Rapid Reaction: Stunning! Mississippi State the new LSU? Bulldogs' record-setting offense looks unstoppable in win
In a game with plenty of hype surrounding Mike Leach’s arrival in the SEC, and LSU’s national championship defense, those offenses got off to a slow start. But it didn’t take long for Leach to find some rhythm, and for K.J. Costello to put up some big numbers — in fact they re-wrote the record books.
In fact, he had 492 yards by early in the fourth quarter. It was a day when he set a new record for an opposing QB at Tiger Stadium after Rex Grossman held the previous mark in 2001 (464). Costello also set the conference record for single-game passing yards. By midway through the fourth quarter, he passed the 544 yards by Georgia’s Eric Zeier in 1993 against Southern Miss.
Costello threw his fifth touchdown pass of the game, this time to Osirus Mitchell for 24 yards with 3:39 left in the fourth quarter, and it was his third TD on third down and long. That helped ice the game for the Bulldogs 44-34.
Overall, Costello was 36-for-60 passing for 623 yards with five TDs and two interceptions.
Costello played a whale of a game but he had several turnovers, including early in the fourth quarter he was picked off by Eli Ricks. LSU made it stand up with a beautiful one-handed touchdown catch by Terrace Marshall in the back corner of the end zone.
Things appeared to unravel for the Bulldogs and Costello late as he gave up a fumble to JaCoby Stevens, his second of the day, when he tried to step up in the pocket after the Marshall score. That was Costello’s fourth turnover of the day, two fumbles and two interceptions. He later escaped a near-fumble after a review, and was flagged for intentional grounding.
Costello managed to set MSU for a field goal, and then got the ball back after LSU could not convert a third down and 3 that fell incomplete.
Stevens, remarkably, was the only starter from last year’s defense playing Saturday, had a huge game even by that point in the fourth quarter, with five tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
New LSU QB Myles Brennan got off to a slow start with just a couple of completions to Marshall in the first quarter as the Tigers were held scoreless. Ultimately, he was charged with just keeping up with Costello’s pace. It was the first time LSU hasn’t scored in a quarter since the third quarter of the Alabama game last year, and the first time LSU hasn’t scored in the first quarter since the Auburn win the week prior in 2019. Brennan was then sacked to open the second quarter.
At the end of the third quarter, in what became a frenetic back-and-forth battle, Brennan was hit on the arm and threw an interception.
By halftime, the LSU offense had five punts and 136 yards for the Tigers. But the story was the Mississippi State offense, which led by a field goal at the intermission, and the Bulldogs rang up 292 passing yards on the strength of 14 yards per completion on 36 attempts. State had five receivers with at least 30 yards. Those 292 yards were more than the Bulldogs had in a game through all of last season (238).
LSU star cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., arguably the best CB in the country, did not play in the game following a non-COVID reaction on Friday night that LSU said caused him to be “acutely ill” and hospitalized. His absence proved to be especially noticeable as coach Ed Orgeron said in a halftime interview with CBS Sports that the Tigers struggled with man-to-man coverage.
Late in the third quarter, MSU RB Kylin Hill caught a 75-pass from Costello as he had to leap to grab it, then race down the sideline for the one-play scoring drive. He side-stepped a would-be tackle from LSU for the score. It gave him five catches for 109 yards for the Bulldogs, and more importantly, a 27-24 lead.
Coming off the national championship season, this was a rude awakening from what many had become accustomed to with LSU. It’s the first time LSU trailed at halftime since Texas A&M in 2018.
Overall at halftime, MSU already had 303 total yards, Costello was 21-for-36 passing with 2 touchdowns.
It appeared that the Bulldogs would grab some offensive momentum in the second quarter, but a botched snap led to a fumble recovery by Stevens near midfield.
LSU’s Jabril Cox, a transfer from North Dakota State, picked off Costello to give LSU and Tiger Stadium a much-needed jolt of momentum, and a 7-3 lead. Cox undercut the receiver he was covering and grabbed the pass for a 14-yard touchdown.
It helped give life to LSU which had struggled on offense with just nine rushing yards and two first downs. But that momentum was short-lived as Costello led a six-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by a 31-yard pass to Tyrell Shavers in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
One of the first glimpses of life from the LSU offense in the first came from 5-star TE Arik Gilbert in the second quarter, who made a contested grab in the end zone. He bailed out Brennan who was back-pedaling and falling down when he unleashed the pass. It was a two-yard TD catch, but Gilbert earlier made a 16-yard catch on that scoring drive. With a 6-foot-5 and 249-pound frame, Gilbert is a huge target and a difficult matchup for opposing defenses.