Justin Vincent scores (AP/Rogilio Solis)
STARKVILLE, Miss. — Behind another outstanding defensive performance and an ever-improving offense, the LSU Tigers beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs 41-6 Saturday night at Scott Field.
With the victory, the Tigers (5-0, 2-0) are off to their best start since the 1973 season when they started the year 9-0.
LSU’s unbeaten SEC mark is the second consecutive 2-0 start in conference play for the Tigers and the first since back-to-back 2-0 starts in 1995-1996.
Despite early nerves, LSU head coach Nick Saban was pleased with his team’s intensity and performance.
“Obviously I’m pleased with the way our team came and competed,” Saban said. “I think you always have a lot of worries about the things that happened in college football today relative to people going out winning big games and dying the next week like Oregon did this week or some teams did two weeks ago. Mississippi State played hard in the game. I was pleased with the way our team overcame their emotions early in the game.
Despite being out-gained in the air 208-191, the Tigers dominated virtually every other offensive category.
LSU ran past the Bulldogs on the ground 186-85 and held a State offensive attack that was averaging 400-plus yards and 30 points a game to 239 total net yards and just six points, both season lows for the Bulldogs.
After losing the toss, the Tigers received the ball only to have the initial drive stall inside their own 20 due to a holding penalty.
The Bulldogs (0-4, 0-1) had great field position on their opening drive taking the ball at their own 40.
Mississippi State proceeded to drive the ball down the throat of LSU’s defense 46 yards on a time-consuming 12-play drive. However, the Tiger defense forced a fumble from running back Justin Turner that was recovered by defensive end Melvin Oliver.
That ended Mississippi State’s biggest offensive drive of significance in the game.
Turner’s fumble was one of four Bulldog miscues, something Saban said his team must force in order to be successful.
“I think it was really important that we got turnovers in the first half,” Saban said. “Three I think that led to 21 points. I thought we played hard on defense, got some turnovers, and made some big plays. I was very pleased with that.”
The LSU offense struggled early to find its rhythm. On the Tigers' second possession of the game, LSU quarterback Matt Mauck had an errant pass intercepted by Odell Bradley. It was Mauck’s third interception of the season.
After holding the Bulldogs on their next possession, LSU took over on its own 35-yard line.
With the passing game still sputtering a bit, the Tiger coaches turned to the duo of Joseph Addai and Shyrone Carey, who toted the load on an eight-play, 65-yard drive culminating in a 1-yard Carey plunge.
Of the Tigers eight plays, seven were runs by either Addai or Carey, including a 35-yard Carey run that highlighted the scoring march.
Carey’s touchdown continued what has been a season of first quarter misery for the Bulldogs. MSU has been outscored 56-0 in the opening period this season.
Carey finished the game with 50 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns before leaving late with an injured knee.
The opening touchdown drive had a calming affect for the Tiger offense which scored on their next two possessions.
After forcing a three and out opening the second quarter, State punter Robert Wallis’s punt was partially blocked and LSU took over at their own 42-yard line. Eight plays later, redshirt freshman Ryan Gaudet extended the Tiger lead to 10-0 with a 32-yard field goal.
The LSU defense made it easy for the offense easy on the next possession. On a second and 15 play, Tiger senior safety Jack Hunt intercepted a Kevin Fant pass and returned it 34 yards to the Bulldog 1. scored on the next play with a 1-yard run.
The big-play Tiger defense extinguished all Mississippi State hope just before the half when
Travis Daniels intercepted Fant and returned the ball 48 yards for a touchdown.
Daniels’s interception was his second of the season and of his career.
On the Bulldogs third play from scrimmage in the second half, Daniels took the ball from a State receiver giving the offense possession inside MSU territory.
It didn’t take the offense long as Mauck hit Devery Henderson for a 36-yard touchdown on LSU’s initial play of the second half. The Tigers’ one-play drive was the second single-play scoring drive of the game. LSU’s offense scored 14 points on two plays and a combined 13 seconds against the Bulldogs.
Mauck had an efficient game against the Bulldogs completing 12-of-19 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown.
Henderson finished the game as the Tigers’ leading receiver. with 7 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown.
“I think we really work hard in practice,” Henderson said. “We just have to keep doing the same things we’ve been doing and stay polished up. We weren’t going to let their defense dictate the way was going to go. We just played hard.”
LSU had the game well in hand, 34-0, following a 37-yard Ryan Gaudet field goal later in the third quarter. On the next LSU drive, Saban inserted back-up quarterback Marcus Randall.
The Bulldogs got on the scoreboard early in the fourth when Fant hit Justin Jenkins on a 15-yard touchdown pass. MSU failed on the two-point conversion.
LSU added one last touchdown when Justin Vincent scored from three yards closing out the scoring at 41-6. Vincent finished the game as the leading rusher for the Tigers with 58 yards on six carries, including a 38-yard run that set up his touchdown plunge.