Loss to Miss St. yields QB questions for LSU

LSU wide receiver Malachi Dupre (15) pulls in a touchdown reception in front of Mississippi State defensive back Jamerson Love (5) to pull within five points in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014
Gerald Herbert

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) In LSU's worst game of this young season, reserve quarterback Brandon Harris looked better than ever in the little playing time he had.

The freshman's stirring performance in the dying minutes of a humbling 34-29 loss to Mississippi State begged the question of what might have been if the young quarterback with the big arm had more snaps. And with the Tigers sliding from a No. 8 ranking down to No. 17 this week, it sounds like coach Les Miles is considering that question seriously.

''He definitely gave a strong performance when he came in,'' Miles said. ''We are still going to look at the overall body of work and the things that we can do with him.''

Mississippi State, which went from unranked up to No. 14 in the AP Poll on Sunday, appeared to have LSU down for the count when the Bulldogs kicked a field goal to make it 34-10 early in the fourth quarter. Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott was having his way with an LSU defense plagued by communication problems and missed assignments in giving up 10 plays of 20-yards or more, including touchdowns of 74 and 56 yards.

But just inside the final two minutes, Harris found fellow freshman Malachi Dupre for touchdowns of 31 and 30 yards in a span of just 27 seconds. The first score capped a 95-yard drive that took only 1:48 as Harris also hit on passes of 19, 13 and 25 yards while mixing in a 7-yard run. The second score came just two plays after the Bulldogs fumbled in their own territory.

Unable to recover an onside kick with 1:27 to go, LSU still got the ball back on its own 20 with 20 seconds left after a punt through the end zone. Harris quickly found Travin Dural for a 22-yard gain and then scrambled 12 yards before spiking the ball to stop the clock with about 5 seconds to go - enough time to roll out and launch a Hail Mary attempt.

Will Redmond's interception at the goal line as time ran out finally ended the threat and secured the Bulldogs' first victory over LSU since 1999, and first triumph in Death Valley since 1991.

''Give us a couple more yards, a couple more seconds and I don't know that we wouldn't have won that game,'' Miles said. ''That's just maybe a coach being very optimistic.''

Jennings had been solid under center for the first three games, hitting just enough key passes for a comeback victory over Wisconsin before cruising through a pair of lopsided victories against overmatched Sam Houston State and Louisiana-Monroe.

Against, Mississippi State, however, Jennings was under constant pressure an appeared hurt after Ethan Pocic, a fill-in starter at right guard, didn't pick up stunting defensive end Preston Smith, who stormed into the backfield unabated for a jarring sack.

Jennings returned and played into the fourth quarter, but through the first three quarters, LSU had only 211 total yards, including 98 passing, and accounted for only a field goal as the Tigers fell behind 31-10.

Jennings finished 13 of 26 for 157 yards and no touchdowns. He was also sacked three times and took some heavy hits on designed quarterback runs, and Miles indicated that Jennings' blockers hadn't done him a lot of favors when he noted that a lack of ''protection is something that makes every quarterback struggle.''

New Orleans couldn't run the ball much either, for that matter, finishing with 89 yards.

LSU players were predictably diplomatic in their assessment of the quarterback situation.

''Brandon made some plays, and that is what is expected of him,'' Dural said. ''Coach Miles has done a great job on letting those two guys have a week of practice to see who's ready. I can't say if Brandon should get a starting job.

''Every week we go to practice, and those two guys battle,'' Dural added. ''Whichever one looks like they have the most talent and the coaches feel are most prepared will earn a starting spot.''

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