STARKVILLE, Mississippi — No. 2 LSU improved to 7-0 after an impressive road win at Mississippi State on Saturday, overwhelming the Bulldogs in a 36-13 win. Joe Burrow set the LSU single-season record for passing touchdowns in a four-touchdown performance, completing 25-of-32 passes for 327 yards.
The game provided plenty of big moments for Burrow’s Heisman Trophy candidacy highlight reel, as he continued his reliance on pinpoint accuracy to hit explosive plays through the passing game.
LSU got off to a little bit of a slow start on offense, at least in terms of finishing drives with touchdowns as it built a 9-0 lead in the first half. Mississippi State then scored a touchdown late in the second quarter to make it 9-7, but Burrow poured in two quick-strike touchdowns before halftime to essentially end the game.
After a three-and-out to start the third quarter, LSU scored touchdowns on its next two possessions and then cruised to a comfortable win amongst the cowbells.
For Joe Moorhead and Mississippi State, the loss leaves the record at 3-4 heading into back-to-back road games against Texas A&M and Arkansas with Alabama still left on the schedule. This is a crucial point in the season for the Bulldogs if they expect to be bowling at the end the year.
What are the biggest takeaways from Saturday afternoon in Starkville?
Heisman hype: Burrow’s Heisman hype train gained even more steam on Saturday afternoon during his record-breaking performance. He once again showed how complete of a quarterback he is by finding receivers in a variety of different ways — including Justin Jefferson for 18 yards and the program record for touchdowns in a single season.
He escaped pressure and kept his eyes downfield on the 33-yarder to Derrick Dillon in the third quarter when he could have easily tucked it and gained at least 10 yards on the ground. The five-yarder over the middle to Ja’Marr Chase just before halftime was fit into a very tight window when it was important for LSU to get some separation going into the locker room.
The 60-yard strike to a wide open Racey McMath came with pressure in his face, one play after Mississippi State grabbed momentum with a touchdown of its own.
Burrow is as complete of a quarterback as there is in America, and has been the catalyst to an LSU offensive renaissance that has the Tigers squarely in the mix for the College Football Playoff.
LSU needed this kind of game: This wasn’t pretty … at least in the first half. Mississippi State dialed up creative pressure, its offense played keep-away and LSU couldn’t seem to get going — especially in the red zone – in the first half. The Tigers were stopped inside the 7-yard line and settled for field goals on their first three drives of the game.
That’s a blessing in disguise for coach Ed Orgeron.
It was a blowout (and cover) on the scoreboard, but overcoming a sluggish performance in a hostile atmosphere is exactly what the Tigers need going into a big home game with Auburn and massive road tilt at Alabama on Nov. 9. Make no mistake, it was hostile. For those who haven’t been to Starkville, Davis Wade Stadium is one of the loudest and most intimidating atmospheres in college football when the cowbells start clanging.
Orgeron saw his team handle adversity on the road, keep its foot on the gas and put away a lesser opponent with ease. That matters a lot going into the stretch run.
Defense travels: LSU’s defense has been a sore spot this year because it hasn’t lived up to the program’s lofty standards. The Tigers will travel home to Baton Rouge after giving up just 340 yards to the Bulldogs — their best performance against a Power Five opponent this year.
This is what LSU football should be now. The new look offense that uses tempo and places less emphasis on time of possession comes at the expense of yards and points on the defensive side of the ball.
Saturday’s stellar defensive performance adds another piece to the puzzle. The Tigers lost the time of possession battle 34:21-25:39, but still managed to control the Bulldogs. Simply put, it was their most complete game of the season.
Mississippi State is at a crossroads: The Bulldogs lost three first-round draft picks off of last season’s defense and quarterback Nick Fitzgerald.
The Bulldogs had a hard time controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and quarterback Garrett Shrader struggled to get going with his arm against the stout Tigers secondary.
The talent isn’t there and hasn’t been developed. Mississippi State was known as a program that developed players to be stars under former coach Dan Mullen. That hasn’t happened yet and might not in the future, either. Coach Joe Moorhead has been rumored to be the top choice at Rutgers, and his second season in Starkville looks as bleak as the crowd in Davis Wade Stadium when the clock struck triple zeros.
Where does Mississippi State go from here? That’s one of the biggest mysteries in the SEC this year.
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