BATON ROUGE -- Leonard Fournette had 147 rushing yards and scored twice and first-time starting quarterback Danny Etling threw for 215 yards, as LSU built a 20-point lead before holding off a rally by Mississippi State, 23-20.
LSU (2-1, 1-0 SEC) led 23-3 after dominating the first 30 minutes of play. The Tigers held a 282-80 advantage in total offense in the first half.
Mississippi State (1-2, 1-1 SEC) used an onside kick recovery to score twice in 40 seconds late in the fourth quarter. However, LSU linebacker Arden Key came up with LSU's fifth sack of the night and forced a fumble to seal the victory.
Etling, a junior transfer from Purdue, completed 19-of-30 passes for 215 yards with a touchdown. He wasn't sacked, ran for 23 yards on three carries, and didn't throw an interception. He became the 13th-straight Tiger quarterback to win his first start in Tiger Stadium.
Fournette ran 28 times for 17 yards with touchdown runs of 5 and 25 yards in the first half.
LSU outgained Mississippi State, 392-270, while converting 7-of-16 third downs. The Bulldogs managed only 1-of-14 third-down conversions.
Mississippi State was led by starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who played into the fourth quarter before Danian Williams led the comeback effort. Fitzgerald was 12-of-24 passing for 120 yards, while Williams was 5-of-8 for 94 yards with a touchdown passing and rushing.
On the ground, LSU outgained the Bulldogs, 177-56.
LSU grabbed a 7-0 lead at the 9:28 mark of the first quarter when Etling hit wide receiver D.J. Chark on a 37-yard touchdown connection in the back of the north endzone. The aerial culminated a seven-play, 64-yard drive and marked Chark's first career TD reception.
A 65-yard punt by LSU's Josh Growden with 4:29 left in first quarter pinned MSU back at its own 2-yard line. The LSU defense force the Bulldogs to punt from the back of their own endzone, and the Tigers took over at the MSU 46-yard line.
LSU took advantage of its field position and reached paydirt on seven plays, as the march was capped by a 5-yard touchdown run by Fournette, his first of the season. The drive appeared to end on a 35-yard field goal by Colby Delahoussaye, but Mississippi State was penalized for running into the kicker, allowing LSU to maintain possession and take a 14-0 advantage.
Fournette dashed 25 yards for a touchdown with 8:25 remaining in the second quarter to give the Tigers a 20-0 lead after Delahoussaye's PAT attempt was blocked. The score finished an 82-yard, 11-play march and increased Fournette's rushing total to 77 yards on just 11 carries, an average of seven yards per carry midway through the first half.
MSU drove to the LSU 20-yard line before the Tiger defense stiffened, and Mississippi State kicker Westin Graves connected on 41-yard field goal with 3:31 left in the half to narrow the deficit to 20-3. The three-pointer capped a 58-yard, nine-play march as Graves made his fifth field goal in seven attempts this season.
LSU responded with a 68-yard, 12-play drive capped by Delahoussaye's 27-yard field goal, the 25th field goal of the junior kicker's career.
The Tigers completed the first half with a 282-80 advantage in total yardage and a 16-5 edge in first downs. Etling was 14-of-20 for 172 yards and a touchdown, and Fournette rushed for 90 yards on 16 carries.
Graves hit a 37-yard field goal at the 6:41 mark of the third quarter, reducing the deficit to 23-6 and culminating a 40-yard, 12-play drive.
Late in the fourth quarter, LSU was stopped inches short of a first down at the Mississippi State 34-yard line. Fitzgerald was forced to leave the game when his helmet came off, and reserve Damien Williams entered to lead the Bulldogs to their first touchdown of the evening. His 24-yard pass to Donald Gray on fourth-and-4 kept the drive alive, and a 27-yard pass to Ross gave the Bulldogs first-and-goal at the LSU 3. Two plays later, Williams ran for a 1-yard touchdown.
Mississippi State trailed 23-13 with 4:10 to play.
The Bulldogs recovered an onside kick and needed only two plays to pull within a field goal. Williams completed passes of 25 and seven yards to Ross, who leaped into the endzone with 3:30 to play.
LSU was unable to pick up a first down and punted to the Bulldogs, who took over a its 23 after a 61-yard punt by Growden with 2:15 to play.
The Tigers defense came to life on the final series, forcing Williams into consecutive incomplete passes before Key came up with a game-clinching sack on fourth down with 42 seconds to play.