BULL­DOGS

Starkville Daily News - - OUTDOORS -

Tigers in Starkville since 1999. MSU re­versed those for­tunes with one of its most dom­i­nant per­for­mances in re­cent mem­ory.

Funny thing was, it wasn't that big of a shock to the Bull­dogs them­selves.

“Any­one in­side that foot­ball fa­cil­ity this en­tire week, they would have never told you this would be called an up­set,” Fitzger­ald said. “We knew we were go­ing to be able to come out and play with them. We knew we could win if we played our game. We had no doubt in our mind we were go­ing to win this foot­ball game.”

While MSU play­ers and staff might not have been sur­prised, plenty of on­look­ers were. Vic­to­ries in this se­ries, par­tic­u­larly lop­sided ones in Mis­sis­sippi State's fa­vor, have been few and far be­tween.

In fact, never be­fore had one been seen like this. The 30-point win for the Bull­dogs was their largest mar­gin of vic­tory ever over the Tigers. The pre­vi­ous high was a 25-point, 25-0 win in Baton Rouge back in 1954.

On Satur­day, 63 years later, Mis­sis­sippi State was hav­ing its way against LSU all over again.

It all started shortly af­ter kick­off as the Bull­dogs be­gan as­sert­ing their dom­i­nance on the of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive lines. Though the game was score­less af­ter a quar­ter, MSU was send­ing signs it was in con­trol.

The Bull­dogs fi­nally cashed in early in the se­cond quar­ter. Fitzger­ald capped an eight-play, 65-yard drive with a 3-yard touch­down run for a 7-0 lead.

Though LSU an­swered right back with a touch­down drive of its own to tie the game, the Bull­dogs wouldn't be de­terred on this night.

Jace Christ­mann, who MSU head coach Dan Mullen made his kicker af­ter what Mullen dubbed a great week of prac­tice, hit a 30-yard field goal with 5:04 left in the first half. Fitzger­ald had an­other 3-yard touch­down run just be­fore the in­ter­mis­sion. Just like that, State was up 17-7.

The Bull­dogs poured on af­ter the break.

Christ­mann added his se­cond field goal, a 45-yarder, on State's first drive of the third quar­ter to push MSU's lead to 20-7. Then, 5 min­utes later, the Bull­dogs de­liv­ered what was seem­ingly the knock­out blow.

On a third-down-an­done play from the LSU 45yard line, Fitzger­ald faked a hand­off be­fore hit­ting a wide-open Keith Mixon for a score. Mixon had noth­ing but green grass around him as he caught the foot­ball and trot­ted into the end zone.

“It was a great play call by coach Mullen,” Mixon said. “We had been pound­ing it and pound­ing it. I knew it was go­ing to be wide open be­cause the safeties were com­ing down hard.

“I was just try­ing not to drop the pass I was so wide open.”

Davis Wade Sta­dium erupted with Mixon's score. The writ­ing looked to be on the wall that a Bull­dog win was im­mi­nent.

MSU put the game away with an­other Christ­mann field goal, this one a 27-yarder late in the third quar­ter, be­fore Fitzger­ald hit Ded­drick Thomas on a 20yard touch­down pass early in the fourth quar­ter for the ic­ing on the cake.

Fitzger­ald fin­ished with an ex­cel­lent night sta­tis­ti­cally. He threw for 180 yards and two touch­downs and was 15-of-23 through the air. Fitzger­ald also ran for 88 yards and two scores.

Aeris Wil­liams was State's big­gest rush­ing threat. He car­ried the ball 23 times for 146 yards.

Mixon led all MSU re­ceivers with six catches for 97 yards and a score.

“I thought (the of­fense) did an ex­cel­lent job,” Mullen said. “I thought they came out at a pretty high level. (LSU) had great tal­ent on the de­fen­sive line. We wanted to make sure we stayed bal­anced

so ex­e­cu­tion – be­ing able to run the ball, run­ning the ball on se­cond down and not mak­ing it a pass rush, haveto-throw-it game was huge for us.”

While State racked up yardage and points of­fen­sively, MSU de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Todd Gran­tham's unit put up its third-straight fan­tas­tic per­for­mance to open the sea­son. The Bull­dogs lim­ited LSU to just 270 to­tal yards. LSU con­verted on just three of its 13 third-downs.

“(LSU) has skilled play­ers on the out­side and I think on our back end, we did a great job of avoid­ing the big play,” Mullen said. “(LSU is) a run, play-ac­tion team and they ran the foot­ball with some phys­i­cal­ity, but us get­ting the lead got them out of their game plan.”

With State's of­fense click­ing and its de­fense dom­i­nant, the recipe was in place to cook up a big-time win of his­toric pro­por­tions.

There are more big games to come for MSU start­ing with next week's tilt at Georgia. That's next week though. In the here and now, the Bull­dogs are liv­ing large af­ter tam­ing the Tigers.

“It's amaz­ing,” Mixon said. “I'm pretty sure ev­ery­body had us down to lose with LSU so highly ranked. We were the underdog.

“This was a great win.”

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