Carey shines in return to LSU lineup

At the end of the 2003 season, few people had September 25th, 2004 circled on their calendar.

Unlike the Georgia game to be held Saturday, aside from the fact that LSU's match-up with Mississippi State was pushed up a couple of weeks no one really gave the contest much thought before hand.

In fact, it may be accurate to say no one had the Fighting Tigers' tilt with the Sylvester Croom coached Bulldogs circled other than LSU tailback Shyrone Carey.

"It felt good just to get back out there with all the guys," Carey said. "I mean you go through practice every week, I've been going through practice every day for the last three weeks or whatever. But come Friday and Saturday there was really nothing to do but watch the games. So this week I had the chance to play in the game, I was ready, I think I pressed a little bit too much trying to make the big play instead of just being myself and playing ball. But other than that I think for my first game out I played pretty well. Just shake the cobwebs out and next game I'll be ready to roll."

Following LSU's manhandling of Georgia in the 2003 Southeastern Conference Championship Game, Carey elected to sell a portion of his allotted tickets to the Fighting Tigers' Sugar Bowl date with Oklahoma.

The action not only got Carey suspended for that game, but for LSU's first three games of the 2004 season as well.

With 11:31 still showing on the clock in the first quarter against Mississippi State last Saturday, Carey finally found himself back on the field with players in a different colored uniform waiting across the line to welcome his return.

A hostile greeting party is exactly what Carey has been craving since retuning from both his suspension and an injury that early on last year saw him lose his punt return duties to Skyler Green.

"When we get hit in the spring it's still contact," Carey said. "My leg's been straight, I don't have no problem with my leg. I just missed getting hit by another team and trying to run through another team, and I pretty much did that today so I'm fine and ready to go." There were few better situations Carey could have found himself in for a return to action against the Bulldogs.

With LSU already ahead 7-0, Corey Webster stripped the ball from Brandon Wright following a completion, and recovered the fumble to put the Fighting Tigers at Mississippi State's 18 yardline.

LSU's second possession of the morning began with Marcus Randall handing off to Carey for what proved to be a seven-yard gain. Carey would carry twice more on the drive before Alley Broussard rumbled through the line for his second touchdown of the day, and then watched from the sideline until the Fighting Tigers' sixth possession before getting onto the field again in a scrimmage situation.

"Alley had a great game today, but that's one thing about our backfield," Carey said. "Everybody loves everybody, everybody wants everybody to do good in the backfield. No craziness is going on between all us, so that's a great thing. He did great this game, hat's off to him. It might be somebody's game next week, who knows? But we're always on each other's side at all time."

Carey would see the turf before then as a specialist, lining up to return punts on four separate occasions.

A fumble, failure to wave off Daniel Francis in time to avoid the ball hitting him in the back, and pair of one-yard returns sums up Carey's first half while handling the duty.

"You can catch punts in practice, but you don't get in practice what you get from the game," Carey said. "The game is totally different, it's played at a different speed. Now I'm great, I'm ready to roll."

As for his failure to get Francis out of the way of a falling punt, Carey attributed that to adverse weather conditions. That excuse didn't seem to sit too well with LSU coach Nick Saban, who promptly met Carey as he came off of the field following the play.

"He pretty much knew the sun had got in my eye," Carey said of Saban. "I was looking at, I tracked it all the way, but right when I went to get under it to catch it the sun got in my eye and always when the sun comes in our eye we've got to block it and I didn't block it. I just called ‘Peter' ‘cause I lost total track of the ball, and you know coach if you make a mistake coach is gonna get on you. So you've got to accept that, you know it's coming."

Part of a platoon system that witnessed six tailbacks rush against Mississippi State, Carey ultimately was given the ball eight times. He rushed for 25 yards, displaying the shiftiness many have come to expect from him. As a team, LSU pounded and finessed its way to 272 yards on the ground, 4.7 yards per play, with Broussard, Jacob Hester, Joseph Addai, Justin Vincent, and Jason Spadoni all getting touches.

Such shiftiness proved to come in handy as Carey needed it at times to simply get out of the Fighting Tigers' backfield without being dropped for a loss.

In spite of the cobwebs he still needs to shake off, Carey managed to shake a couple of Bulldogs loose as he averaged 3.1 yards per attempt. He expected he would be doing such work from the outset.

"Before the game the coaches told me they were gonna put me in early and they were telling me don't press, just be myself," Carey said. "But I look at myself as a playmaker, so I kinda pressed a little too much trying to make plays that really wasn't there. But for the most part I think I ran pretty good. The coaches told me I ran pretty good and hard, so I'm just trying to build on that and take it to next week, ‘cause we are gonna need it for next week."

Following a 91-yard rushing performance as a team against Oregon State in the season opener, the Fighting Tigers rebounded with a 251-yard showing against lowly Arkansas State. Just one week later though, LSU found itself somewhere in the middle of those two with a 140-yard team effort against Auburn in their only loss of the season.

Behind an offensive line that appeared more cohesive than in any game, Carey believes the Fighting Tigers are on their way to giving fans and critics alike a taste of what they saw from in LSU's national title run.

"We're just trying to get our identity back as far as being a tough, down-the-hill - people know we're gonna run it, but here we come we're gonna run it anyway," Carey said. "Let's see if you can stop it. That's our identity as a team. That's what we wanted to get back to this week and I think this week we kind of pretty much did that. But it's not a one-time thing, we've got to do it every game. And every game if we do that, I think we'll be fine."

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