Zenon Looking To Make Things Happen

In critical situations, coaches are always second-guessed for the decisions they make. If a play doesn't work out, fans rant that he should have called something different. Even if a play works, on occasion, supporters wonder about what could have happened that would have ruined the game.

Sometimes players are the ones who raise a fan base's ire. Returners take kicks 5 yards deep in the end zone out, only to be pasted at their own 10-yard line. They throw passes into triple coverage and the result is a pick-six. But other times, the players' decisions that initially draw cries of "What are you doing?" are quickly replaced by "Go! Go! Go!"

LSU cornerback Jonathan Zenon can now add his name to the list of such players.

After a three-play, 75-yard drive that consisted of nothing but Matt Flynn connecting on passes to Brandon LaFell, including a tiptoeing act down the sideline by the LSU wide receiver that resulted in a 37-yard score on a simple crossing route, the Tigers allowed Louisiana Tech to return the ensuing kickoff 76 yards to their 19-yard line. One play later, Bulldogs quarterback Zac Champion hit running back William Griffin for a gain of 12 yards to put Louisiana Tech within 7 yards of cutting into LSU's 27-7 lead.

It wasn't to be.

Champion threw a dart that found the awaiting arms of Zenon in the back of the end zone – in the way back of the end zone. Zenon had to stop on a dime and curb his momentum so that his kinetic energy wouldn't take him out of the back of the end zone. Of course, doing so would have been fine. The result of the play would have been a touchback, and LSU would have probably just taken a knee to run out the remainder of time left in the second quarter.

Didn't happen. Well, not quite like that, anyway.

Instead of going out of bounds or taking a knee, Zenon attempted to record what would have undoubtedly been the longest scoring play in LSU history. Without question, he wanted a pick-six, one that would have been good for about 109.75 yards.

Zenon began darting around and past Bulldogs and Tigers alike, trying desperately to find a hole to run through. He maneuvered all the way from the east corner of Tiger Stadium's north end zone to the opposite side of the field. The race was on, and everybody, including teammate Craig Steltz, was shocked to see Zenon attempting the feat.

"I was," Steltz said "He might have shook me a couple times. I didn't know whether to tackle him or tell him to kneel or what. But he was determined to make a play right there."

On a night where LSU held its opponents to 256 yards of total offense with second-team players seeing a good portion of playing time, Zenon made the most of his minutes. In addition to recording his second interception of the year, he also recovered a fumble.

"He did," Steltz said. "He was around the ball making plays. That's two turnovers for our offense that they have the opportunity to go out and score."

A mere three plays after the Tigers had pushed their advantage to 44-7, Kelvin Sheppard forced the ball out of Daniel Porter's hands and Zenon pounced on it with 6:59 to go in the third quarter. Just like his interception total, it was the second fumble recovery for Zenon this season.

"Again, it was just getting them on the field and making the plays we expect them to make," LSU coach Les Miles said of his defense's play. "That's the style of defense we're used to seeing, and we'll have to play that the remainder of the way out."

The Tigers provided Louisiana Tech with one of the ugliest drive charts in history – fumble, turnover on downs, fumble, turnover on downs, touchdown, punt, punt, punt, punt, interception, punt, interception, fumble, punt, field goal, punt, turnover on downs. Just to clarify, that's eight turnovers and seven punts. Six three-and-outs were sprinkled in with those seven punts, and the Tigers held the Bulldogs to a frustrating 2-of-16 night on third-down conversion attempts.

If nothing else, Zenon's interception was important from the standpoint that it finally gave LSU's defense one of the few statistics it was lacking – a stop in the red zone.

Prior to last Saturday night, opponents were a perfect 23-of-23 when reaching the Tigers 20-yard line with 16 touchdowns and seven field goals. Zenon's interception brought the unwanted streak to an end, 10 games into the season. The stop was one of the keys in getting LSU's defensive and offensive starters off of the field earlier in that it denied the Bulldogs a chance to pull within two scores just prior to halftime.

No, Zenon did not lead the Tigers in tackles; he only had two total. He did not have any pass breakups and did not record any sacks. His interception, however, the one that he threatened to take the distance, the one that finally broke LSU's 0-for-23 mark in trying to stop opponents in the red zone, was a highlight.

The play did not end the way Zenon wanted it to, of course. He was brought down after a return of just 24 yards. But it may well have been the most exciting 24-yard interception return in LSU history. From the press box, it appeared Zenon simply needed one more block to allow him to cover the remaining 76 yards for a touchdown. The celebration that would have followed by the fans would likely have been phenomenal. It would have been a tremendous play, the longest scoring play in LSU history.

For Zenon's sake, it is probably best that he did not reach the goal line of the south end zone. Imagine how disappointed he would have been when he raised his arms triumphantly, only to realize a penalty for holding during his return had been called.

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