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LSU linebacker Arden Key (49) throws his helmet up in the air and catches it while walking off the field after LSU's football game against Troy Saturday Sept. 30, 2017, in Baton Rouge, La.. Troy won 24-21.

ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO BY BILL FEIG

Troy was on the move.

The Trojans were marching down against LSU’s defense just before halftime, a drive that eventually would end in a field goal and a 10-0 lead.

Before a play near midfield, ESPN analyst Kirk Morrison told a national audience, “Still looking for Arden Key to make a play, the big defensive player, especially in a two-minute situation. You know they’re going to pass.”

Clay Matvick, the ESPN play-by-play man, responded: “I don’t see Arden Key out there.”

In one of the more crucial drives of LSU’s 24-21 loss to the Trojans, the Tigers’ All-American edge rusher was not on the field.

Whether off the field or on it, Key’s absence has been all too common since his return. Through three games, the Georgia native has nine tackles and half of a sack.

He’s played in about 130 snaps since his return at Mississippi State. In all, that’s about 64 percent of the snaps over the past three games.

He’s slowly rounding into game shape, coach Ed Orgeron said Monday. Key is down to “closer” to 255 pounds. He played at about 235 pounds last season but gained about 30 pounds to 265 over the offseason, all but 10-15 of which coaches wanted him to gain, Orgeron said.

“He's finally getting in game shape,” the coach said. “He played better this week. I know he didn't make a lot of plays. But technically he played better. He did make some mistakes. I think it's just geared to practice. You don't practice in eight months, it's hard to come back and play a game full speed when you haven't been practicing. Everybody else has been training – spring ball, summer training, camp.”

Key took a leave of absence from the team in the spring and underwent shoulder surgery in May. He missed all of summer workouts and most of preseason camp.

Key made four tackles against Troy, a season high, but the Georgia native is still waiting for Sack No. 2 this year.

“Arden is getting better every week,” defensive end Rashard Lawrence said. “We make fun of him saying he’s fat and stuff, but if you look at his rushes, he’s been getting there. He’s one step away from getting a sack. Sacks are going to come.”

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.