LSU shows familiar lifeless offense in blowout loss at Mississippi State

LSU running back Derrius Guice (5) tries to run away from Mississippi State defensive back Chris Rayford (24) and linebacker Dezmond Harris (11) during the first half of their NCAA college football game against in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Most expected No. 12 LSU’s trip to Mississippi State to be a tough game. Nobody expected this.

In its first test with Ed Orgeron in place as full-time head coach, LSU was blown out 37-7 in Starkville and was absolutely dominated in every facet of the game in the process. When Orgeron hired Matt Canada from Pitt to be his offensive coordinator, LSU was supposed to have a “creative” offense that “made it tough on defensive coordinators” and was “one of the toughest to go against.”

On Saturday night, it looked more like one of the easiest to go against.

Sure, Canada brought out some of the side to side motion plays and other pre-snap looks that succeeded in his lone season at Pitt, but his unit looked absolutely lifeless against the Bulldogs. Even worse, it looked like the LSU offense we’ve grown accustomed to the past few seasons: unimaginative and completely predictable.

The offensive line was mostly overmatched and the Tigers — stop me if you’ve heard this before — just could not get anything going in the passing game. Danny Etling completed 13-of-29 passes for just 137 yards, many of which came in garbage time in the fourth quarter. He didn’t have much time to throw, but even when he did he was often inaccurate while throwing to receivers who got little-to-no separation. And while the passing game posed no threat, the Mississippi State defense keyed in on Derrius Guice (76 yards on 15 carries) and the Tigers running backs and forced punt after punt.

It was a pretty simple recipe.

LSU’s acclaimed defense did its part early, but Nick Fitzgerald and the Bulldogs chipped away and began to get an edge late in the first half. After the first quarter finished scoreless, the teams traded touchdowns — a Fitzgerald TD run for the Bulldogs and a Darrel Williams 10-yard burst for the Tigers.

Mississippi State went ahead a few minutes later with a 30-yard Jace Christmann field goal, and extended the lead to 10, 17-7, on Fitzgerald’s second touchdown run — another three-yarder — with just seven seconds remaining in the first half. It was a 10-play, 54-yard drive for the Bulldogs featuring two third-down conversions. It would be a sign of things to come.

While the LSU offense totally sputtered, Mississippi State put points on the board on its first four drives of the second half. By the time Fitzgerald found Keith Mixon wide open behind the defense (thanks to a blown coverage) for a 45-yard score, increasing the lead to 27-7 with 5:10 left in the third, the game was pretty much over.



By the time the dust settled, MSU tacked on an additional field goal and another Fitzgerald touchdown — a 20-yarder to Deddrick Thomas on another blown coverage — and won the game decisively, 37-7.

As poorly as LSU played, a lot of this was about Mississippi State, which looks much-improved. MSU only won six games last year, so Fitzgerald kind of flew under the radar nationally. With a performance like Saturday night’s, he shouldn’t anymore. Fitzgerald threw for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 15-of-23 throwing while rushing for 88 yards and two more scores, showing he’s one of the SEC’s best. His backfield mate Aeris Williams had a great game, too, racking up 146 yards on 23 carries.

And as good as the offense was, the defense, with new coordinator Todd Grantham, looked ferocious — especially on the defensive line with Jeffery Simmons. MSU played two lackluster opponents in its first two games, so it was really hard to gauge this team. After Saturday night, it looks like the Bulldogs will be factor in the SEC with trips to Georgia and Auburn around the corner.

Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald (7) prepares to pass against LSU during the first half of their NCAA college football game against in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!