BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - No. 6 LSU struggled on both sides of the ball, especially in the secondary on defense, giving up more than 600 passing yards in the loss to Mississippi State in the season opener.
The Tigers (0-1) fell 44-34 to the Bulldogs (1-0). Only 25% capacity was allowed inside Tiger Stadium for the game.
LSU is the first defending champion to lose its next game since Michigan’s loss at Notre Dame in 1998.
Mississippi State quarterback KJ Costello was 36-of-60 for 623 yards and five touchdowns in the debut of head coach Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” offense for the Bulldogs. He threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles. He set a new record for the most passing yards in an SEC game and Costello is the first quarterback in league history to throw for 600 yards in a single game. It was the 11th-most passing yards in FBS history. The LSU defense sacked him five times.
LSU quarterback Myles Brennan finished 27-of-45 for 345 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions. He completed passes to nine different players. He was sacked seven times.
The Tigers were without All-American cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. and it showed. LSU reported Stingley got very ill overnight and was hospitalized. It was not related to COVID-19 and the sophomore was expected to be released Saturday, according to the university. Senior defensive tackle Glen Logan was also not available to help in the pass rush. It is not known why he didn’t play.
Sophomore Cordale Flott and freshman Eli Ricks started at cornerback for LSU. Flott was beaten on Mississippi State’s first touchdown and Ricks on the second. However, Ricks picked off Costello in the fourth quarter, which later resulted in an LSU touchdown. Freshman Joseph Evans started for Logan.
Three different Bulldogs had more than 100 receiving yards. They were led by wide receiver Osirus Mitchell. He had seven catches for 183 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Kylin Hill had eight catches for 158 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver JaVonta Payton had six catches for 122 yards.
Terrace Marshall Jr. led the LSU pass catchers with eight receptions for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver Jaray Jenkins had five catches for 85 yards. Freshman tight end Arik Gilbert had four catches for 37 yards and a touchdown.
Senior safety JaCoby Stevens had six tackles and two sacks. He forced a fumble and had two fumble recoveries. Damone Clark led the defense with 11 tackles, one sack, and 1.5 tackles for loss. He was also credited with a QB hurry.
The LSU run game netted just 80 yards. Chris Curry had nine carries for 47 yards, Tyrion Davis-Price had 11 carries for 43 yards, and John Emery Jr. had seven carries for 27 yards but Brennan finished with -37 yards rushing. He lost 45 yards on those seven sacks.
Mississippi State scored first, taking a 3-0 lead on a 35-yard field goal by Brandon Ruiz. It was the only score in the first quarter, marking the first time in 26 quarters that LSU did not score. The last time the Tigers failed to score in a quarter was in the third quarter at Alabama last season.
LSU’s first four drives all ended in punts. In those possessions, the Tigers managed just two first downs and 36 total yards.
LSU scored its first points of the season in the second quarter on a pick-six by linebacker Jabril Cox, a graduate transfer from North Dakota State. He intercepted Costello at the 14-yard line and ran into the end zone to give LSU a 7-3 lead with 9:45 left in the half. It was the first pick-six by an LSU player since the 2018 season opener against Miami.
Mississippi State retook the lead on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Costello to wider receiver Tyrell Shavers to make it 10-7 with 7:45 remaining in the half. It was part of a six-play, 75-yard drive for the Bulldogs.
LSU responded with an eight-play 84-yard drive that was capped off with a two-yard touchdown pass from Brennan, while falling down, to Gilbert to put the Tigers back up, 14-10, with 5:20 left in the first half. On the drive, Brennan hooked up with Jenkins for a 47-yard gain.
Costello then found Mitchell on a 43-yard touchdown pass to give the Bulldogs a 17-14 lead with 2:27 remaining before halftime. It was the first time LSU has trailed at halftime since Nov. 24, 2018, at Texas A&M.
LSU then tied the game, 17-17, on a 26-yard field goal by Cade York in the third quarter. Mississippi State then made a field goal of its own from 24 yards out to retake the 20-17 lead.
The Tigers roared back on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Brennan to Marshall for a quick five-play, 75-yard scoring drive that gave them a 24-20 lead with 5:01 left in the third quarter.
The celebration for the Tigers lasted all of 15 seconds. That’s how long it took for Costello and Hill to connect for a 75-yard touchdown pitch-and-catch to put the Bulldogs back up, 27-24, still in the third quarter. The score marked the seventh lead change of the game.
LSU committed its first turnover of the game with less than 1:00 left in the quarter. A Mississippi State pass rusher hit Brennan on the elbow just as he was throwing to a wide open McMath, causing the ball to fall short and it was intercepted by cornerback Esaias Furdge. The Bulldogs then orchestrated a five-play, 56-yard drive that ended with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Costello to wide receiver Austin Williams to give them a 34-24 lead with 14:14 left in the game.
The Tigers would not go down quietly, as Ricks intercepted a Costello pass, which set up a 37-yard strike to Marshall. He actually caught the ball with one arm. They were down just 34-31 with 11:01 left in the game.
LSU tied the game at 34-34 with about 9:30 left on a 40-yard field goal from York that came after Stevens stripped the ball from Costello and recovered it.
Mississippi State snatched the lead back on a 43-yard field goal and then added to that with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Costello to Mitchell to make it 44-34 with a little more than 3:30 left in the contest.
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