By DANNY P. SMITH
It was like a good heavyweight boxing match between two Southeastern Conference football teams for three quarters Thursday night.
When it came down to who had the most fight, the Mississippi State Bulldogs just didn't have enough punch.
The LSU Tigers did enough in Starkville to come away with a 19-6 victory in front of 56,924 fans at Davis Wade Stadium and many more watching on ESPN.
MSU showed it had what it took to stay with the No. 3 squad in the country for most of the game, but appeared to wear down in the latter stages.
The Bulldogs are still not where they need to be to defeat the teams the caliber of what they faced the last two weeks.
"Their guys made plays and we didn't," MSU football coach Dan Mullen said. "We played tough and played physical, but we were just not able to make the key plays during the game."
The biggest blow from LSU came with 11:56 remaining to go in the fourth quarter when quarterback Jarrett Lee found Rueben Randle with a 19-yard touchdown pass to increase the lead to 16-6.
That play seemed to take the crowd out of the game and let the wind out of the Bulldogs sails.
It was evident that MSU wasn't going to have enough offensively to get back into the game at that point.
Morris Claiborne got his second interception of the night for the Tigers, one each of MSU quarterbacks Chris Relf and Tyler Russell, with 5 minutes left in the game, to start sending some of the fans to the exits.
The Bulldogs only had 52 yards rushing in the game and never looked like the team that was the top producing running game in the SEC coming in.
Vick Ballard, who was productive in MSU's first two games of the season, was not a factor with only 38 yards on 10 carries. Relf just had 10 net yards on the ground.
When the Bulldogs had to resort to the passing game, it just wasn't consistent enough.
Tight end Marcus Green was the leading receiver for MSU with 46 yards and that's just not good enough. Chad Bumphis is supposed to be an electric player in this offense and he's just not getting it done right now.
"Our playmakers have to be playmakers," Mullen said.
The Bulldogs are in the exact same position this season as they were at this time last year with a 1-2 record and both losses coming to Tiger teams of the SEC West.
Can MSU shake the cobwebs and come back with another solid season? We will find out in eight days when the Bulldogs take on Louisiana Tech at home.
Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.