BATON ROUGE, La. (MSU Athletics) – The Mike Leach era of Mississippi State football was ushered in on Saturday afternoon as a record-setting day for K.J. Costello propelled the Bulldogs over the defending National Champions, No. 6 LSU, 44-34, at Tiger Stadium.
The win marked the first time a defending national champion lost its season opener since 1998 and snapped the longest active win streak in the country (16 games). It was also MSU’s highest-ranked road win in program history. The Bulldogs (1-0), came away with just their second win in Baton Rouge since 1992.
“[Costello’s] performance ranks really high when you consider playing at LSU versus the defending National Champion,” head coach Mike Leach said. “I thought his composure was outstanding. Our team – offensively, defensively and on special teams – had each other’s backs. We had our share of adversity and slugged through it. Everybody was in there and stuck with one another, and that was maybe one of the strong parts of our team. K.J. performed as good as anybody I’ve ever dealt with. He came out swinging, was composed and didn’t force things.”
State grabbed their first lead of the game near the end of the first quarter, when a 12-play 66-yard drive culminated in a Brandon Ruiz 35-yard field goal.
The lead would change four times in the second quarter, with the Bulldogs landing on top heading into the locker room. With 5:20 on the clock, Kylin Hill scampered 12 yards to the MSU 37-yard line before Costello found Osirus Mitchell from 43 yards out, giving the Bulldogs a 17-14 advantage.
The Tigers’ largest lead came in the third quarter, when Myles Brennan connected with Terrace Marshall on a 37-yard pass for a 24-20 lead.
A 75-yard strike from Costello to Hill on the ensuing drive was all it took for the Maroon and White to regain the lead. With the score even at 34-34 in the fourth, a Ruiz 43-yard field goal and Mitchell’s 24-yard touchdown reception gave the Bulldogs the lead for good.
On LSU’s (0-1) final drive of the game, Emmanuel Forbes intercepted Myles Brennan’s pass in the endzone to secure the victory for State.
Shawn Preston Jr. led the Bulldogs with 11 tackles, ignited by six solo stops. Aaron Brule and Erroll Thompson followed with 10 tackles and one sack a piece. Mississippi State racked up seven sacks, including two contributed by Marquiss Spencer for a loss of 10 yards.
10 Notables From MSU’s Win Over LSU…
- K.J. Costello’s Record-Setting Day
It didn’t take long for Costello to find his groove in Leach’s air raid offense, as the quarterback shattered the single-game passing yards school record and SEC record in his first game in Maroon and White. The Rancho Santa Margarita, California, native threw for a career-high 623 yards and five touchdowns for the Bulldogs
That was enough to break MSU’s single game passing yard record, previously set by Dak Prescott, who racked up 508 yards against Arkansas on Nov. 21, 2015. Costello became the 11th quarterback in SEC history to pass for 500 yards as he set the SEC single game passing yard record. The graduate transfer completed 36 passes on 60 attempts, which are also MSU school records.
- Trio of Recievers with 100-yards
Three Bulldog recievers recorded 100-yard games, led by Mitchell, who racked up 183 yards and a pair of touchdowns, matching his career high. Mitchell’s 183 yards was the most by a State receiver against LSU in school history.
Hill and JaVonta Payton set career highs in catches and yardage. Hill tallied eight receptions for 158 yards and one score, while Payton caught six passes for 122 yards. Hill fueled State’s rushing attack with 34 yards on seven carries.
It was the first time MSU multiple 100-yard receivers since Donald Gray (207) and Fred Ross (107) did so against Samford on Oct. 29, 2016. Mitchell, Hill and Payton make up the second trio in program history to crack the century mark, with Joe Morrow (117), De’Runnya Wilson (105) and Fred Ross (102) completing the feat for the first time in the 2014 Orange Bowl vs. Georgia Tech on Dec. 31.
- State’s Takeaway Run Continues
MSU has collected at least one takeaway in 27 of their last 30 games dating back to the 2017 season at Arkansas on Nov. 18. State has compiled 60 takeaways over the 29-game stretch. Forbes and Esaias Furdge each intercepted a pass against the Tigers.
- Big Plays Played a Big Role
State finished the game with 16 plays of 20 or more yards, all through the air. The Bulldogs had eight such plays in the first half alone, which surpassed their game total from all but one game in 2019. MSU posted nine 20-yard plays against Arkansas last year (6 passing, 3 rushing).
- Erroll Thompson Leads SEC In Tackles
Senior Erroll Thompson is the SEC active career leader with 227 tackles, including 10 in Saturday’s contest. Thompson also picked up a key sack on third down in the third quarter, which forced the Tigers to settle for a game-tying field goal.
- Bringing the Pressure
The Bulldogs posted seven sacks, the program’s highest single-game total since the 2015 Egg Bowl when State sacked the Ole Miss quarterback seven times. MSU has now recorded at least four sacks in four straight games dating back to Nov. 23, 2019.
- Starting Fast
MSU put up points on its second drive of the game before adding touchdowns on consecutive drives in the second quarter.
On the defensive side, State held the Tigers scoreless in the first quarter. LSU went scoreless in just three total quarters during their 2019 championship season. The Bulldogs forced punts on the first four Tiger drives of the day.
- Career Days
Several wide receivers set new career highs in their first game under Leach’s Air Raid offense. Payton set career highs in receptions (6) and yardage (122) with a new career long (34). Cameron Gardner caught multiple passes for the first time, including a career-long 24-yard reception, on his way to a career-best 35 yards. Austin Williams finished with seven catches, besting his previous mark of three. He caught the sixth touchdown of his career and posted a career-high 57 yards.
- The New Kids are Alright
Along with Costello’s record-setting day, several newcomers made a statement in their first action in the Maroon and White. Jordan Davis had a key hit on the quarterback that led to Furdge’s interception while totalling six tackles. Forbes intercepted the final pass of the game. Tyrus Wheat picked up his first career sack and finished with four tackles.
Ruiz had a perfect kicking day, nailing five extra points and hitting field goals from 24, 35 and 43 yards out. Transfer Tyrell Shavers caught the second pass of his career, and first at MSU, for a 31-yard touchdown before adding a second reception.
In all 16 players made their Bulldog debuts.
- Wrap in it Maroon and White… Finally
The win was MSU’s first in any sport since March 11 (199 days). The last Bulldog victories also came on the road when baseball defeated No. 2 Texas Tech, 3-2, and softball defeated Southern Miss, 7-2.
Next Up for MSU…
Mississippi State opens its home schedule next Saturday when it hosts Arkansas at 6:30 p.m. CT in Davis Wade Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network’s Alternate channel and available online through the WatchESPN platform.