The LSU Tigers just dominated the Mississippi State Bulldogs 37-17 in Death Valley for their eighth win of the season. The Tigers showed that they could win big and that the passing game is finally showing up under Zach Mettenberger.
The Tigers showed their mettle late in the game and after outplaying the Bulldogs all day and crushing their spirit with a tremendous interception return by Craig Loston. Follow along for the final grades of the LSU Tigers in their victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Mississippi State capped off an 11-play, 74-yard drive with a Zak Prescott touchdown pass to Marcus Green. Mississippi State 7, LSU 0 with 6:41 left in the first.
LSU's Drew Alleman hit a 28-yard field goal after a long run heavy drive was stuffed at the 11-yard line. Mississippi State 7, LSU 3 with 0:11 left in the first.
LSU's Drew Alleman hit a 26-yard field goal after a 12-play, 67-yard drive. Mississippi State 7, LSU 6 with 7:59 left in the half.
LSU's Zach Mettenberger hit Jarvis Landry for a 19-yard touchdown pass after a turnover gave the Tigers great field position. Mississippi State 7, LSU 13 with 5:31 left in the half.
Mississippi State's Devon Bell hit a 47-yard field goal after a 9-play, time-eating drive gave LSU under a minute to work with. Mississippi State 10, LSU 13 with 0:48 left in the half.
Zach Mettenberger led the LSU offense down the field on four plays and hit Spencer Ware for a 20-yard pass to cap it off. Mississippi State 10, LSU 20 with 0:11 left in the half.
Mississippi State's Tyler Russell hit Chad Bumphis after a turnover set up the short field and a pass interference call set up the easy touchdown. Mississippi State 17, LSU 20 with 12:52 left in the third.
LSU's Drew Alleman hit a 41-yard field goal after a 9-play, 45-yard drive. Mississippi State 17, LSU 23 with 8:29 left in the third.
LSU's J.C. Copeland scored from a yard out to end an 11-play, 80-yard drive. Mississippi State 17, LSU 30 with 0:11 left in the third.
LSU's Craig Loston intercepted Tyler Russell's pass and ran it back 100 yards for a touchdown. Mississippi State 17, LSU 37 with 1:13 left in the game.
Mississippi State 17, LSU 37 — Final
Zach Mettenberger went from average college football quarterback to looking like a future pro caliber player over the past two weeks. This week was no different as he went 19-for-30 (63.3 percent) for 273 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 161.8.
Zach Mettenberger had just one pass on the first drive of the quarter before the Tigers were forced to punt—a seven-yard completion on a 2nd-and-10. He missed both passes that he attempted on LSU's final offensive drive and the Tigers were forced to punt again.
On the first drive of the half, he went 2-for-4 for 28 yards and led the Tigers to a field goal. The next drive had him go 4-for-5 for 64 yards and ended in a touchdown run.
Zach Mettenberger led three drives in the second quarter with all leading to scores. He went 9-for-12 for 142 yards and two touchdowns in the quarter and led the Tigers to 17 total points.
On the first drive, he was 2-for-4 (50.0 percent) for 26 yards. However, he had a pass almost intercepted and fumbled on a sack. The second drive was primarily runs, but he did complete both of the passes he attempted to finish the quarter 4-for-6 (66.7 percent) for 35 yards.
Zach Mettenberger has been a talented quarterback for the Tigers this season. He has been a game manager of sorts all season before finally breaking out and having almost 300 yards versus the best defense in the country last week.
It was both a slow start and a rambling finish. The first quarter offense scored just three points while the fourth quarter offense didn't even score a point. However, the second and third quarters were dominant by the offense scoring 27 points on six drives.
The overall offense was 9-for-15 on third downs and was able to gain almost 400 yards on offense. They also got 119 yards on the ground as opposed to their 200.7 yards per game. So Mettenberger had to make up for it with his arm, and he was more than able to do that.
After not having a drive fail since early in the first quarter, the Tigers got stopped on just five plays to force a fourth-down situation and punt.
A nine-yard run on the initial first down of the next drive set up a short and easy conversion for third down. The next set of downs started with two runs that led to just one yard, but a key third-down conversion pass was missed and the Tigers were forced to punt again.
Zach Mettenberger is in great form hitting Odell Beckham for 16 yards after a three-yard run by Jeremy Hill. Kenny Hilliard slashed through the defense for another first down run on his first action of the night.
After missing Kadron Boone on a short pass, Mettenberger hit a quick screen to get another first down. Two Spencer Ware runs gained just one yard and then Mettenberger had a throw that was knocked away by cornerback Darius Slay of the Bulldogs to force the field goal.
Mettenberger has been making great plays when the pocket has busted tonight, and the Odell Beckham catch for 22 yards just accentuates that tonight. They have continually driven down the field slowly and have been methodically grinding the clock.
The screen pass to Michael Ford was a tremendous play to bring the Tigers into the red zone. Two short runs by Jeremy Hill brought them to a 3rd-and-goal situation from the one-yard line. J.C. Copeland took it just a yard for the touchdown and extended the lead to 13 points.
Zach Mettenberger opened the drive with a strike to Jarvis Landry that hit him in stride. After a quick run up the middle, Kadron Boone wrestled the ball away from Johnthan Banks on a poorly thrown pass by Mettenberger. LSU then continued to march down the field but was stopped for another field goal.
On the drive after the turnover, Mettenberger capitalized on the great field position with a pair of excellent throws including the touchdown pass to close out the drive.
On the final drive of the half, Mettenberger hit both Jarvis Landry and James Wright on back to back passes to bring it to the 20 yard line. Just after that, he had a bad throw that almost got picked off in the end zone. On the very next pass, he had a great pass to Spencer Ware for the touchdown and momentum shifter.
Zach Mettenberger opened the game with a throw that was almost intercepted by Johnthan Banks. A quick hit to Odell Beckham for eight yards was followed by three runs for 20 yards. On a 1st-and-10, Mettenberger had bad ball security and was stripped but LSU's Vadal Alexander recovered it.
Mettenberger had good completion to bring it back to the original line of scrimmage, but the LSU offense was stopped on third-and-nine and forced to punt.
The second drive started at the 41. After that, Russell Sheppard and Jeremy Hill ground down the Bulldogs defense with a pass to Jarvis Landry for a tough third down interspersed in. They got stuffed at the 11-yard line and were forced to kick a field goal though for another incomplete drive.
Jeremy Hill, Kenny Hilliard, Alfred Blue, Spencer Ware and Michael Ford are a rushing attack that has been amazing this year despite the lack of one back taking over. They have 1,806 yards and 21 touchdowns coming into the game.
The rushing attack could have another 200 yards and two touchdowns added to it by the end of the day. Odell Beckham leads the receivers with 493 yards and two touchdowns. The senior wide receiver will try to relay a performance tonight into a better draft standing.
Despite a slow start, the defense turned it around after the first quarter. They allowed the Bulldogs to come out to a 10-3 start early, but afterwards allowed just one scoring drive. Barkevious Mingo, Craig Loston and Sam Montgomery were the impact players who turned the entire game around in the fourth quarter. Loston actually looks like the better safety between him and Eric Reid.
After two quick plays, the defense forced yet another punt by Mississippi State. Craig Loston stopped a quick slant on the first play of the next drive for just five yards. However, the defense allowed a first down the very next play on a pass to the sidelines.
Tyler Russell continued to drive his offense down field with efficient passing and accurate throws. He hit his favorite target Chad Bumphis for two longer passes of 16 and 40 yards. After a holding penalty put the Bulldogs in the red zone, Russell got hit as he threw but hit Chris Smith at the 15.
On second down from the 15, LSU stuffed a run for no gain. Then they had a key sack by Sam Montgomery to force a tough 4th-and-11 from the 22. On fourth down, Barkevious Mingo got a clutch sack to force the turnover on downs with just seven minutes left.
After the deep punt set up the Bulldogs at their own 13-yard line, the defense forced an incomplete pass deep. Then a trio of completions allowed gave the Bulldogs the ball at the LSU 43-yard line. A pair incomplete passes forced and an almost pick set up a fourth-and-10 situation.
However, on 4th-and-10, Russell stepped up and made the throw to Bumphis for the first. Another seven yards to Bumphis on first were followed by a draw play to Griffin on third down to give the Bulldogs 1st-and-goal at the nine. After a 1st-and-goal incompletion, Craig Loston intercepted the second down pass and took it 100 yards for the touchdown to seal the Tigers victory. The final defensive drive was just a trio of runs by the Bulldogs to end the game.
For the first drive, they led off allowing a seven-yard run. However, after a penalty and a short gain to set up 3rd-and-seven, the LSU defense stiffened up and forced the incompletion and a punt. After a miscue on the punt set up a short field, LSU safety Craig Loston got caught on a pass interference. The next play, Tyler Russell hit Chad Bumphis for the touchdown.
Tyler Russell opened up the next drive with a quick run and then followed it off with a handoff to Drew Prescott to set up a 3rd-and-four. However, the Tigers allowed the first down on a short pass to Adrian Marcus by Russell.
LSU safety Eric Reid demolished Josh Robinson on a hit after a pass to the left side of the field. After another pass over the middle set up a short third down, the defense locked down and forced the fourth down and punt. The final play of the quarter was a seven-yard pass to Chris Smith to bring the Bulldogs down to the 41 to start the fourth quarter.
They kicked off the quarter stuffing a Bulldogs drive at the 34-yard line on a pair of runs. If they can continue to have the kind of defense they had on the first drive of the second quarter, they will be in a good position to win the game.
On the second drive of the quarter, Tyler Russell had a beautiful strike to Malcolm Johnson. However, the next play was a completely busted run that led to a fumble and a turnover created by the excellent defense.
For the third drive of the quarter, LSU was allowing the Bulldogs to drive down. However, they shut them down after a trio of Tyler Russell passes led to a third-and-nine from the 30. They closed the quarter allowing just three points.
The defense got blown off the ball early and Tyler Russell had too much time to throw. Russell has been able to find his second and third progressions early on. The entire first drive was just weak for the Tigers defense allowing Tyler Russell to throw all over them.
The LSU defense has been supremely talented in 2012. They have 24 sacks, 13 interceptions and a whopping 67 tackles for loss. What's even more amazing is the efficiency the defense plays with. They allow just 3.07 yards per rush and a low passer rating of just 92.83.
The big names are all over the defense too. Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery are some of the best defensive ends in the country. Eric Reid has first-round potential as a safety in the NFL draft, and the linebacker combination of Lamin Barrow and Kevin Minter could end up working their way into the second day with a great finish to the season.
The special teams units were efficient but there were a couple of miscues that leave this below an A. Drew Alleman hit all three of his field goals and all three of his extra points. The field position units were excellent as well.
A clean catch and return by Odell Beckham gives the Tigers the ball at the LSU 28. Brad Wing showed why he is a Ray Guy nominee with a punt that was downed at the Mississippi State three-yard line and then another punt that was downed at the MSU 13-yard line. James Hairston's kickoff left the Bulldogs at the 24-yard line for their final drive of the game.
James Hairston's initial kickoff of the half was brought out to just the 24-yard line. On the punt return, yet another miscue by the punt return team forced not just a turnover but an injury to LSU receiver Odell Beckham.
On the first kickoff return, Michael Floyd brought it back to the LSU 31-yard line. Drew Alleman hit his third field goal attempt—this time of 41 yards—down the middle to bring the Tigers up six again. On the second kickoff of the half, the Tigers allowed Robert Johnson to get to the 34-yard line. The final kickoff of the quarter wasn't a good one allowing Johnson to get back to the 34-yard line again.
On their first punt return of the game, an LSU player accidentally hit the ball to possibly create a fumble, but reviews showed that it hit a Bulldog first. LSU got the ball at their own 23-yard line after the confusion. Drew Alleman was perfect on his second field goal attempt as well. James Hairston's pair of kickoffs led to a 15 yard return and a touchback. The kickoff return by the Bulldogs was a fair catch at the LSU 29.
Michael Ford made a bad decision to take the opening kickoff out of the end zone as he brought it to just the 16-yard line. The first punt reversed the field and forced Mississippi State to start at their own 26-yard line.
Michael Ford had a tremendous return to the 41-yard line to give great starting field position for the second drive. On his first field goal of the game, Drew Alleman hit a 29-yarder through the uprights like it was an easy kick. The only kickoff by LSU was taken back to the 24-yard line.
Senior kicker Drew Alleman has been mediocre, hitting just 65 percent of his field goals all season. However, he has been perfect in extra point attempts. Sophomores Brad Wing and James Hairston have been giving the Tigers great field position all season. Wing averages 44.5 yards per punt this season while Hairston has had 39.6% of his kickoffs downed in the end zone for a touchback.
Despite having three different kick return men throughout the season in Odell Beckham, Michael Ford and Jarvis Landry, the Tigers are averaging 21.47 yards per return. Beckham has also been a very talented punt returner averaging almost a full eight yards per return and taking one back to the house this season.
Les Miles went in with an aggressive game plan and got his players to execute. He made excellent halftime adjustments and turned the game from a close one into a defensive domination quickly.
The game was won by excellent play-calling. There wasn't amazing execution for the Tigers, but Les Miles led his team to a victory against a very talented Mississippi State team.
Les Miles has made great adjustments at the half. However, the Tigers are just playing good defense right now and without a special teams miscue, they would be up by much more.
In the second quarter, the offense, defense and special teams all finally woke up after the heartbreaker last week. They have been aggressive and attacking the Bulldogs both on offense and defense. They have turned the game around and a 17-3 quarter proves this could be a scary team to play.
The game plan hasn't been working; however, Les Miles made the right call at the end of both drives in the quarter on offense. On defense, they need to get something rolling. They just aren't stopping the Bulldogs today.
Les Miles is still one of the best coaches in college football. His only losses this year are on the road in the Swamp of the Florida Gators and at home against the best team in the nation, Alabama. The Tigers should finish the season with at least nine wins again this year for the fourth straight season because of Coach Les Miles.
All stats are from cfbstats.com.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek, runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.