LSU’s defense gets back on the ball

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Somewhere along the way, LSU’s defense stopped the bleeding.

A week after being nearly defenseless in a 44-41 loss at Georgia, the Tigers let Mississippi State drive to three touchdowns and a field goal on its first five possessions Saturday night in Davis Wade Stadium.

But, unlike a week earlier, the LSU defense found a tourniquet, allowing just three points in the final eight possessions of a 59-26 victory.

“Honestly, we got going a little slow,” defensive tackle Anthony Johnson said. “But we went in there at halftime and said, ‘You know what? It stops here.’ We came out and played our tails off.”

But the early going looked a lot like the Georgia game as the Tigers gave up 23 points and 274 yards in the first half:

State’s first possession lasted just three plays, and a pair of 28-yard runs produced a touchdown.

The Bulldogs’ second possession featured a 22-yard run, but LSU stiffened enough to force a field goal.

Their third possession featured runs of 20 and 15 yards and two 20-yard completions, including a touchdown.

The Tigers got their first stop on the next possession when Ronald Martin broke up a pass on fourth-and-11 at the LSU 36.

But State bounced back on its next possession when Tyler Russell threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to De’Runnya Wilson.

Johnson credited defensive coordinator John Chavis for making some corrections at halftime, though it took a few minutes before there was any evidence of improvement.

On the second play of the third quarter, State’s Dak Prescott threw a 19-yard pass to Jameon Lewis to midfield. Prescott’s 11-yard run and LaDarius Perkins’ 32-yard carry gave the Bulldogs a first down at the LSU 7.

But then LSU gave an indication of what was to come: It stopped Perkins for no gain and held Prescott to 2 yards before an incompletion led to a field goal that proved to be State’s final points.

The Bulldogs moved from their 25 to the Tigers 25 on their next possession, but LSU stopped them again. Prescott ran for 3 yards, Perkins ran for 1 and Prescott threw an incompletion before Devon Bell missed a 42-yard field goal.

After that, Tre’Davious White intercepted Prescott, State turned the ball over on downs at the LSU 34, Lamar Louis recovered a Russell fumble and the clock expired as State finished with 194 second-half yards.

Coach Les Miles noted the stops and praised the defense for improvement without proclaiming it fixed.

In the second half, the Tigers cut down on big plays, pressured the quarterback, trusted their depth and made some big plays of their own, including the two takeaways. After failing to sack or even pressure Georgia’s Aaron Murray, LSU got three sacks and periodic pressure against State.

The Tigers began the game with two starters — linebacker Tahj Jones (hamstring) and safety Craig Loston (groin) — left behind in Baton Rouge because of injury. Kwon Alexander started in Jones’ place, made four tackles and had a quarterback hurry. Thompson tied for the team lead with six tackles and had a game-high three pass break-ups.

Johnson had his top performance of the season, getting a sack and another tackle for loss among his five tackles.

Lamin Barrow and Christian LaCouture split the other two sacks.