MSU’s upset over #6 LSU highlights busy CFB Saturday in Mississippi

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Photo courtesy Mississippi State Athletics

SEC football is back and Mike Leach’s Mississippi State Bulldogs have shaken up the college football landscape on day one with an upset over #6 LSU. Lane Kiffin and the Ole Miss Rebels showed flashes but fell to #5 Flordia, and USM dropped to 0-3. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of all of the action from a busy Saturday across the state.

Mississippi State: 44 #6 LSU:34

  • Story by SportsTalk Mississippi’s Brian Hadad 

From January on, the mantra at Mississippi State was that this Bulldog team would look totally different than any that had come before it. One game into the Mike Leach Era, that all holds up, as KJ Costello set an SEC passing record with 623 yards in the air, and State overcame four turnovers to grab a 44-34 win over the defending national champions LSU in Tiger Stadium.

Costello shattered the school’s single-game passing record of 508 yards early in the fourth quarter, then despite an interception and fumble that allowed LSU to make up a ten-point deficit, continued firing away. He finished the day 36-60, an SEC record 623 yards, and five touchdowns to four different receivers. In all, ten different Bulldogs caught a pass, including three over 100 yards and two over 150 for the first time in school history. State, a historically running team, finished the day with only 9 yards rushing on 16 carries. It truly was an Air Raid as the Bulldogs sliced the Tiger secondary, missing their All-American corner Derek Stingley Jr., to ribbons.

As for Kylin Hill, it was much as predicted, as the senior tailback only carried the ball five times for 27 yards, but was explosive through the air, hauling in a game-high 8 passes for 158 yards and a score, a 75 yarder that saw Hill burst down the sidelines and evade two Tigers en route to the end zone.

Defensively, the Bulldogs more than held there own against LSU, racking up seven sacks and picking off two Myles Brennan passes, the second by freshman Emmanuel Forbes in the end zone as time expired. Zach Arnett’s scheme seemed to keep the Tigers off balance, as LSU was held to a mere 2.1 yards per carry. State had three tacklers in double figures, and held the Tigers to 28 points, as one touchdown came on an interception deep in Bulldog territory.

State moves to 1-0 on the season with its first win in Tiger Stadium since 2014, only the second time the Bulldogs have won in Baton Rouge since 1992. State will take on Arkansas in Week 2 in Starkville, the home opener for Mike Leach.

#5 Florida: 51 Ole Miss: 35 

  • Story by Steven Gagliano

The offense didn’t disappoint in Lane Kiffin’s highly anticipated debut on the Ole Miss sideline, however, it was a different story on the defensive side of the ball as the #5 Florida Gators left Oxford with a 51-35 victory over the Rebels.

Gator QB Kyle Trask entered the day as the SEC’s leading returning passer and picked up right where he left off as he led an offense that racked up 642 total yards—a school-record against an SEC opponent. The senior QB tossed six touchdowns while going 30 for 42 with 416 yards. Four of those TD passes went to All-SEC TE Kyle Pitts, a 6’6 junior, that the Rebel secondary had no answer for.

While the Rebels kept the game within reach for a large portion of the first half, it was Pitts’ TD to close out the half and a 71-yard TD reception to open the 3rd quarter that broke the Rebels’ back at 35-14.

Rebel QB Matt Corral validated Kiffin’s decision to anoint him the starter over John Rhys Plummle, who did see a decent amount of action in the backfield, as the sophomore generated big plays with his arm and his legs throughout the game. Two first-half touchdowns to Dontario Drummond had the Rebels rolling and while attempting to climb back into the game late, his connection with Elijah Moore was undeniable. Moore finished with 10 catches and 227 yards. Outside of an interception that was tipped at the line of scrimmage, Corral’s final stat line was an impressive 22/31 for 395 and 3 TDs. Sophomore RB Jerrion Ealy led the way on the ground for the Rebels with 79 yards on 16 carries with one TD.

Defensively, the Rebels never found their footing, only getting to Trask once. The lack of a pass rush gave Trask time to pick apart an undermanned secondary. Pressure from DE Ryder Anderson did force an errant throw from Emory Jones leading to an A.J. Finley interception. With a chance to get the ball back to the Rebel offense with the score at 44-29, LB MoMo Sanogo was hit with a questionable roughing the passer call, which extended the Gator drive that would end with another Pitts TD.

If you had Florida -14, this game went down to the wire as the Rebels responded with a TD of their own and came up short on a 2-point conversion attempt. After a recovered onside kick, the Rebels were still in prime position for a backdoor cover, but a Corral pass fell at the feet of Jonathan Mingo as time expired.

Next week, the Rebels face their first SEC East foe as they travel to Kentucky. The Wildcats fell to Auburn in their season opener.

Tulane: 66 Southern Miss: 24

  • Story by JT Mitchell 

The Scotty Walden era at Southern Miss hasn’t gotten off to a very good start.

Last week, the Golden Eagles gave up a game-winning touchdown to Louisiana Tech with 14 seconds left in the ballgame, ultimately falling 31-30 to the Bulldogs, and today, Southern Miss (0-3) looked like a shell of that team, losing 66-24 to Tulane (2-1) in the historic “Battle for the Bell.”

The first half was much prettier than the second as Southern Miss got off to a quick 14-0 lead, in large part due to big plays from both Kendrick Perkins and Jason Brownlee, however, the lead wouldn’t last for long.

Two possessions later, Tulane got themselves on the board with a 2-yard rushing touchdown from Tyjae Spears.

After a couple of defensive stops, the Green Wave were able to tie things up with yet another touchdown from Spears.

Southern Miss bounced back, though, as senior quarterback Jack Abraham hit junior tight end Naricuss Driver for a 61-yard score, which would be the Golden Eagles’ final touchdown of the day.

The Tulane rushing offense was both phenomenal and unstoppable as Cameron Carroll and Stephon Huderson, two Mississippi natives, combined for 283 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. With scores from both Tyjae Harris and quarterback Michael Pratt, the Green Wave offense rushed for seven touchdowns in total.

Keon Howard, who transferred from Southern Miss in 2018, initially got the start at quarterback but was replaced by Pratt midway through the first quarter. Seemingly, the change at signal caller was a good choice by head coach Willie Fritz as Pratt finished the day with 182 total yards and four touchdowns.

For the Golden Eagles, Abraham completed 22 of 37 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns, despite the absence of All-Conference USA receiver Tim Jones, while Jason Brownlee led the depleted receiving corps with 110 yards and one touchdown.

After today’s unexpected performance by Southern Miss, the team will look to find its first win of the season next week against North Texas (1-1). It’s the first 0-4 start for the Golden Eagles since 2013.

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