Doucet's Return Proves Big

A gain of two. A loss of one. After coming out of the locker room down by 10 for the third quarter, LSU was facing a third-and-nine after two straight running plays on which Jacob Hester had yielded a single yard.

Following a first half where the Tigers offense looked mediocre, LSU was in serious trouble. Less than a minute had run off of the clock in the second half, and the Tigers were in danger of having to give the ball back to Auburn.


The visitors had already scored 17 points.


Potential berths in the SEC Championship Game and the BCS National Championship Game were both in jeopardy. Title hopes, of any sort, were on the verge of fading away.


The ball was snapped to Matt Flynn, and he waited…waited…waited….and then launched a pass down the middle of the field. One player in a white jersey, surrounded by three in dark blue leapt high into the air, snagged the ball and held on for an NFL-like reception. The catch was amazing, and if there had been a giant "S" on the receiver's jersey, instead of a No. 9, it would have been appropriate. But it wasn't Superman. It was Early Doucet.


"He's a ‘throw it to me;' he doesn't care," LSU Head Coach Les Miles said of Doucet. "‘Throw it to me.' That kind of confidence it's – It also helps us to – When you have young guys standing beside him, and you have block combinations, and he knows exactly what the young guy's supposed to do, it helps them. It helps that young guy confirm his assignment and technique and it really just helps us."


Already Doucet had caught his first pass in the game in the second quarter, one that had accounted for no gain. It was his first catch since the Tigers blew out Virginia Tech 48-7, less than a week prior to him pulling up lame at the end of the following Friday's practice with a groin injury. Doucet's second reception proved to be a little bit better, accounting for a 33-yard gain. The catch eventually led to a field goal that cut the Tigers deficit to seven points.


"I can't tell you how much faith I have in Early Doucet," Flynn said. "We've been throwing together since we were in high school, you know? So, we have a chemistry together, and they went Cover Two, middle open in the field, and he has a middle read. I saw the guy that was trailing him. Early had a step on him. I just kind of threw it up to the middle, before those safeties could get over there; he made a great play, went up and caught it."


Ultimately, Doucet led LSU's receiving corps against Auburn, accounting for 93 yards – a season high – on seven receptions. Doucet's career highs are nine receptions, which came earlier this season against Mississippi State in the season opener, and the 117 yards that he had in the Superdome versus Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. 


Following a four-game absence, Doucet was back on the field for the last play of the Tigers loss to Kentucky. His presence proved futile.


Following that game, Miles stated that the senior wanted to be on the field, that he wanted to get into the contest. But he most certainly wasn't going to be thrown to that night, and it most certainly was one of this year's games where his talents were sorely missed.


Flynn's numbers without Doucet in the lineup have suffered due to a rash of dropped balls. Dropped balls were a major contributor to LSU's only loss of the season and, against Auburn, one dropped pass even went so far as to become tipped and bobbled right into the hands of an opponent for an interception. If not for dropped passes last Saturday night, Flynn's career-high of 319 yards passing – the first 300-yard passing game of his career – would have been very close to, if not in excess of, 400 yards. Now, with Doucet hopefully back in the line-up to stay, maybe some more of those 300-plus yard games are possible.


For his part, Doucet now has 125 receptions in his LSU career. Once on pace to surpass Wendell Davis' all-time mark of 183 catches, Doucet is tied at ninth on that list with Larry Foster.  Including a guaranteed bowl game, the Tigers have five games remaining in their 2007 season.  Doucet is still 58 receptions away from Davis. He would need to average more than 11 receptions a contest from here on out to catch him. The number drops slightly below 10 if an SEC Championship Game is factored into the mix.


Regardless of whether Doucet makes it up the list that high, his place in LSU lore as one of the Tigers all-time greats is cemented. Barring anything unforeseen, he will play on Sundays long after his career in Baton Rouge is over. It's doubtful Davis' mark is at the forefront of his thoughts, and all his teammates are likely thinking is how good it is to look over and see No. 9 on the field, instead of the sidelines.


"He's a very smart player," Flynn said. "He gets everyone in the right position, and he made some smart plays today. He made some big plays. He's a great player, and it's nice to have him back."


What Doucet does from here on out production-wise is anyone's guess. But for Flynn, having him back will no doubt boost his confidence as a quarterback. He can rest assured he definitely has a sure-handed target. Now is the stretch-run for the Tigers, and a little Early late is better than never.

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