Doucet looms large in return for Tigers
Sunday, October 21, 2007
BATON ROUGE -- From afar, all it looked like Early Doucet did Saturday night was save LSU's season.
All he did was step into the mix against a formidable opponent (Auburn) after an undisclosed injury led to a five-game absence, catch just about everything within reach and inspire a team that appeared to be gazing into the abyss, one that appeared to be looking for a way to hand over a game it couldn't afford to drop if it hopes to continue progressing toward a division, conference and national title.
And if you know anything about LSU's receiving woes during Doucet's forced break, you know how much his presence meant during a 30-24 victory over Auburn.
To immeasurably understate, LSU's receivers have had difficulty consistently catching passes with or without Doucet in the lineup. They have not been young men you'd want handling newborns or eggs, based on the frequency they've dropped catchable balls week after week after week.
After yet another costly no-hands job by sophomore receiver Brandon LaFell on Saturday night, in which his potential reception was bobbled and tipped into the hands of Auburn defensive back Patrick Lee at Auburn's 14-yard line in the third quarter, LaFell mercifully was benched. He had to be, for the sake of quarterback Matt Flynn.
Flynn simply can't continue to have faith in a receiving corps that's as likely, or more likely, to drop a perfectly thrown pass as it is to catch it. He can't want to continue throwing the ball to guys with buttered fingers.
He can want to throw it to Doucet, though. And he did, seven times for 93 yards against Auburn.
Sure, Demetrius Byrd caught the game-winner -- a 22-yard strike with a second left, capping LSU's second consecutive, breathtaking, heart-pounding, come-from-behind home victory.
But neither Byrd nor anyone else is in position to do much of anything heroic if not for a 33-yard catch by Doucet on third-and-9 from LSU's 33-yard line on the opening possession of the third quarter, the one that lifted a team that was running low on fuel and time.
That catch led to a field goal that cut Auburn's lead to 17-10, awakened a somber LSU crowd, infused a lifeless offense and, most important, showed that Doucet, a senior receiver, was back after being sidelined and his unit very much incomplete.
He caught two more passes, for 26 yards, on LSU's next possession, was Flynn's target on a couple of incompletions on the next drive, and displayed sure hands a few times in the fourth quarter, too.
But, again, the numbers couldn't possibly measure up to the importance, couldn't possibly measure up to his presence.
LSU needed every bit of it to avoid another fall.
True, it makes for great theater and greater storytelling, this recently developed habit of trying to come from behind and pull out games at the very end the last three weeks, eight days ago even going so far as to include a triple-overtime affair in the drama.
But the truth is it's a dangerous way to go about handling business -- a really, really dangerous way.
That's not to say a team can't accomplish each and every one of those goals in such a manner, because LSU, skittish and loose schizophrenic the past two weeks, remains on path to do just that after taking down Auburn.
But it's not a very nerve-calming way of doing things.
Not after a 43-37, triple overtime loss to Kentucky, which doesn't look like an aberration and showed that, perhaps, LSU might not quite be what we thought it was in terms of a dominant force which would go undefeated and bore holes through opponents.
And not after beating Auburn in as gutsy a manner as could be scripted, with a touchdown on the last offensive play.
What was calming was the return of Early. And it'll continue to be. Already, he has shown how much.
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