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LSU slips past Mississippi State despite sputtering second half

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Despite the constant clanging of a world record-setting throng of cowbells and a furious Mississippi State comeback, LSU squeaked out its first win of the season 21-19 over No. 25 Mississippi State (1-1, 0-1 SEC).

Devon Bell's missed 52-yard field goal attempt as time expired clinched an ugly win the for the Tigers (1-0, 1-0 SEC) in their first official game of the season.

The Tigers can thank sensational sophomore Leonard Fournette for their victory. He rushed for three of the Tigers' touchdowns and had 99 second-half yards.

After having their opener against McNeese State cancelled by severe weather, the Tigers rushed to a quick 14-0 lead behind two Fournette scores. Quarterback Brandon Harris, who was making his first start since last year's disaster of a starting debut at Auburn, began the game by completing his first four passes for 65 yards.

Mississippi State's defense kept the Tigers in check for most of the game from the second quarter on and allowed just 56 yards on LSU's next five drives, until Fournette lumbered in for an 18-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to make it 21-6.

Despite a valiant effort by Mississippi State's defense in the second half, it was too little too late for the Bulldogs, who scored on four of their last six drives.

What the win means for LSU: The Tigers not only start the season with a win but also start SEC play with a victory in an incredibly hostile environment. The Tigers' offense was stagnant for most of the second half, but players got to shake some of the rust off in a huge opening win that will jumpstart conference play and give Harris some much-needed confidence and momentum going into next week's Auburn game. I'm sure he has had this game circled for a while.

What the loss means for Mississippi State: The good news is Mississippi State looked like a much better team in this loss than in the win over Southern Miss last week. The offense took too long to get going, but what was impressive was how aggressive the defense was. The Bulldogs allowed an average of 14.3 yards on LSU's 10 non-scoring drives. A week earlier, Mississippi State allowed 413 yards and 5.2 yards per play.

Player of the game: Fournette was LSU's best player all night. Besides the three rushing touchdowns (1 yard, 26 yards and 18 yards), Fournette led all rushers with a career-high 159 yards on a career-high 28 carries. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry.

Um, what?: The Tigers went from throwing with Harris in the first half to completely getting away from it in the second half. Harris was 5-of-8 for 56 yards in the first half, but he threw just six more times in the second and finished with nine completions for 71 yards. Mississippi State ate up LSU's conservative approach and dominated the Tigers up front for most of the last two quarters.