October 2, 2006
Baton Rouge, LA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- The LSU football team gave fans a reason to wake up unusually early Saturday morning for an 11:30 kickoff but rewarded the home crowd with an excuse to leave a bit early.
The Tigers (4-1, 1-1) used 35 first-half points to defeat Southeastern Conference Western Division foe Mississippi State University (1-4, 0-3) in Tiger Stadium, 48-17.
LSU junior quarterback JaMarcus Russell put an exclamation point on the Tigers' 21-point first quarter with an eye-opening display of his athletic ability coupled with an over-the-shoulder catch by true freshman tight end Richard Dickson.
Russell split two would-be Bulldogs' defenders to prevent a sack and completed an arching 55-yard pass to Dickson in stride at the MSU 2-yard line.
Although the play was successful, Russell said the pass was not intended for the tight end.
"To be honest, I really wasn't throwing it to [Dickson]," Russell said laughing. "I was throwing it to Buster Davis. It was a great catch."
LSU true freshman running back Charles Scott, who made his first career start, pushed into the end zone two plays later to give the Tigers a 28-0 lead to begin the second quarter.
Russell finished the game by completing 18-of-20 passes for a career-high 330 yards and three touchdowns.
"I think [offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher] had a good game plan coming in, and we did a good job of execution today," Russell said.
The Tigers continued their offensive surge by taking a 35-0 lead with 10:35 left in the first half. Russell completed a 6-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Dwayne Bowe to end a 7-play, 54-yard drive.
The Bulldogs ended their scoring drought with 4:50 to play in the second quarter.
MSU's offense used an 11-play, 55-yard drive that stalled at the LSU 15-yard line to set up a 32-yard field goal by place-kicker Adam Carlson to make the score 35-3 at halftime.
The Bulldogs had another opportunity to score before halftime after Russell was sacked from behind and fumbled the football at the LSU 43-yard line, but MSU could not earn a first down and punted to LSU, who ran out the second-quarter clock.
The game was suspended 4:29 into the third quarter, because lightning was detected within six miles of Tiger Stadium. The delay lasted 52 minutes.
"I think the intermission probably affected our play a little bit," Miles said. "I don't know to what extent, how much or how little."
After the lightning delay, the Bulldogs added a touchdown with 3:07 left in the third quarter when MSU defensive back Derek Pegues returned an interception by LSU junior quarterback Matt Flynn 23 yards for a touchdown to decrease the Tigers' lead to 35-10.
Flynn replaced Russell with 4:16 left in the third quarter because of the Tigers' substantial lead. Following Pegues' interception, Miles reinserted Russell, who led LSU to a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive.
LSU junior running back Jacob Hester finished the drive with a 5-yard summersault into the end zone to give LSU a 42-10 advantage.
Miles said he removed Russell from the game in the third quarter with the intention of letting the backups play the remainder of the game but put Russell back in for a purpose.
"We told him we wanted to engineer a drive, and he did so," Miles said.
After Hester's score, the Bulldogs responded with a touchdown drive of their own while most of the Tigers' second-string defenders were on the field.
Mississippi State quarterback Omarr Conner, who LSU sacked four times and constantly pressured, connected with wide receiver Tony Burks on a 46-yard touchdown strike to make the score 42-17.
"We're certainly disappointed any time anybody goes on the field as a backup that they don't play just like we call it," Miles said. "There's a responsibility to the position to play well and it's frustrating."
Flynn made amends for his third-quarter interception by conducting the Tigers on a 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive that ended with Broussard crossing the goal line from one yard out, increasing the score 48-17.
LSU built its lead beginning at the 10:55 mark of the first quarter as Russell connected with senior wide receiver Craig Davis on a 9-yard touchdown pass.
After MSU went three-plays and out, Scott capped a four-play, 49-yard drive with 6-yard touchdown run to make the score 14-0.
But the Tigers would squeak one more score in the first quarter when Russell hit junior wide receiver Early Doucet for a 37-yard score to end the first quarter with a 21-0 lead.
One weakness in LSU's play Saturday afternoon was its continued struggles to run the football well early in the game. The Tigers finished with 108 yards rushing but had just 26 rushing yards by the end of the third quarter.
Hester finished the game with a team-high 49 yards on eight carries. Broussard gained only 28 yards on 10 carries, and Scott did not fare much better, gaining 27 yards on 11 carries.
Hester said he understood why LSU did not run the ball more in the game earlier.
"We were passing the ball so good in the first half," Hester said. "How are you going to go to the run when JaMarcus is throwing at will? We ran when we had to."
By the time the Bulldogs earned a first down, LSU held a 21-0 lead. The Tigers prevented MSU from earning a first down on the Bulldogs first three possessions. MSU did not record its initial first down until the 2:35 mark of the first quarter.
"I was really anticipating us getting off to a much better start in the game than we did," MSU coach Sylvester Croom said. "�We thought we could line up and attack them and play a physical game with them and not make errors in the early part of the game and just stay in the game and see what happens. We knew going into the game that they were an excellent football team. I don't think anybody denied that, but the thing that disappointed was that I don't feel like we challenged them early as well as we did."
Starting senior right guard Brian Johnson missed his second-straight game because of injury. Sophomore guard Herman Johnson started in his place.
True freshman tight end Richard Dickson started in place of senior Keith Zinger, who has been battling a stomach ailment.
Starter left guard Will Arnold left the game in the third quarter with an apparent ankle injury. Miles said the severity of the injury is unknown.
(C) 2006 The Daily Reveille via CSTV U-WIRE