and four scores.
Defensively, LSU is permitting a mere 15.0 ppg and 215.0 total ypg. Tyrann Mathieu has 14 TFLs to his credit to pace the club, which has gotten significant contributions from several individuals. Against Northwestern State, the Tigers were dominant as expected, allowing a a total of 95 yards, including minus-four rushing yards on 27 attempts. LSU held its overmatched foe to 2-of-16 success on third-down conversion attempts.
There is no doubt that the LSU defense will be challenged by the Mississippi State offense, as Mullen's group is racking up 46.5 ppg and 588.0 total ypg through two outings. MSU is gaining 321.0 rushing ypg at a clip of 6.4 ypc, and the passing game generates 13.4 yards per completion. Vick Ballard paces the team with 301 rushing yards and four touchdowns on just 31 carries (9.7 ypc), and quarterback Chris Relf has run for 157 yards to go along with 397 passing yards and three scores.
Against Auburn, MSU rolled up 531 total yards, 333 of which came on the ground. Ballard rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown, while Relf pitched in with 106 yards to go along with 195 yards through the air.
Opponents are generating 27.5 ppg and 359.5 total ypg against Mississippi State, which certainly played far better defensively in week one than against Auburn last week. The Bulldogs permitted four touchdowns to the Auburn offense, with two on the ground and two through the air. MSU struggled against the run, allowing the Tigers to post 235 yards on 36 carries, an average of 6.5 ypc.
"We made tackles but we played more downs than we would have liked to," said MSU defensive back Charles Mitchell. "We missed tackles late in the game that prevented us from having a better chance to win the game."