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.