Could Zenon be LSU's next shutdown corner?

LSU's defense took all of seven plays from scrimmage to assert that in 2006 the smothering style of play fans have grown accustomed to is back. Facing a second and 10 from his own 15-yard line, UL-Lafayette quarterback Jerry Babb dropped back, rolled to his right and let a pass fly.

Unfortunately for the Ragin' Cajuns, junior cornerback Jonathan Zenon was there to tip the errant ball and, after securing the interception, proceeded to race the length of the wide-open real estate in front of him for a touchdown.


When Zenon first deflected the ball, there was a collective cheer/groan from the Tiger faithful. Once he hauled it in, however, anyone not wearing red in Tiger Stadium reasserted themselves with all-out cheers, certain he had secured the interception.


"The first interception was majority from our defensive line putting pressure on the quarterback," Zenon said. "They made him throw the ball when he wasn't supposed to, so I just stepped in front of it; I had a good vision on it and just stepped in front of it and caught the ball.


"He kind of threw it behind me. Like I saw it and then just tried to tap it to me and then watched me bring it into myself."


Taking it all the way back was simply lagniappe.            


"That just makes it much better," Zenon said of the Tigers' first defensive score of the year. "Man, it just felt like I was playing running back again, like I was in high school."


Of course that wouldn't be Zenon's only interception of the game.


Late in the third quarter, after UL-Lafayette had recovered a muffed punt to potentially set up their second score of the night, Zenon stepped in front of another pass from Babb on the right sideline. Although the result wasn't another touchdown, the change of possession did allow Tiger fans another reason to cheer – it provided the purple-and-gold faithful their first glimpse of Alley Broussard in uniform and on the field since the 2005 CapitalOne Bowl.


By that time, however, the Ragin' Cajuns had scored their first points of the night.  But despite the fact that UL-Lafayette's first-half field goal would be their only points of the game, it was still too much as far as Zenon was concerned.


"We really wanted to get a shutout, but they kicked the three points," Zenon said. "We weren't going to let them score a touchdown. So basically it was really important to us."


Without question, Zenon stated the Tigers knew that the Ragin' Cajuns had never scored a point in Tiger Stadium before. That they gave up the field goal made them "upset" to an extent. Easing that tiny bit of pain, according to Zenon, was the fact that he was able to make plays when it counted, something the Tigers' secondary had trouble doing last year when it came to creating turnovers.


Preparation this past offseason was definitely a key.


"Basically coach (Bo Pelini) put emphasis on getting turnovers," Zenon said. "That's all we practice everyday – getting turnovers, stripping the ball and just catching it.


"Coach gives us a great scheme, and our scouts they practice to perfection. It was just like practice out there for me. Coach gives us all sorts of plays, and the plays they ran were the exact same thing we ran in practice."


Zenon's two interceptions in the Tigers' season opener equal the number of passes he picked off in all 11 games he played in last year. Suffice it to say, he hopes the frequency of times he finds himself taking the ball the opposite way against opposing offenses will be increased significantly in 2006.


A native of Breaux Bridge, La., Zenon found extra reasons to shine against an in-state opponent, and those reasons continued to present themselves all the way up until it was time for kickoff.


"I was pretty much motivated (to play guys from my area of the state)," Zenon said. "Last week we went up there and they were talking a lot of trash about how they were going to come up into Tiger Stadium and put it on us. I was really mad because they were stepping on the ‘Eye' (of the Tiger) before the game. That kind of motivated me a little bit more. I know a couple of guys on their team, so I just wanted to go out there and show them that we were better than them."


There is little denying that Zenon and the Tigers did exactly that. There's also little denying that LSU's secondary is in good hands with Zenon.

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