BATON ROUGE, La. — It’s never, ever over when LSU and Mississippi State meet.
In a reversal of the 2014 game that saw Mississippi State dominate before the Tigers roared back for a furious fourth-quarter comeback that fell short, the Bulldogs were kicked around for the better part of three quarters before a pair of quick strikes stunningly pulled them within a field goal.
But Arden Key brought an end to MSU’s dream comeback, coming from the blind side to strip-sack Bulldogs quarterback Damian Williams to seal a 23-20 LSU win.
No killer instinct
The Tigers should have put the game out of reach in the third quarter but reverted to their old offensive form. LSU had three drives in the third, each of which consisted of three plays — two old-fashioned three-and-outs, then an actual drive that was derailed when Leonard Fournette was stripped in a dog pile at midfield.
A win is a win, but Mississippi State was clearly overmatched. This was an opportunity for LSU to empty the bench late, but that was not achieved as the pesky Bulldogs kept nipping at the Tigers’ heels.
First quarter points!
LSU’s offense showed up for kickoff for the first time this season, and the result was a quick start. The No. 20 Tigers, who had yet to score a point in the opening quarter, jumped out to a 14-0 lead against the Bulldogs and never looked back – though MSU got a lot closer in the rearview mirror than anyone would have liked.
Fournette is definitely healthy
It’s now difficult to imagine Fournette’s ankle was feeling 100 percent going into the opener against Wisconsin, because he looked like a different person against Mississippi State — which is to say he didn’t look human at all.
Fournette set the tone early, busting out a stiff arm to throw off a Bulldog tackler during a 7-yard run in the first quarter. Later in the game, a Bulldog who tackled him had to leave the field immediately due to injury. And Fournette’s 5- and 25-yard runs were demonstrations of the power and speed, respectively, that has pro scouts drooling.
He finished with 147 yards on 28 carries, although he was also stripped a couple of times. That will have to be cleaned up when LSU plays an opponent with a little more offensive firepower than Mississippi State. As it was, the Bulldogs used the fumble recoveries (one was technically a turnover on downs) to get back into the game.
Danny Etling definitely is the starting QB
Les Miles made it sound like Brandon Harris would see some snaps Saturday night, but that did not materialize. Etling cemented the job with his performance, completing 19 of 30 for 215 yards, including a dime on a 37-yard touchdown to D.J. Chark.
Etling’s no longer the quarterback taking the first snap. He’s the starter.
Giving Fitz fits
A week after rushing for a school-record 195 yards by a quarterback, Mississippi State sophomore Nick Fitzgerald was a nonfactor on the ground as LSU only bit on the read-option one time. Fitzgerald finished with 13 yards on 15 carries and was lifted in favor of Williams late in the fourth quarter as MSU attempted to come back. It was the right move by Dan Mullen as Williams finished 5 of 8 for 94 yards and a touchdown in three possessions.