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No. 7 LSU wins with goal-line stand
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP)LSU coach Les Miles saw his team make a bunch of big plays against Mississippi State. He'll have to go to the film to see the biggest, though.
The Tigers' defense stuffed Mississippi State after the Bulldogs had a first-and-goal at the 2 in the final two minutes to preserve a 30-26 victory Saturday for No. 7 LSU.
The Tigers completed the goal-line stand by stacking up Tyson Lee on a quarterback keeper less than a foot short of a go-ahead score with 1:08 left. There were too many bodies piled around the ball for Miles to see the play - he only knew the result.
"Our defense has got heart, character and courage, and I can't wait to see the video," Miles said.
The Bulldogs (2-2, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) have now lost 10 straight to LSU, but they were inches from a huge upset in first-year coach Dan Mullen's fourth game.
"We were right there 6 inches from the goal line. That just comes down to who wants it more," Mississippi State center J.C. Brignone said.
With their offense sputtering, the Tigers (4-0, 2-0 SEC) relied on big plays.
Patrick Peterson got things started, taking the first of Lee's three interceptions in for a 37-yard touchdown on Mississippi State's first offensive play.
Brandon LaFell had 101 yards and two touchdown catches, including a 58-yarder on LSU's first offensive play of the second half.
And Chad Jones scored the final touchdown with a stumbling, weaving 93-yard punt return, the second longest in school history.
"He went left and right more times than I could count," Miles said.
Yet, those plays are likely to be forgotten after LSU's defensive line showed why its considered one of the best in the nation.
Anthony Dixon rushed for two touchdowns early to become Mississippi State's career leading scorer and No. 2 career rusher, keeping the Bulldogs in the game. And after an 18-yard run to the 2 with about 1 1/2 minutes left it looked as if he might pick up a third score.
Dixon, who rushed for 106 yards, took the ball out of the wishbone on two straight plays but couldn't crack the end zone. Jones came up with another huge play when he batted down Lee's pass on third down.
Lee said he was supposed to throw a jump pass, but the 5-foot-11 quarterback didn't jump high enough.
"The guy on third down just made a great play. I saw him there and should have put more air under it," Lee said.
The Bulldogs lined up in the bone again on fourth down with about a foot to go. Lee faked the handoff to the fullback and appeared set to pitch the ball when he turned back toward the line and jumped for the end zone. He went nowhere.
"On the last play, I made a read and saw pressure upfield," Lee said. "I felt like I could knife in the end zone on the inside."
Mullen said it appeared the option pitch was open for the score, but that Lee is allowed to make a change in the play. He simply didn't get to the goal line, something LSU always seems able to do in key moments.
"When the play was there to be made at the biggest times of the game, they made the play," Mullen said.
It's been a lopsided series for the last two decades, with the Tigers winning 17 of 18. LSU outscored Mississippi State 374-105 in the previous nine games and held the Bulldogs to 13 points, with two shutouts in its last four visits to Starkville. But the Bulldogs showed they may be closing the gap.
LSU was delayed more than four hours in Baton Rouge, La., airport with mechanical problems and missed its walkthrough. The offense opened listlessly and looked like it was still sitting on the tarmac. The Tigers had nearly as many penalties in the first half (6) as rushing yards (7), finishing with 30 yards on the ground and 263 total.
Mississippi State couldn't take advantage, committing four turnovers in the first two quarters that led to 10 LSU points.
Jordan Jefferson finished with a career-high 233 yards passing for LSU and hit LaFell in the first quarter on a 4-yard corner route to help LSU to a 16-14 halftime lead. He opened the second half with the long scoring pass to LaFell.
LaFell was wide open on both touchdown passes.
"We saw a lot of the holes out there on the film and we made it a point to get the long ball," LaFell said.
Most of Jefferson's yards came on three passes, Mullen pointed out, and blamed the coaching staff for not fixing the problem.
"You just can't do that in the Southeastern Conference," Mullen said. "We are playing a Top 10 football team today and you just can't make those mistakes."