Disappointments in life often are frustrating not because of the end result, but because of how you got there.
You did most everything right. Sure, there was the occasional misstep, but after what seemed like great success and good energy along the way, something happened at the end, leaving you with that disappointment and frustration, trying to figure out exactly what did you wrong.
Dan Mullen and Mississippi State find themselves on the wrong end of that deal after a 59-26 loss to LSU in which so much seemed to go right, a result not at all indicative of how the game played and felt.
George Costanza offered the words the Bulldogs might hear from the Tigers: “It’s not you. It’s me.”
Perhaps the most frustrating part of that result for MSU is the conflicting emotions of encouragement from the first three quarters and the bitter sting of the fourth quarter blowout.
When the third quarter ended, No. 10 LSU led by five points and it was anyone’s game. Within 41 seconds, Les Miles had built his lead to 19 and every positive vibe had been sucked out of Davis Wade Stadium.
A Davis Wade Stadium which held the fifth-largest crowd in MSU history and was the loudest it had been in maybe a few years.
When MSU’s offense started its first possession on the 46 yard-line after a big Jameon Lewis return, LaDarius Perkins broke off a big run up the sideline and starting sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott turned a would-be sack into a 28-yard touchdown scamper.
The first punt for either team didn’t even come until over halfway through the second quarter.
The game was genuinely fun for all involved as the teams went back and forth with big plays, huge stops and quick scores.
The crowd went nuts when freshman defensive lineman Chris Jones exploded into the backfield, drove LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger to the ground and rose all 300 pounds of his frame back upright as he danced to the sideline.
But then that fourth quarter happened, when LSU scored 28 points in 13 minutes, after only getting 31 the previous 45 minutes and MSU didn’t sniff the endzone, finishing with the same 26 points it had four minutes into the third.
The secondary could be blamed for giving up 340 yards in the air, but LSU scored six touchdowns on the ground and Nickoe Whitley’s second quarter interception swung momentum to MSU early on.
Perhaps, then, the defensive line could be at fault, though for the majority of the game, and especially those first three quarters, it seemed LSU running backs could do absolutely nothing against the Bulldogs’ front seven. MSU’s goal-line stand in the third quarter was as impressive as any defensive series all night, keeping it a one-score game.
Maybe the offense was the reason for the loss, but Prescott, Tyler Russell, Lewis and pretty much the whole offensive line had some of their best games of the season. MSU put up 216 yards on the ground against the Tigers, with Prescott, LaDarius Perkins and Josh Robinson all averaging over six yards per carry.
But at the end, MSU just couldn’t finish. Maybe it wasn’t them. It’s LSU.
Now, some more observations:
- I mentioned the offensive line, and they really do deserve credit for how well they played both Saturday and all season after a rough game in the opener.
- We spent two weeks wondering who would start at QB, and it turned out to be Prescott, but I’m not sure anyone expected he and Russell would both play so well. Prescott gets praise, but Russell earned it, too, completing 7 of 11 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Mobility remains the difference, as Prescott rushed for 103 yards, while Russell was sacked three times.
- Jameon Lewis might have been the most impressive player for MSU on offense. LSU came in knowing he was MSU’s primary weapon, and he still managed 201 all-purpose yards.
- Sticking with the receivers, true freshman De’Runnya Wilson has gotten better every game. His 59-yard touchdown catch from Tyler Russell was handled like a veteran, and even more impressive was a play he probably won’t get much credit for. On the first touchdown for MSU, he blocked as well downfield as some offensive linemen, clearing the final hole for Prescott’s running score.
- Sophomore receiver Joe Morrow also deserves some credit for a making a few big catches. He caught some heat for drops early in the season, but he made some grown-man grabs Saturday night.
- Perkins’ 8.1 yards per rush was pretty impressive, though only get 10 carries might be a lower number than he and Mullen would like. Part of that is because Prescott runs so much (12 carries) but Mullen has said a couple times this season he needs to get the ball to Perk more.
- Defensively, it’s such a mixed bag, as we discussed, but perhaps the biggest story is Chris Jones. The star signee looked deserving of the hype, racking up four tackles, two for loss, a sack and two quarterback hurries.
- Elsewhere on the line, junior end Preston Smith had a coming out party of his own: seven tackles, three for loss, two sacks and a quarterback hurry.
- The defensive line as a whole, for the first three quarters at least, had maybe its best game of the season for 90 percent of the plays, which makes the random but too-frequent big runs by LSU all the more perplexing.
- Conversely, the secondary had one of its poorer performances, though as Mullen said after the game, much of that has to do with the two NFL-caliber receivers LSU has starting for them, making incredible catches. We won’t pretend MSU’s corners and safeties always played well, but Miles has some uber-talented pass-catchers on his team and Mettenberger does a tremendous job of putting the ball where they can get it.