STARKVILLE, Miss., - Mississippi State was six inches away from upsetting No. 7 LSU in front of a packed house at Davis Wade Stadium.
The Bulldogs were set up with first-and-goal from the 2-yard line trailing by six with just over a minute to go. MSU drove down to within six inches of the goal line on first down but the Tiger defense stood strong and held on for a 30-26 win.
"There is nothing good in losing and there never will be," said MSU head coach Dan Mullen. "I am really proud of the way our kids battled for four quarters. We have got to do a better job of finishing the game there at the end. We had a chance there at the end which is amazing the way our kids fought despite four turnovers in the first half."
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LSU stuffed running back Anthony Dixon on second down and the Bulldogs attempted a jump pass with 5-foot-10 quarterback Tyson Lee intended for a wide open Marcus Green in the end zone but was batted down at the line of scrimmage. Lee tried to sneak it in on an option keeper for fourth down but was stopped short.
"The guy on third down just made a great play," Lee said. "I saw him there and should have put more air under it. On the last play, I made a read and saw pressure up field. I felt I could knife in the end zone on the inside."
LSU (4-0, 2-0) was limited to 263 yards of offense on the day but took advantage of four Bulldog turnovers. The Tigers had 223 yards through the air but only accounted for 30 yards rushing on the day.
"(Mississippi State) had a great game plan," said LSU head coach Les Miles. "When other teams pack it in like that, it forces us to throw down the field."
LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson connected on 15-of-28 passing for 233 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Brandon LaFell hauled in six passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Tiger receiving corps.
Russell Shepard was the top LSU rusher with 26 yards on four carries.
The game certainly didn't start off the way Mississippi State would like. Lee was picked off on the first play from scrimmage by Patrick Peterson and returned 37-yards for the touchdown. The pass hit Christian Ducre in the hands and batted in the air into the awaiting hands of Peterson. The extra point snap was low giving the Tigers an early 6-0 lead.
But the Bulldogs answered right back on the ensuing drive picking up four first downs on a nine-play, 66-yard drive that was capped off by Dixon's 3-yard diving plunge into the end zone. Sean Brauchle kicked the point after to lift MSU ahead 7-6 with 7:14 remaining in the first quarter.
LSU responded with a touchdown drive of their own on their next possession. Following a 39-yard completion to Terrance Toliver, Jefferson found LaFell in the back of the end zone from 5-yards out to retake the lead. Josh Jasper booted the extra point to lift the Tigers to a 13-7 advantage.
The Bulldogs took advantage of an LSU miscue for their next touchdown. The Tigers botched a punt snap and punter Drew Alleman was tackled at the 1-yard line by Tay Bowser. State stuffed it in on the next play with Dixon plowing across the goal line. Brauchle's PAT was up and good giving the Bulldogs back the 14-13 lead with 41-seconds left in the first quarter.
LSU made the Bulldogs pay for their third turnover of the game. Arnil Stallworth coughed up the football and was recovered at the MSU 25-yard by Drake Nevis. Mississippi State's defense stood strong and held the Tigers to a 22-yard field goal by Jasper to take a 16-14 lead with 6:16 remaining in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs had an opportunity to take the lead heading into halftime with Brauchle set up for a 43-yard field goal in the waning seconds but the snap was mishandled and LSU took their two-point lead into the locker room.
The Tigers wasted little time extending their advantage. LSU struck on their first play of the second half on a 58-yard scoring strike from Jefferson to a wide open LaFell. Jasper added the point after pushing the lead to 23-14.
The Bulldogs rallied back midway through the third quarter. Facing third and inches from midfield, Lee avoided the rush and reversed the field and found a wide open Green for a 50-yard touchdown pass. Brauchle's extra point pulled State within 23-21.
LSU build the lead back on the first play of the fourth quarter. Chad Jones fielded a punt at the MSU 7-yard line and broke several tackles up the field for a 93-yard return. Jasper's point after gave the Tigers a 30-21 edge.
State chipped away at the lead thanks to a 46-yard completion from Chris Relf to O'Neal Wilder to set up a 22-yard field goal by Brauchle with just over 10 minutes remaining.
The Bulldogs had their final opportunity with 3:53 remaining. Mississippi State drove down to the 2-yard yard line to set up first and goal. Dixon rushed twice up the middle to get down six-inches from the goal line.
The Bulldogs attempted a jump pass and Lee's attempt for a wide open Green was batted down at the line of scrimmage.
"We thought we had them set up," Mullen said. "They had obviously been crashing everybody up the middle and we had a guy standing all by himself. It was a jump pass and Tyson is supposed to jump up and throw it and we just didn't get him to jump high enough and their kid made a heck of a play to tip the ball."
Then on fourth-and-goal, Lee kept on the option but was stuffed for no gain and LSU took over.
"The three previous plays they had pinched every single person inside so we figured we would pitch the ball to Anthony on the outside like we did on a play where we scored earlier in the game," Mullen said. "Tyson saw a gap and tried to take it inside so we didn't get the ball pitched. He has that option and he saw it and we just didn't push hard enough to get in the end zone."
The Tigers were held once again by the MSU defense and instead of punting out of their own end zone, Alleman stepped out for a safety to end the scoring.
The Bulldogs won the yardage battle totaling 374 on the day with 223 yards coming through the air and chewing up another 176 on the ground.
Dixon became the school's all-time leading scorer and moved into second place in rushing on the afternoon. He picked up 106 yards on 27 carries with two touchdowns.
Lee completed 15-of-38 passing for 172 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
Green had five catches for 100 yards and one score.
Perry Riley led the LSU defense with 11 tackles and one pass breakup while Chris Hawkins, Kelvin Sheppard and Jones each finished with seven stops. Hawkins, Peterson and Brandon Taylor all had interceptions but the Tigers did not have a sack on the day.
Jamar Chaney had eight tackles to pace State defensively followed by Kyle Love with six stops while Zach Smith, K.J. Wright and Marcus Washington each finished with five tackles. Smith forced a fumble and added a sack as did Chaney.
The Bulldogs drop to 1-2 in the Southeastern Conference and had their overall record evened at 2-2.
"A loss it a loss and I can't stand losing," said MSU center J.C. Brignone. "That's one thing we are trying to instill here is losing is losing, doesn't matter if it's by 100 or six-inches in the game."
Mississippi State will host Georgia Tech next week at 6:30 p.m. on CSS.
"We just have to keep working hard," Chaney said. "We do not need to get complacent. A loss hurts but it's in the past and we have to move on. We have to go back to the drawing board and get ready for next week."