Mississippi State at LSU

Fournette returns, No. 20 LSU defeats Miss St., 23-20

By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer
  •  

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) Leonard Fournette's bruised left ankle didn't stop him from exhibiting his usual mix of hard-nosed and explosive runs. His fumbles, however, gave Mississippi State the breaks it needed to turn a game that had the makings of a comfortable LSU victory into a rather tense affair.

Fournette rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns, and the 20th-ranked Tigers withstood the Bulldogs' late rally for a 23-20 victory on Saturday night.

''We're fortunate it finished like it did,'' LSU coach Les Miles said. ''It's a great lesson for us.''

Danny Etling completed 19 of 30 passes for 215 yards in his first start for LSU (2-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference), including a 37-yard touchdown strike to D.J. Chark.

''I continue to get more and more comfortable with the first team guys,'' Etling said.

Fournette, who sat out last week's victory over Jacksonville State, ran over tacklers for his 5-yard TD and burst into open field for his 25-yard score. He also had four receptions for 27 yards. He did not speak with media after the game, but his teammates sounded pleased to have him back.

''The thing about Leonard is that he is a nice comfort for anyone running this offense and it was great to be in the backfield with a back of his caliber,'' Etling said. ''You know if you can get him the ball that he is going to make some plays for the offense and that in turn makes your job easier as the quarterback.''

Yet Fournette's performance was somewhat tarnished by his two fumbles, one of which was recovered by the Bulldogs and one of which resulted in a failed fourth-and-short play in MSU territory in the fourth quarter. And it was that turnover on downs that sparked the Bulldogs' late rally with backup Damian Williams at quarterback.

If the Tigers had converted that fourth-and-1 play, Miles said, ''it's just a walk in the park at that point.''

Instead, the Tigers gave up touchdowns with 4:10 and 3:30 left, the second after the Bulldogs (1-2, 1-1) recovered an onside kick.

The Bulldogs then forced a punt after three plays, but Josh Growden's booming, 61-yard boot pinned MSU at its own 23, and Arden Key's second sack of the game forced a fumble that Davon Godchaux recovered to seal the victory.

''We were pretty shocked. I felt like we kind of let our foot off of the gas toward the end and it almost cost us,'' Key said. ''But when we needed to, we stiffened and made the play.''

QB CHANGE: Nick Fitzgerald, whose 195 yards on the ground against South Carolina a week earlier set a school record for QB rushing, struggled against LSU. He was held to 13 yards rushing and completed 12 of 24 passes for 120 yards. Fitzgerald was forced to the sideline for at least a play when his helmet popped off in the fourth quarter. Williams came on and converted a fourth-and-4 play with a 24-yard pass to Donald Gray, setting up MSU's first TD on Williams' 1-yard run.

Two plays after MSU's onside kick recovery at the LSU 32, Williams hit Fred Ross for a 7-yard touchdown.

''We were in our two-minute offense so we didn't want to sub him out,'' MSU coach Dan Mullen said. ''He looked like he was hot so we just kept going.''

Mullen, added, however, that Fitzgerald will remain the starter going forward.

STRONG START

Etling gave LSU an early lead by lofting a perfect pass to Chark in the back of the end zone, and Fournette made it 14-0 when he powered into the end zone from the 5.

Fournette raced through a big hole into the open field for his 25-yard TD that made it 20-0, and the Tigers led 23-3 at halftime.

LINE SHUFFLE)

A spate of apparently minor injuries forced LSU to play eight offensive lineman, with center Ethan Pocic switching to tackle.

''When stuff like that happens, it's not going to be perfect, but I thought we played physical, Pocic said. ''We were ready.''

Four linemen limped off the field at various times: guards Josh Boutte and Will Clapp, as well as tackles Toby Weathersby and K.J. Malone

THE TAKEAWAY

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs relatively youthful and inexperienced squad needs a little more maturity to beat the top teams in the SEC.

LSU: Fournette is fine, the Tigers' running game is finding its rhythm and Etling is getting more comfortable leading the offense as LSU begins to build momentum.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

LSU: The Tigers were favored by about two TDs over Mississippi State, so a close victory won't help them climb much higher in the AP Top 25 Poll.

UP NEXT

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs travel up to New England to visit Massachusetts next Saturday.

LSU: The Tigers head to the plains of eastern Alabama next Saturday to visit their namesake SEC West rivals, the Auburn Tigers.

----

AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC is strictly prohibited.
 
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Scoreboard
Mississippi State  (1-2)0331420
LSU #20  (2-1) «1490023
Players of the Game
Tigers

L. Fournette
Rush 28
Yds 147
Avg 5.2
TD 2
Bobcats

D. Williams
Att 8
Comp 5
Yds 94
TD 1
Scoring Summary
LSUD.J. Chark 37 yd pass from Danny Etling (Colby Delahoussaye kick)
LSULeonard Fournette 5 yd run (Colby Delahoussaye kick)
LSULeonard Fournette 25 yd run (blocked XP)
MISSSTWestin Graves 41 yd FG
LSUColby Delahoussaye 27 yd FG
MISSSTWestin Graves 37 yd FG
MISSSTDamian Williams 1 yd run (Westin Graves kick)
MISSSTFred Ross 7 yd pass from Damian Williams (Westin Graves kick)
 
Team Stats
 MISSSTLSU
First Downs1422
Third Down Efficiency1-147-16
Fourth Down Efficiency3-40-1
Plays-Net Yards64-27071-392
Rushes-Yds32-5639-177
Passing Yds214215
Kick Return Yds4087
Punt Return Yds19
Passes17-32-019-32-0
Punts7-2715-246
Fumbles-Lost2-12-1
Penalties-Yds5-357-56
Time of Poss.27:1632:44
 
Individual Stats
RUSHING
MISSST: Ashton Shumpert 6-34, Brandon Holloway 5-15, Nick Fitzgerald 13-13, Aeris Williams 2-4, Keith Mixon 1-4, Team 1--2, Damian Williams 3--5, Fred Ross 1--7
LSU: Leonard Fournette 28-147, Danny Etling 3-23, Derrius Guice 5-19, Team 1--4, D.J. Chark 2--8
PASSING
MISSST: Nick Fitzgerald 12-24-120-0, Damian Williams 5-8-94-0
LSU: Danny Etling 19-30-215-0, Leonard Fournette 0-1-0-0, Malachi Dupre 0-1-0-0
RECEIVING
MISSST: Fred Ross 6-89, Donald Gray 3-86, Brandon Holloway 2-14, Aeris Williams 2-11, Jordan Thomas 2-7, Gabe Myles 1-7, Keith Mixon 1-0
LSU: Malachi Dupre 4-54, Travin Dural 4-40, Leonard Fournette 4-27, D.J. Chark 3-52, J.D. Moore 2-9, Foster Moreau 1-18, Derrius Guice 1-15
 
Standings
TeamStandingsConferenceOverall
Mississippi State5th SEC West3-56-7
LSU2nd SEC West5-38-4

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