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STARKVILLE — For Mississippi State’s soon-to-be-nationally ranked Bulldogs, the possibilities are endless following Saturday night’s shocking 37-7 annihilation of LSU.
These Bulldogs – huge, strong, fast and so well-prepared – seemingly played three feet off the ground, brow-beating LSU in every phase of the sport. The unranked Bulldogs ought to shoot right into the Top 20 after this.
Listen: LSU and State have faced off 111 times since the series began back in 1892 when MSU was all of 12 years old. The 30-point victory on Sept. 16, 2017, was State’s largest in that long, long history.
The Bulldogs out-ran, out-passed, out-kicked, out-hit, out-blocked, out-tackled, and, yes, thoroughly out-coached LSU before an announced crowd of 60,596 that sounded like 100,000 amid an electric scene at Scott Field. Indeed, at times it seemed State players rode the sound waves of a frenzied crowd that mixed clanging cowbells with thunderous cheers.
Long and lanky Nick Fitzgerald is a much improved quarterback as a junior. He was already really good. Aeris Williams, the A-Train, appears to be a big-time back. Jace Christmann was perfect on placekicks. And State’s defense swarmed to the ball as if they were rabid wolves chasing yellow-helmeted rabbits.
For those of us who have watched this rivalry through the decades, this was a startling scene. Usually, when maroon and white collides with purple and gold, it’s the maroon and white that goes backward. That wasn’t the case on this warm, humid night when State won in the trenches as handily as it did on the scoreboard. Keep in mind LSU had defeated State 23 of the last 25 times the two have played. The Tigers had won eight straight here in Starkville.
Not this time. This was an all-night butt-whipping.
For LSU’s soon-to-be unranked Tigers, No. 12 in the land before this drubbing, the reality of a highly questionable hire last November quite likely will soon set in, if it hasn’t already. Honestly, watching Ed Orgeron’s third game as LSU coach, without the interim tag, seemed almost like watching the 2007 Ole Miss Rebels playing in purple and gold. LSU appeared careless, undisciplined and almost without a plan. And when things started to go badly, the errors snowballed. Ole Miss fans of 10 years ago surely can relate.
How did the Tigers stub their collective toes? Let us count the ways. They were penalized nine times for 112 yards and have now been penalized 30 times on the season. Two LSU players were ejected for targeting. Pass coverages were blown. When Fitzgerald hit Keith Mixon with a 45-yard, third quarter touchdown pass, Mixon was so wide open he must have been invisible to the Tigers. Either that, or he has really bad breath. There was no Tiger within 15 yards of him when he caught the ball.
Did LSU quit? That might be too strong a description. But the Bulldogs did beat the starch out of them. Up 17-7 at halftime, State scored on its first four possessions of the second half and outscored the Tigers 20-zip to the finish. Against an LSU defense that is supposed to be one of the nation’s most talented, State averaged 6.5 yards per play on 71 offensive snaps.
We’ve seen numbers like those over and over again in this rivalry. They’ve just nearly always been LSU’s numbers.
Fitzgerald, who did a sensational Dak Prescott imitation, said none of the Bulldogs talked beforehand about LSU’s utter domination of this series.
“Nobody inside our program considers this an upset,” Fitzgerald said. “We expected to win the game.”
Said Mixon, who caught six passes for 97 yards and the touchdown, “We had the feeling that we had them right where we wanted.”
And when was that?
“After our first drive,” Mixon answered, matter-of-factly.
Dan Mullen, the Bulldogs coach who had won only one of eight previous games against LSU, tried his best to put a lid on the post-game ecstasy, a good idea with road games coming up against Georgia and Auburn.
Yes, he was pleased with the preparation, the effort and the performance, he said. More than anything, he was pleased with the crowd and atmosphere, calling the crowd “unbelievable” and saying “it made a huge difference.”
“We have a lot of young guys and they were juiced by this crowd,” Mullen said. “We’ve got to get a lot better. We’ve got to continue to improve, build depth and get better in all phases.”
Perhaps, but then where does that leave LSU?
Believe this: Nobody in the State crowd felt any sympathy for the Tigers.