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Muffed punt, fourth-quarter explosion propel LSU to 31-16 victory over Mississippi State in SEC opener

A muffed punt in the third quarter turned the tide for the Tigers as they opened conference play with a 31-16 win over Mississippi State Saturday night.
Credit: AP
LSU running back Armoni Goodwin (22) runs on the way to a touchdown during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against Mississippi State in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. LSU won 31-16. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)

BATON ROUGE, La. — It was a tale of two halves for LSU in their SEC opener at home against Mississippi State on Saturday night, but a fourth-quarter explosion propelled the Tigers to a 31-16 victory.

The first half was full of failed third-down conversions, missed opportunities and lots of punting. In the second half, the Tigers' offense came alive and dominated thanks to high-tempo play calling

While the Tigers' defense played well from the start, quarterback Jayden Daniels struggled to move the chains for most of the first two quarters, putting the Tigers in a 13-0 hole.

It wasn't until the last two minutes of the second quarter, when LSU's offense started to play at a much higher tempo, that Daniels was able to lead a 75-yard drive that ended with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Jaray Jenkins to narrow the deficit to six points.

In the third quarter, both teams traded field goals, putting the score at 16-10. And in the quarter's waning minutes, a key sequence gave the Tigers the momentum swing they needed.

After a Tigers drive stalled out at midfield, LSU punted to the Bulldogs' nine-yard line. But the Bulldogs' returner muffed the punt and the Tigers recovered the ball in the red zone, giving them a prime opportunity to score. 

LSU's offense hadn't converted on a third down all night. But on third-and-goal, Daniels took matters into his own hands and ran in for a three-yard score, giving LSU a 17-16 lead.

Mississippi State went three-and-out on their next drive. Daniels marched down the field with a series of clutch throws, four of which were caught by Malik Nabers, who finished the game with six catches and 76 yards. Josh Williams punched in a rushing touchdown to make it 24-16.

After another Bulldogs punt, LSU would effectively ice the game on their next drive as Armoni Williams broke free for a 47-yard touchdown run with under five minutes left to put the Tigers up 31-16.

Daniels would finish the game 22-37 for 210 yards and one passing touchdown while rushing 16 times for 93 yards and one score.

LSU improves to 2-1 on the season and 1-0 in conference play. Their next game is against New Mexico on Saturday, September 24 at 6:30 p.m. at Tiger Stadium.

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