The ball is in the air before Malachi Dupre is even open. The sophomore receiver trails off toward the corner of the end zone, using his 6-foot-3 frame to create separation from his defender. By the time he lifts his eyes to look for the ball, it’s already in his hands — and another successful fade route is in the books for LSU.
Dupre and sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris have connected for touchdowns on the fade pattern in three of the past four games, most recently in a 35-28 win against No. 13 Florida on Saturday.
“It just goes back to trust,” Dupre said Monday. “He has the trust in me that I’m gonna go to the spot that he has put the ball in, and I have the trust in him to have it there for me. ... Brandon and I have it to where I will be at a specific spot at a specific time, and the ball will be there.”
That trust has allowed Dupre to emerge as Harris’ favorite red-zone target.
Dupre has one less reception than junior Travin Dural, but he leads the team with 311 receiving yards and has caught four of Harris’ six scoring strikes.
The No. 5 Tigers (6-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) may need the duo to hook up for more big plays when they host Western Kentucky (6-1) and its sixth-ranked scoring offense on Saturday.
The sophomores go back a long way, making their bond even stronger. Dupre said he and Harris started developing their relationship when they were high school recruits.
They started working together before either of them committed to LSU, and Dupre said he sees the quarterback “like a brother.” They’ve perfected the fade route, though Dupre said his size has little to do with it.
“With the way he has been putting it on my outside shoulder, you could be 5-feet and catching those passes,” he said. “I’d say the only time length would be an advantage is when I have to go get the ball at its highest point.”
Dupre had to make such a play against the Gators. With little time remaining in the first half, Harris evaded pressure and chucked the ball downfield to Dupre, who positioned his body to make a leaping catch around the 5-yard line. He wheeled around his defender and dove across the goal line for the score, his only touchdown this season that didn’t come on a fade.
“He threw the ball deep because he trusted me,” Dupre said. “But at the same time, he realized that the worst-case scenario would have been an interception, but that would have been like a punt. Brandon is becoming a great quarterback and leader of the team.
“Our relationship will only get stronger in the future. He’s a guy that I trust, and I know he trusts me.”
Halfway through this college football season, Leonard Fournette might be the biggest name in the sport. The national media certainly think so.
LSU’s sophomore running back appeared on two midseason All-America teams assembled by ESPN writer Ivan Maisel and a CBS Sports panel. Fournette was a unanimous selection on CBS’ team and was named its Midseason Player of the Year.
“An NFL scout said Fournette could start for ‘all but six or seven NFL teams,’” Maisel wrote.
An LSU offensive lineman accompanied Fournette on each of the squads. Junior center Ethan Pocic landed on ESPN’s team, while CBS’ panel selected senior right tackle Vadal Alexander.
In a separate piece, ESPN writer Mark Schlabach listed Fournette as the Heisman Trophy front-runner and leader for the Doak Walker Award, presented annually to the nation’s top running back. He also ranked Fournette’s 48-yard gain on a busted play against Syracuse as the No. 5 play of the season.
Schlabach tabbed three Tigers as top-five finishers for postseason awards: Alexander for the Outland Trophy, Pocic for the Rimington Trophy and junior kicker Trent Domingue for the Lou Groza Award.
Gordon weighs in
Dillon Gordon will likely miss the remainder of the season with an Achilles injury, but the senior tight end is keeping his hopes up.
“Minor setback for a major (comeback),” Gordon tweeted Tuesday morning.
LSU coach Les Miles said Monday he “can’t imagine him returning at this point” after Gordon reinjured the Achilles after making his first reception of the season against Florida. The senior originally hurt his Achilles against Auburn on Sept. 19 and missed the three subsequent games.
LSU is paying Western Kentucky $900,000 for this Saturday’s game. … WKU fans have an allotment of 3,000 visitor tickets.