Here come the Tigers
Published: Sunday, October 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
NO. 9 LSU 48, MISSISSIPPI STATE 17
BATON ROUGE, La. - Not even a thunderstorm could help Mississippi State slow down JaMarcus Russell and the LSU offense.
Russell threw for a career-best 330 yards and matched a school record with 14 consecutive completions Saturday as No. 9 LSU beat the Bulldogs 48-17 in a game delayed when lightning sent spectators scurrying for cover.
After the storm passed, the junior quarterback returned and ended up completing 18 of 20 passes, including three for touchdowns.
The career day for Russell was by design. LSU coach Les Miles said he and his staff favored a pass-heavy attack after scouting Mississippi State's defense on film.
"We felt like we had advantages down the field throwing," Miles said. "If the defense gives us opportunities in the air, we're certainly going to take them. ... (Russell) is a pretty special quarterback."
LSU (4-1, 1-1 SEC) led 35-0 early in the second quarter, prompting thousands of fans to leave at halftime. A 52-minute delay while a thunderstorm rolled through further emptied the stands in the third quarter, when the score was 35-3.
Mississippi State (1-4, 0-3) gained 24 yards and managed one first down on its first five possessions. The Bulldogs only gained 14 yards on the ground the whole game.
LSU's first five series ended with touchdowns.
"We had a lot of errors on the coverage ... guys just not being in the right place and there was hesitation," Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said. "The only thing you can attribute that to is a lack of confidence. We didn't play with any confidence at all and we were not aggressive in the first quarter."
Russell's three touchdown passes gave him 34 in his career, tying with for fourth all-time at LSU with Jamie Howard.
Two early scores were set up by long passes over the middle from Russell to Dwayne Bowe. The first went between three defenders for 25 yards, setting up a short touchdown toss to Craig Davis. Bowe's 41-yard reception to the Bulldogs 6 led to Charles Scott's TD run for a 14-0 lead.
"The offense feeds off of passing plays and going out there and stuffing it down their throat early," said Bowe, who finished with 95 yards receiving. "Pretty much like we started off today."
On his third series, Russell found Early Doucet on a 37-yard scoring pass.
"You could tell for the most part all our cylinders were just kicking it on. We were trying to get it from every way possible," Russell said.
The 6-foot-6, nearly 260-pound quarterback wasn't finished. Shedding tacklers as the pocket collapsed, Russell rolled out and threw a 55-yard pass that tight end Richard Dickson caught over his shoulder as he was tackled at the Bulldogs 2.
There was a little luck involved in that one. Russell admitted after the game that the pass was intended for Davis, who was converging with Dickson from across the field.
Still, the play made Russell 7-of-8 for 202 yards and two touchdowns through the first quarter. Four seconds into the second period, Scott muscled his way in from the 1 for his second TD.
Russell hit Bowe in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown before Mississippi State finally sustained a drive into scoring position. Blake McAdams' 32-yard field goal made it 35-3 late in the first half.
"It was devastating. I couldn't enjoy the game like I wanted to," Mississippi State defensive back Derek Pegues said. "We were down so many points that I think we were aggravated and couldn't come back."
The Bulldogs' first touchdown came late in the third quarter on Pegues' 23-yard interception return after Matt Flynn had replaced Russell
With the score 35-10, Miles went back to Russell, who led another scoring drive that ended with Jacob Hester's 5-yard touchdown run.
Miles said he still has confidence in Flynn but pulled him after the interception to send a message.
"Our guys that take snaps or defend passes have to be held to the level of LSU," Miles said. "Certainly, we wanted Matt to play and we have confidence in him, but we had to make sure everybody knew that's not acceptable."
Mississippi State scored again on a 46-yard pass from Omarr Conner to Tony Burks in the fourth quarter. Conner was 15-of-28 for 212 yards and was sacked three times.
LSU running back Charles Scott scores as Mississippi State linebacker Jamar Chaney tries to stop him in the first half.
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