The last time Mississippi State beat LSU in football, Boris Yeltsin was in charge of Russia, Bill Clinton was being acquitted in impeachment proceedings, the Euro and Napster had just come into being …
Well, you get the idea.
It’s been awhile — back before the turn of the century — since the Bulldogs last won, beating the Tigers 17-16 in Starkville, Miss., in 1999. LSU has won in each of the 13 succeeding seasons and won 20 times in the past 21 seasons.
As trends go, that’s a pretty strong one, though its significance might be lost on some of the players.
State coach Dan Mullen said he doubts any of his players even remember LSU stopping Tyson Lee on a fourth-and-goal quarterback keeper with a minute left to preserve the Tigers’ 30-26 win just four years ago.
“We have such a young team,” Mullen said, “all they know is what happened last year (a 37-17 LSU victory). We’re just trying to find a way to get a win this year.”
The Bulldogs (2-2, 0-1 in the Southeastern Conference) have had two weeks to try to figure out how to end the losing streak after having an open date last week.
The Tigers (4-1, 1-1) lost a 44-41 shootout at Georgia last week and dropped from No. 6 to No. 10 in The Associated Press poll. If LSU is going to remain in the Southeastern Conference title hunt and try to get back into the BCS conversation, it will have to start by extending this streak.
“I’m sure their coach is preaching to them that LSU might be feeling down after last week and this is their chance to get a win against a ranked SEC team, get their confidence back and get their program back on its feet,” Tigers defensive tackle Anthony Johnson said. “I think they’ll come in with a chip on their shoulder, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they came out and tried to punch us in the mouth.”
In recent seasons, Alabama has emerged as LSU’s biggest rival because the game usually has championship implications. Ole Miss remains a major rival as well even though the matchup rarely has the title implications it had in its heyday nearly a half a century ago.
But it’s Mississippi State that has been LSU’s most frequent rival over the years. These teams started meeting in 1896, and this will be the 107th meeting. The Tigers lead the series 70-33-3.
“We expect physical play,” LSU linebacker Lamin Barrow said. “Those guys come to play every game. It doesn’t matter what their record is when we play them, those guys play us the hardest.”
The Tigers’ latest winning streak in the series began with a 45-38 overtime win in Tiger Stadium in 2000. In its last visit to Starkville two years ago, LSU had to battle before winning 19-6.
Leaving aside those games and the 2009 game that featured the goal-line stand, the other 10 wins during the streak have come by an average margin of 30 points.
“They have something to be fired up about, and they’ll be ready for us,” Tigers center Elliott Porter said. “Everybody comes to play us, and I’d be disappointed if everybody didn’t come to play us. That’s what we want. We want good competition. It wouldn’t be any fun if it wasn’t.”
State senior quarterback Tyler Russell has been cleared to play for the first time since suffering a concussion in the season opener five weeks ago. Mullen said he plans to start Russell, though it’s likely he’ll also play sophomore Dak Prescott, who started in Russell’s absence.
They’ll be facing an LSU defense that was abused by Georgia last week. Those Bulldogs ran for 196 yards, and Aaron Murray passed for four touchdowns as the Tigers failed to get a sack or even generate meaningful pressure. The defensive woes were magnified by communications breakdowns in the secondary.
“Those kinds of things are gone over and gone over and gone over,” LSU coach Les Miles said.
“We’re optimistic that those things won’t repeat.”
State, meanwhile, is second in the SEC in total defense (310 yards per game), third in scoring defense (14.8 points per game) and passing defense (189.8), and fourth in rushing defense (120.2).
But the Bulldogs haven’t faced an offense as prolific as LSU’s, which is third in scoring (42.8), fourth in passing (281.8), fifth in total offense (474) but 11th in rushing (192.2) after totaling just 77 yards against Georgia.