STARKVILLE, Mississippi — Mississippi State's slow start gave way to an impressive fourth-quarter comeback.
But a few bad decisions and missed opportunities in the final minutes— along with an inability to tackle LSU's Leonard Fournette all Saturday night — proved too much to overcome.
Fournette ran for 159 yards and three touchdowns to lead No. 14 LSU past No. 25 Mississippi State 21-19 in a bruising Southeastern Conference opener for both teams at Davis Wade Stadium.
The Bulldogs rallied from a 21-6 deficit by scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but a 52-yard field goal attempt to win the game by Devon Bell missed as time expired.
"Everybody's got to do a better job, starting with me," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. "We've got to do a better job of putting ourselves in better position to make the play to win there at the end of the game."
LSU had a 21-6 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Mississippi State's offense shook off an ugly first half to score 13 straight points.
The last touchdown drive featured six straight pass completions for Mississippi State's Dak Prescott, capped by a 5-yard touchdown to De'Runnya Wilson to pull the Bulldogs within 21-19 with four minutes remaining, but the 2-point conversion to tie failed.
MSU's Devon Bell missed a 52-yard field goal with no time remaining that would have won the game. The Bulldogs had a costly delay of game penalty late in that final drive that made Bell's field goal attempt five yards longer.
LSU (1-0, 1-0 SEC) beat Mississippi State (1-1, 0-1) for the 15th time in 16 seasons. Prescott completed 34 of 52 passes for 335 yards and a touchdown.
There were some very tense final moments for LSU, which looked like it had the game in hand for much of the night. In the end, all Fournette could do was watch as Bell's field goal missed short and to the right.
"Nobody was happy," Fournette said. "It wasn't supposed to be this close — not to us anyway."
LSU was playing its first game of the season after its original opener against McNeese State was canceled five minutes into the first quarter because of lightning.
That led to some concern that the Tigers might start out slowly, but those fears proved unfounded as they jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
LSU didn't do anything fancy while building its early lead, mostly just handing the ball to Fournette and then watching him run. Fournette's second touchdown run — the 26-yarder — quieted the crowd of 62,531, which was the second largest in school history.
"He's obviously a very, very talented back," Mullen said. "But we just missed too many tackles."
Mississippi State managed a 43-yard field goal near the end of the second quarter to pull within 14-3 by halftime. It was the highlight of an ugly first half that included just 109 total yards.
Prescott — who was so good in Mississippi State's upset win over LSU in Baton Rouge last season — didn't have much time to throw or run during the first half.
But things slowly opened up for the Bulldogs during the second half. Mississippi State put together a grinding 14-play, 87-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Prescott early in the fourth quarter to pull the Bulldogs within 21-13.
The Tigers might have had an easier victory but several big plays were called back because of penalties, including two that would have been touchdowns.
"There is so much to correct on this game film, it's ridiculous," LSU coach Les Miles said.
LSU quarterback Brandon Harris, who was making his second career start, completed 9 of 14 passes for 71 yards.