Logan Stokes heard the play call and didn’t immediately react.
That happened a few seconds later, when the LSU tight end spotted the formation that Ole Miss had lined up in.
“ ‘This ball’s fixing to come to me,’ ” Stokes said he thought to himself.
It did, of course. Quarterback Anthony Jennings faked a handoff to running back Kenny Hilliard, rolled right on a bootleg and fired a pass just within the reach of Stokes for the tight end’s first career reception.
What a way to get Catch No. 1 — the game-winner in the Tigers’ 10-7 upset of then-No. 3 Ole Miss in front of a rocking, sold-out Tiger Stadium on Saturday night.
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron fooled plenty with the play call and the target. LSU had run the ball on all 12 plays of that drive, and Tigers tight ends had made just four catches all season — all of them by Travis Dickson.
Stokes is normally used as a blocker, an extra tackle strapped to the end of the line whose job is to pave the way for LSU’s stable of running backs.
This time, Stokes appeared to fake a run-block on Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson. He fell to his knees in an apparent attempt at a cut block, when an offensive player tries to cut the legs from under a defender.
Golson avoided the block and made a step toward the backfield, his eyes on Hilliard’s fake dive into the center of the line. That’s all Stokes needed to slip by him on an out route into the end zone.
“When they called it, I kind of put a smile on my face because, as soon as I got up to the line, I was like, ‘He’s about to throw me this ball,’ ” Stokes said. “Just by what they were lined up in, I was expecting it. Anthony made a great throw, and I just made me an easy catch.”
It wasn’t so easy. Replays showed that Stokes had to fully extend his arms to catch a slightly wide throw. Jennings put the ball where only Stokes could make the grab.
Stokes raced toward a wild north end zone section to celebrate an improbable catch that gave the Tigers such a wonderful taste in their mouths heading into their first open date of the season.
LSU (7-2, 3-2 Southeastern) on Sunday vaulted eight spots to No. 16 in The Associated Press Top 25, and the Tigers now have 13 days to prepare for another top-five opponent. No. 3 Alabama (7-1, 4-1) visits Tiger Stadium on Nov. 8.
But back to Stokes and his catch. It may have reminded a few fans of a game-winning catch in the same end zone against a top-five team.
In 1988, Eddie Fuller caught a touchdown pass from Tommy Hodson in a similar spot in LSU’s 7-6 win over then-No. 4 Auburn, a duel fondly remembered as the Earthquake Game. Fuller’s catch famously incited such a roar from Tiger Stadium that it registered on a campus seismograph.
The earth may not have shaken Saturday, but the explosive, deafening boom when Stokes made his grab likely was heard from miles away.
“What a beautiful place to play,” coach Les Miles told ESPN’s sideline reporter after the game. “Oh my God was this stadium electric. … It’s a magical place.”
In his postgame news conference, Miles called Stokes LSU’s “secret weapon” and kidded that he would have a dozen catches in the next game.
“Cam makes a great call, and there it is,” Miles said.
Stokes, a senior from north Alabama, arrived at LSU in January 2013 following a stint at Northeast Mississippi Community College, about 80 miles east of Ole Miss’ campus.
He hauled in 10 passes for 80 yards as a sophomore in 2012 and was ranked as one of the top five junior-college tight ends nationally. He chose LSU over Auburn, Alabama and Ole Miss.
At 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, Stokes is a large target, but Jennings didn’t see him open in the end zone during a win over Kentucky on Oct. 18. The quarterback threw instead to fullback Connor Neighbors, a misfire that was overthrown.
For Jennings, it was time to make up for that.
“He has been doing a great job blocking throughout the year,” Jennings said. “I told him I would make up for the missed touchdown pass against Kentucky, and I am glad he came up big when it mattered. I had great confidence in him.”
The touchdown pass Saturday night came on one of about 10 goal-line plays that Cameron reviewed with the offense before the game, Stokes said. He was the only receiver option on the play.
So what’s the play called?
“I can’t tell you the play call. It’s called,” he said, jokingly, “ ‘The Oopty Oop.’ ”