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blacksaint 08-31-2007 01:33 PM

MSU Football: Picked Clean
Tigers intercept Henig record-tying 6 times, devour Bulldogs

By Kyle Veazey

STARKVILLE — Shortly after Michael Henig threw his fifth interception of the night, the Mississippi State quarterback ambled to a sideline chair, slumped in it, and picked up the phone to the coaches upstairs.

What the LSU fans in the northeast corner of Scott Field were already singing pretty much summed up what was left of his night: Na na na na, hey hey hey, good-bye.

A year after two injuries ruined his sophomore season, the junior ominously opened what was supposed to be a comeback year, tying a school-record with six interceptions in the Bulldogs' 45-0 loss to No. 2 LSU in front of an announced 50,112 at Scott Field and a national television audience who watched ESPN's opening Thursday night college football telecast.

"We're disappointed, our players are disappointed, especially for us ending up with the final score like that," MSU coach Sylvester Croom said. "A lot of that comes from turning over the football."

For the second straight season, Mississippi State opened with a Thursday night home game on the ESPN, and for the second straight season, the Bulldogs were shut out.

Last year, it was South Carolina.

This year, it was by a powerful LSU team that the Bulldogs' defense kept out of the end zone until midway through the second quarter.

But eventually, Jacob Hester's rushing, Matt Flynn's passing and scrambling and Early Doucet's nine clutch receptions were too much for the Bulldogs, who lost their eighth straight Southeastern Conference opener.

MSU's seven turnovers was the most since the eight it committed in a 52-6 loss to Arkansas in 2003.

LSU held State to just 10 yards rushing on 26 carries. And for Henig, the Tigers' much-heralded defense showed no mercy.

LSU scored on the ensuing drive after every one of his interceptions, the backbreaker most likely coming late in the second quarter after Mississippi State had made another defensive stop.

With State down just 10-0 and with the ball with 1:43 left before halftime, Curtis Taylor intercepted a Henig pass on the first play of the Bulldog drive at the LSU 37-yard line and returned it 22 yards to the Mississippi State 41.

Eight plays later, Keiland Williams ran for a 1-yard touchdown, giving LSU a 17-0 lead as the halftime buzzer sounded.

Henig's six picks - three of which were made by LSU senior safety Craig Steltz - were the most a Mississippi State quarterback has thrown since Max Stainbrook threw six in a 19-0 loss at Cincinnati in 1949.

Most recently, Kevin Fant threw five in a 42-35 loss at Houston in 2003.

Thursday's game was supposed to be a stage for Henig's offseason improvement to show. Henig and coaches alike had touted his offseason workout regimen, his growing maturity and an increased knowledge of the West Coast Offense.

But against the Tigers, Henig, a career 44-percent passer, continued to struggle with his accuracy. And it cost the Bulldogs dearly.

He finished 11-for-28, throwing for 120 yards. Croom said he was impressed with how his team's offensive line handled the challenge from LSU's defensive front, especially early.

But, he said, "we just missed some opportunities throwing and catching."

As for Henig, "he's the first to admit he wasn't playing well," Croom said. "There's not a whole lot to say. It's pretty obvious."

Freshman Wesley Carroll, who became Henig's backup after Josh Riddell was suspended after being arrested and charged with driving under the influence earlier this month, played much of the fourth quarter and went 3-for-5 for 16 yards.

The Tigers are a popular preseason pick to be among the two teams playing for the national championship in New Orleans in January, and they showed why.

Quarterback Flynn, in his first starting role since subbing masterfully in the 2005 Peach Bowl, completed 12-of-19 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

Flynn showed his other dynamic, too, by rushing 11 times for 42 yards.

LSU's attention turns to No. 9 Virginia Tech, which will visit Tiger Stadium next week.

But the Tigers also continued their domination of the Bulldogs, having won 15 of the last 16 meetings and eight straight.

Since 2001, LSU has outscored Mississippi State by a combined 294-43, a seven-game span that includes three shutouts.

MSU Football: Picked Clean -The Clarion-Ledger- Real Mississippi

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