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LSU wide receiver Drake Davis (14) celebrates in the end zone after running the ball in on an 87-yard reception thrown by LSU quarterback Danny Etling.

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK

The pass Stephen Sullivan dropped a few weeks ago would have scored a touchdown.

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LSU wide receiver Stephen Sullivan (10) runs for the end zone to score on the pass play as Syracuse defensive back Jordan Martin (2) gives chase.

He wasn’t about to drop this one.

Sullivan, LSU’s 6-foot-6, 235-pound sophomore receiver, caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Danny Etling late in the second quarter of the 35-26 win over Syracuse — one of three long balls that “saved” the Tigers, coach Ed Orgeron admitted afterward.

Three plays accounted for 41 percent of LSU’s total offense (414 yards) on Saturday: that Sullivan touchdown; another 43-yard completion, this one from freshman QB Myles Brennan to running back Darrel Williams; and Etling’s 87-yard touchdown strike to Drake Davis to open the second half.

Sullivan caught his pass on a post route, racing by defenders for 25 yards after the catch. He dropped a similar pass from Brennan late in a blowout win over UT-Chattanooga two weeks ago.

“That was the same one I dropped,” he said after the game. “Had to make sure I caught that one.”

Sullivan now has two career catches, both coming this season. They’ve gone for 43 and 46 yards. Sullivan and Davis are developing into the Tigers’ long ball threats. Sullivan is averaging 44.5 yards a catch, and Davis is at 44.7 yards a pop. Both are normally not on the field at the same time, as they play the X receiver position, the spot in which DJ Chark usually starts.

Sullivan and Davis said last month that they have been working to learn other receiver spots — the Z and F. Those positions encompass shorter routes.

“Whatever coach wants me to do, that’s what I’m going to do,” Sullivan said. “It could be 5 yards, 2 yards, 3 yards. Whatever.”

Davis slightly bobbled his touchdown completion, catching it around the Syracuse 40-yard line before it nearly popped from his grasp.

“I was thinking, ‘Damn, I got to score,’ ” he said.

Fielding problems

Nearly half of LSU’s drives Saturday started inside the Tigers’ 15-yard line, many of those because of punt-fielding messes.

Returner DJ Chark allowed several punts to roll inside the 10, where they were downed by the Orange, something Orgeron mentioned.

“Could have did better returning and fielding the ball,” he said. “We gave up too much hidden yardage.”

Chark, in his first season returning punts, put the Tigers in precarious positions, allowing punts to hit sometimes beyond the 10-yard line instead of fair-catching them. Syracuse players saved several balls before they rolled into the end zone for a touchback.

The Tigers played their “punt safe” unit on several occasions Saturday, Orgeron said, giving Syracuse more opportunities to down punts.

“We went a lot of punt safe tonight,” the coach said. “We weren’t holding up a lot of guys. There was a lot of situations that we went punt safe and played the fake.”

Still, he lamented the punt return issues.

“We need to field the ball. There’s some hidden yardage there,” he said. “We stand at the 10 (yard line). If the ball is behind us, we won’t touch it, but if the ball is in front of us, we aggressively have to go get it. Can’t blame DJ. He doesn’t have a lot of experience back there. Just got to coach him better.”

Punter change

LSU’s field goal kicking job was up for grabs earlier this season.

Now, it’s the punter.

Coaches pulled starting punter Josh Growden on Saturday, inserting walk-on and redshirt freshman Zach Von Rosenberg, who played professional baseball before returning to college two years ago.

Von Rosenberg had punts of 49 and 40 yards after replacing Growden in the second quarter. Growden followed a game-opening 45-yard punt with 28 and 31 yard boots, resulting in his exit.

Von Rosenberg, a former punter at Zachary, turned 27 years old Sunday. He signed with LSU baseball as a pitcher in 2009 before turning pro later that year. He spent 2009-14 in the  the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor leagues organization.

Von Rosenberg’s minor league career ended after the 2014 season. He made it to his career pinnacle in 2013, Advanced-A Bradenton, before being sent back down in 2014. Von Rosenberg finished his pro career with an ERA of 4.52 in 332.2 innings pitched, according to baseball-reference.com. He didn’t make any starts in his last two seasons in the pros.

Good and bad streaks

LSU committed its first turnover in 17 quarters with Brennan’s interception late in the second half Saturday, but it ended that penalty skid.

The Tigers were flagged for just three penalties in the win over Syracuse and had none in the first half. LSU entered the game having been penalized at least nine times in the first three games. The Tigers had 30 penalties over the first three weeks.

“We improved on that, worked very hard on that this week,” Orgeron said.

“We did eliminate penalties this game,” F-back JD Moore said. “That was a big plus for us, big point of emphasis.” 

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.