Posted: Oct 5, 2013 11:10 PM by AP
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) - Zach Mettenberger surveyed the field with plenty of time to throw and then delivered a perfect spiral to Odell Beckham Jr., who stopped short of the sideline, spun inside and galloped 33 yards untouched for the touchdown.
It was the ninth and final time the two hooked up for a completion Saturday night. And it proved to be the knockout blow.
Mettenberger threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns, Beckham had 179 yards receiving and two TDs and No. 10 LSU blew past Mississippi State for a 59-26 victory.
It was obvious from the outset that Mississippi State's defense was loading the line of scrimmage to stop the run, daring LSU to throw. The Tigers obliged, grabbing big chunks of yards on the Bulldogs' defense.
"They were playing the run game a little bit hard," Beckham said. "I give all credit to Zach. He's been making all the right plays and all the right reads since the season began."
It was a tight game for three quarters, but Mettenberger's touchdown to Beckham gave LSU a 38-26 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter and Mississippi State couldn't respond.
LSU closed the game on a 31-0 run, including four touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Mettenberger completed 25 of 29 passes in another impressive performance during the senior's breakout season. Beckham was his favorite target - but Jarvis Landry also caught eight passes for 96 yards.
It was a nearly flawless performance, and helped erase some of the sting of last week's 44-41 loss to Georgia. But Mettenberger said there's still room for improvement.
"There was about two series that I'd like to have back where we took our foot off the gas," Mettenberger said. "We just have to keep playing. We know the potential our receivers have in practice and we just have to keep striving for excellence."
LSU's Jeremy Hill added 157 yards rushing and two touchdowns while Kenny Hilliard added 39 yards rushing and three touchdowns. The Tigers (5-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) have won 14 straight over Mississippi State (2-3, 0-2) dating back to 1999.
"Any time you've got a balanced offense, and they're concerned you're going to throw the football, they're not completely confident in the play they call on defense and you can take advantage of that," LSU coach Les Miles said.
LSU has a 21-1 record under Miles following a loss.
Mississippi State's Dak Prescott threw for 106 yards and rushed for 103 more. Jameon Lewis caught seven passes for 111 yards and a touchdown.
The Bulldogs' offense was good, especially early, but LSU's was even better.
The Tigers' receiver duo of Landry and Beckham was unstoppable, even when Mississippi State appeared to have good coverage, and Mettenberger found them early and often.
"They won just about every one-on-one battle on the edge," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said.
The Tigers finished with 563 total yards.
LSU needed all those yards, because the defense was gashed for a second straight week. The Tigers gave up nearly 500 yards last week in a loss to Georgia and Mississippi State had some early success on Saturday with a two-quarterback system.
Prescott started after two weeks of mystery. Mullen said senior Tyler Russell - who returned after missing three games due to a concussion - would be the starter after the team's win against Troy on Sept. 21, but waffled on that statement as the LSU game drew closer.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Prescott has been terrific in Russell's place, providing much more of a running threat. On the team's first offensive drive, he rewarded Mullen's confidence with a 28-yard touchdown run to pull the Bulldogs to 7-6.
Russell entered the game early in the second quarter and also had immediate success, throwing a 20-yard touchdown to Lewis to pull Mississippi State to 21-16 in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs took a 23-21 lead on Russell's 59-yard touchdown pass to De'Runnya Wilson, but LSU responded with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Mettenberger to Beckham to take a 28-23 lead into halftime.
Russell's second touchdown pass was the 39th of his career, which set a Mississippi State record. He finished 7 of 11 for 146 yards passing.
The teams combined for 608 total yards in the first half - 334 for LSU and 274 for Mississippi State.
LSU's defense tightened in the second half, giving up just three points.
"I thought we did a good job of battling for three quarters," Mullen said. "We just didn't finish."