STARKVILLE, Miss. – Three quarters through its Saturday night game at Mississippi State, the No. 10 LSU football team appeared to be in danger.
The Tigers (5-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) held a 31-26 lead, and the Bulldogs (2-3, 0-2 SEC) were within striking distance after 45 minutes of play. But LSU found the end zone four times in the fourth quarter en route to a 59-26 demolition of Mississippi State.
Senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger completed 25 of 29 passing attempts while throwing for 340 yards and two touchdowns. However, LSU found balance as four running backs amassed a combined 223 yards and six touchdowns.
“Any time you have balance in an offense, and [the opponent] is concerned you’re going to throw the football, they’re not comfortable with the call they make,” said LSU coach Les Miles. “If they’re indecisive, we have the opportunity to take advantage of them on one side or the other.”
LSU’s offense started smoothly, executing a methodical five-minute drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown plunge by junior running back Kenny Hilliard. Mississippi State scored less than two minutes later on a 28-yard scramble by sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott. The Bulldogs failed their ensuing two-point conversion attempt, and the Tigers led 7-6 with 8:37 left in the first quarter.
On the following drive, sophomore running back Jeremy Hill pushed LSU’s lead to eight on a 69-yard scamper, which was his longest run this season.
“We just ran a power play up the middle and the backer missed me in the hole,” Hill said. “I made the safety miss as well, and [junior receiver] Jarvis Landry had a great block on the cornerback. It was just a foot race after that, and I just beat them to the end zone.”
Mississippi State continued the offensive onslaught, capping its next possession with a 35-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Devon Bell. The Tigers responded with another balanced drive that finished with a 34-yard touchdown run off left tackle by Hill, who recorded the seventh multiple-touchdown game of his LSU career.
On the ensuing Mississippi State possession, the reins were given to senior quarterback Tyler Russell, who had been sidelined for several weeks after suffering a concussion. Russell marched the Bulldogs straight down the field and threw a 20-yard touchdown strike to Jameon Lewis to narrow the LSU lead to five.
The Tigers gave the ball right back to Mississippi State when Mettenberger threw an interception on a screen pass intended for Hill. The Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs, but LSU surrendered a sack and punted on its first three-and-out of the night.
Russell proceeded his shredding of the Tiger defense on a 59-yard touchdown bomb to freshman receiver De’Runnya Wilson. LSU and Mississippi State traded punts on the next two drives before the Tigers regained the lead on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Mettenberger to junior receiver Odell Beckham Jr. with 17 seconds left in the first half.
The scoring slowed down in the third quarter as each team kicked a field goal after combining for 51 first-half points. But LSU opened the fourth quarter with a 33-yard catch and run touchdown by Beckham, who finished with 179 yards and two touchdowns, extending the Tigers’ lead to 38-26.
“The defense was giving us a lot of room to work, and [Mettenberger] was putting the ball exactly where it needed to be,” Beckham said. “The defender was right on me, and he just puts it where it needs to be.”
After freshman cornerback Tre’Davious White intercepted an overthrow by Prescott on the following drive, Hill plummeted into the end zone from five yards out to give LSU a 19-point lead. Senior running back Alfred Blue put the game away on an 18-yard touchdown run with 6:46 remaining in the game.
The Tigers added a final score after sophomore linebacker Lamar Louis recovered a fumble on the Mississippi State 22-yard line. Hilliard tacked on his third rushing touchdown of the night on a four-yard dive into pay dirt to complete LSU’s 31-0 second half scoring run.
“We’ve got to go out and run our offense,” Beckham said. “You can’t worry about the points on the board. You look up at the end of the clock, and just hope that you’re up on top.”