Herman Johnson, the largest Tiger of all at 6-foot-8, 371 pounds, played on an offensive line that included 310-pound Brian Johnson and 294-pound Peter Dyakowski. Those were the replacements, too. LSU already had used plenty of others in steamrolling past outmanned Mississippi State.
Liberal substitutions were the order of a day that had begun with true freshmen Ali Highsmith and Glen Dorsey making their first career starts at linebacker and defensive tackle, respectively. Sophomore running back Alley Broussard made a strong case to be in the starting lineup, also, with a powerful display that included the game's first three touchdowns.
Weighing nearly 10 pounds lighter than last season, the 233-pound Broussard ran through and over the beleaguered Bulldogs. It was hard to miss the gapping holes that the line had opened, but it was what Broussard did after hitting them that set him apart. He showed the toughness and aggressiveness that Coach Nick Saban wanted LSU to exhibit after a somewhat lethargic first three games.
"He gives us a dimension that nobody else does," Saban said. "That physical presence…and that mindset."
Add speed to the equation, and the Tigers can be a formidable football team. At no time was that superior speed more apparent than on freshman wide receiver Xavier Carter's first career touchdown reception. Redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Flynn, who threw his first touchdown pass, did well enough by delivering the ball downfield to Carter on a crossing route. It's what Carter did after catching it that demanded attention.
Carter deftly avoided one defender, and with others in pursuit, he shifted into an unimaginable gear that sent him into the end zone as if powered by some sort of jet propulsion. Junior wide receiver Bennie Brazell is the Olympic sprinter, but it's hard to imagine that he has any better football speed than Carter, whose 67-yard touchdown catch created a memory that won't soon fade. It's no wonder last spring that junior wide receiver Skyler Green, a former track man himself, wanted to see Carter race in a meet at LSU. Carter didn't make the meet, but he gave Green and everyone else an eyeful last Saturday in Tiger Stadium.
Green adds even more speed to the lineup when not hobbled by a sprained ankle. In an effort to accelerate the healing process, LSU had Green sit out against Mississippi State. LSU continued to have others fill in as a punt and kick returner, but no one does it as well as Green.
As for Brazell, he's never had much of a chance to display his unbridled speed. When he's been used at wide receiver, he hasn't produced as he should. He finally made his first career catch last week, with Flynn finding Brazell on the other pass Flynn completed in three attempts.
Say this for Brazell, he's shown an incredible amount of perseverance. Former LSU track and field coach Pat Henry once said if Brazell abandoned football he would become an Olympian. Brazell stuck with the sport and still made it to Athens, Greece, where he competed in the 400-meter final. His efforts on special teams have been appreciated, and he continued to distinguish himself in that area against the Bulldogs.
The receiving corps isn't just about speed, though. It has the ruggedness of sophomore Dwayne Bowe and freshman Early Doucet. Bowe is unlike most young receivers in that he said he both enjoys downfield blocking and catching passes across the middle. Like Carter, Doucet registered his first career touchdown catch.
Unlike Carter, Doucet had a defender take a clear shot at him only to bounce off. Of course that may have had more to do with Mississippi State's poor tackling than anything, but it still counted for six points when Doucet reached the end zone.
"We try to tackle with no arms," said Mississippi State first-year coach Sylvester Croom, who has an unenviable task ahead of him.
Looming ahead for LSU are powerful Georgia and Florida, which the Tigers will face on the road in the next two weeks. Daunting as the task may be, LSU senior defensive end Marcus Spears said the Tigers must stay the course and perform as they did against Mississippi State.
"There's no need to really change anything," he said. "Just focus every Saturday."
It'd be nice if Georgia quarterback David Greene would serve up a gift as did Mississippi State quarterback Omarr Conner, who fluttered a lame pass in Spears' direction. On the run, Spears plucked the ball out of the air. He didn't stop until he had scored on a 35-yard interception return.
"He gave me a gift, and I proudly accepted," Spears said.
In his plea to get LSU playing with more energy, Saban challenged both Spears and Corey Webster to spearhead the cause. They obliged, with Webster recovering a fumble and intercepting a pass. As he came off the field after his theft, Spears said he could sense that others had gotten the message.
"When I came to the sidelines, I could see the sparkle in the eyes of the young guys," Spears said. "They were saying, 'I want to do the same thing when I get in the game.' That's when you know you're doing things right."
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