Fournette Leads Tigers Over Mississippi State In Starkville

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Tigers Survive Conservative Second Half

By John Ventola

It appears lightning has to strike in order for someone (or team) to get a second chance at a first impression.

The 2015 edition of the LSU Tigers did just that Saturday night, playing their SEC and

LSU

LSU Tops Bulldogs On Road In SEC Opener

season opener on the road against Mississippi State after last week’s dress rehearsal against McNeese State in Tiger Stadium was cancelled due to lightning in Baton Rouge.

The Tigers avenged last season’s 34-29 Bulldogs win by jumping out to a 14-0 lead and overcoming a conservative second half approach to survive another “Dak Attack”, 21-19, in Starkville. Sophomore Leonard Fournette rushed for 159 yards in 28 carries, and scored all three touchdowns for the Bayou Bengals.

LSU’s young defensive unit, led by new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, used an aggressive approach to keep Bulldog All-American candidate Dak Prescott from piercing the Tigers on the ground. Last season, Prescott rushed for 118 yards in 22 rushing attempts and scored one touchdown. Saturday night Prescott was held to a career low minus 19 yards rushing.

Prescott, forced to pass because of lack of success on the ground, and in an attempt to rally MSU from a 21-6 third quarter deficit, threw 53 passes, completing 35 for 335

newspaper

Dak Prescott Forced To Pass By Steele Curtain

yards. He scored on a 1-yard plunge and hooked up with De’Runnya Wilson for a five-yard TD pass with four minutes left to make the game an official nail biter. It was Prescott’s sixteenth straight SEC game with at least one touchdown pass, a league record.

LSU jumped on State early, overcoming a called-back touchdown pass from sophomore Brandon Harris to Travin Dural, when Fournette lined up behind center, took a deep snap and hurdled over the pile for a score. A 26-yard jaunt by Fournette clearly showed his athleticism as he was hit at the five-yard line but was able to stretch for the end zone without his knees touching the ground. The second score gave the Tigers a 14-0 lead with two minutes left in the first quarter.

An 18-yard TD run by Fournette midway the third quarter gave LSU a 21-6 lead, but as Tiger fans have seen in recent years under Coach Les Miles, no lead is secure, and victory is not assured until the final whistle sounds. Miles seemed to once again take his foot off of the offensive pedal, playing conservatively as Harris threw for only 71 yards in the game. Harris, starting only his second game of his career, was 9 for 14 passing, almost all the yardage coming in the first half.

By reeling in his team’s offensive aggressiveness, Miles seemed to ignite the rowdy, cowbell-ringing Bulldog faithful and Prescott’s arm. MSU scored on four of its last six drives of the game, and except for a crucial delay of game penalty on its last drive, would have been in makeable range for a game-winning field goal.

This blogger bleeds purple and gold, but looking at games objectively—and without P & G colored lenses, Miles is prone to overthink situations. Sometimes it costs the Tigers

hat

The Hat Up To His Old Tricks

(Alabama games come to mind when a first down would have put outcome in the win ledger), but more times it seems the guy has a football horseshoe tucked away. A first down on their last possession would have put the game away for the Tigers (one surely understands not putting the ball in the air in that possession because an incompletion would stop the clock), but the run calls were unimaginative, up-the-middle plays.

Prescott did enjoy success through the air, but the defense was impressive with the push of the line and the aggressive play of its ends and secondary. Keep in mind, an overextended defense was sent out to defend an All-American quarterback with the game on the line. MSU ran 80 plays in the game to only 61 for LSU, 47 runs and 14 passes. The defensive scheme designed by Steele to keep Prescott bottled up and in the pocket (he was sacked three times, twice in the first quarter) worked by making him one-dimensional Saturday night.

The opening quarter offensive explosion could, and should, have continued. Sure, a win is a win, but too much was expected of the young defense, and except for Bulldogs Coach Dan Mullen and Prescott having a lapse in time clock management, the field goal for MSU could have been from a shorter distance, and kicked by MSU’s short

football

Crucial Delay Of Game Penalty Kills Bulldog Chances

range placekicker Westin Graves, who had made two field goals earlier. Instead, a missed two-point conversion that occurred when Prescott was hurried and misfired on a pass to an open Ashton Shumpert in the flat with four minutes left,  and a badly missed 52-yard field goal on the final play by long-distance kicker Devon Bell, doomed the Dogs.

Before that, Miles in an apparent attempt to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, called a second time out that disallowed Bell’s first missed attempt, giving Bell another attempt at being the Bulldog hero.

Showcasing an array of young talent on both sides of the football, LSU is capable of having an outstanding season. Talent-wise, it seems to reload.

Coaching? The Hat, quirky, eccentric, unusual jargon— but a winner again. That horseshoe worked once more. Tiger fans can only hope Miles keeps it polished, and available to overcome his coaching deficiencies and strategy blunders.

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ByJohn


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