The first three quarters of last night’s LSU visit to Mississippi State were a typical, prime time SEC slobber-knocker. Both defenses were dominating and keeping the opposing team out of the end zone. It was shaping up to be a classic until the opening drive of the 4th quarter, when LSU got the ball on their own 11 yard line and methodically marched 89 yards down the field for a dagger-in-the-heart touchdown.
If you’re going to win in the SEC West, this is how you do it. You pay stifling defense and get the other team’s offense off the field. You physically dominate the line of scrimmage and give your speed merchants room to operate. And in the fourth quarter with the game still competitive, facing a hostile crowd and a testy defense, you execute your game plan and win it with a key touchdown drive.
Make no mistake about it—before that drive, the outcome of last night’s game was in doubt. Both teams had made plays but neither had punched it in for six. Both teams had made important defensive stops but neither had truly dominated.
Until the 4th quarter, when the LSU offense got untracked and the defense finally got a death grip around the Mississippi State offense. Bulldog coach Dan Mullen benched starting QB Chris Relf following LSU’s pivotal scoring drive, inserting sophomore Tyler Russell in the hopes that the young pocket passer could generate some spark and get State back into contention.
It didn’t happen—Russell went 4-8 in two possessions. On the first possession, Russell was sacked by the LSU defense and promptly threw an INT on the very next play. On the next possession (the last series of the night), he was running for his life.
The final score of 19-6 doesn’t indicate how competitive this game was through three quarters, but it does describe how a championship caliber team performs on the road against a capable opponent. Last night’s game was classic SEC football and by all indications, there’s a lot more of it in store for us.