LSU interim head coach Ed Orgeron's halftime speech got the desired result.
LSU turned a 10-10 game at the half into an 45-10 beating of Southern Miss Saturday night at Tiger Stadium.
LSU (4-2) scored 35 unanswered points in the second half to cast aside an upset attempt by the Golden Eagles (4-3) before a crowd of 102,164.
"Southern Miss came out and hit us in the mouth," Orgeron said. "We came in the locker room and addressed those issues. Tremendous second half."
Never miss a local story.
LSU out-gained USM by 231 yards in the second half after the numbers were almost even at halftime.
USM head coach Jay Hopson noticed a drastic drop off from his defense in the final two quarters.
"Night and day. Two completely different (halves)," Hopson said. "I thought the one thing we did good defensively in the first half was we played solid and we didn't give up big plays and tackled. It was that third quarter. It was just big play, big play, big play."
LSU knocked USM out of the game quickly to start the second half.
Derius Guice ran 61 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the second half to give LSU a 17-10 lead just 1:38 into the third quarter.
Four plays into USM's ensuing possession, LSU safety Jamal Adams forced a fumble by running back George Payne. The Tigers recovered, setting the offense up at the USM 22.
Two plays later, Guice ran 20 yards for the LSU touchdown and a 24-10 lead with 10:50 left in the third quarter.
It was the worst case scenario for USM and the Eagles had no answer from there on out.
LSU quarterback Danny Etling put the game to rest via the deep ball with an 80-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Chark and a 63-yard touchdown toss to a wide open Malachi Dupre, giving the Tigers a 38-10 lead at the 1:58 mark of the third quarter.
"We were executing at a high level in the first half," USM linebacker Elijah Parker said. "Everybody was gap fitting. In the second half, we had a few eye penalties – eyes not on the right guys, guys out of their gaps. They had big plays."
Guice finished with 16 carries for 162 yards and two scores and Etling hit 11 of 18 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns and one meaningless interception in the second half.
USM enters the bye week in need of a reboot on both sides of the ball.
"We're good enough to win these next five games, but we're also bad enough to lose these next five games," USM quarterback Nick Mullens said. "Going in, it's really just a matter of putting the hammer down and focusing on the details. It's time to step up. This season can be great or it can really go downhill. It's a turning point in our season."
Mullens completed 25 of 36 passes for 161 yards as he followed a game plan that focused on the short passing game and giving the ball to the running backs.
USM junior running back Ito Smith finished with 16 carries for 64 yards and one score. He caught six passes for 46 yards.
The Southern Miss offense put together its longest drive of the season on the game's opening possession. With the help of a couple of LSU penalties, USM went 75 yards on 15 plays in 6:58 to grab a 7-0 lead over the Tigers at the 8:02 mark of the first quarter.
Smith punched it in the end zone from one yard out with a little help from a push by Mullens. Smith had seven carries for 34 yards on the drive.
LSU tied the game with a three-play, 55-yard drive that ended with a 19-yard touchdown run off the edge by D.J. Chark to make it 7-7 with 2:22 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers took the lead to 10-7 when Colby Delahoussaye kicked a 38-yard field goal at the 14:05 mark of the second quarter.
Parker Shaunfield tied the game at 10-10 with a 37-yard field goal with 8:28 left in the first half. Shaunfield has made all 11 of his field goals this season.
Frustrated Coach Hop
Hopson was given a sideline warning in the first half when he felt his cornerbacks weren't getting a fair shake from the officiating crew. He was irate as he argued with the referees on the field.
"This is the second week in a row that the receivers that have blocked our cornerbacks and gotten open down the field," Hopson said. "You can't block corners and throw the football. I got a little frustrated because I'm tired of watching that."
Hopson was more animated than usual in the post-game press conference, showing frustration after consecutive losses. UTSA beat USM 55-32 in San Antonio on Oct. 8.
"It was a tale of two halves," Hopson said. "I thought we played well in the first half. We come out and give up a big play in the third quarter, fumble the ball the next possession. Now we're down 14 and they give up a big play and the game is out of control. We can't do those things and be successful."
USM will have to find a way to recover in the bye week before hosting Marshall for homecoming at 6 p.m. on Oct. 29.