MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — If you want to know why West Virginia kept starting Saturday night’s 47-21 loss with lousy field position, the left foot of LSU punter Brad Wing is a good place to start.
Returning from a leg injury to see his first action since the season opener, Wing averaged a whopping 48.7 yards on six punts — a statistic that only begins to tell the redshirt freshman’s impact.
Three of the six punts pinned West Virginia inside its own 5-yard line. The other three led to drives that began at the West Virginia 8-, 9- and 11 yard lines.
“I think he had a tremendous impact,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “He pinned them down in there routinely. We asked him to punt, and he banged it.”
Miles said he wasn’t so sure if the strong-legged Wing intended to routinely start the West Virginia offense in the shadows of its own end zone.
“I don’t know,” Miles said with a smile. “I think he just kicked it.”
Wing, a former Parkview Baptist standout, averaged 41.3 yards on six punts against Oregon in his college debut. He gave way to backup D.J. Howard the following two weeks while nursing the leg injury.
LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who made six tackles, forced and recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass in Saturday’s game, was honored Sunday as the Walter Camp defensive player of the week.
Mathieu stripped the ball from West Virginia receiver Brad Starks to give LSU possession in the first quarter and had a pivotal interception of Geno Smith late in the first half to set up an LSU score.
Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden, who passed for a school-record 438 yards in a 30-29 win over Texas A&M, was named the Walter Camp offensive player of the week.
Hairston, Rasco debut
James Hairston, who sparkled in his debut as LSU’s new kickoff specialist, wasn’t the only true freshman who saw his first career action for the Tigers.
Highly touted defensive end Jermauria Rasco, from Evangel in Shreveport, recorded two tackles in his first college game.
Rasco and Hairston joined receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who had his first career touchdown reception in Saturday’s game; running back Kenny Hillard; defensive tackle Anthony “Freak” Johnson; receiver Jarvis Landry; and quarterback Zach Mettenberger, a junior-college transfer, as members of LSU’s 2011 signee class who have received playing time.
A sellout crowd of 62,056 turned out Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium to watch LSU play away from home for the third time in four games.
Most of the West Virginia fans wore gold. All were loud.
“When the crowd got jacked when we came onto the field, I knew we were going to play,” Miles said. “It was like they were having a football party and invited us.”
Miles said that playing against then-No. 3 Oregon at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and then-No. 25 Mississippi State at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss., helped prepare the Tigers for their latest road test.
“I think we have a real strong road personality,” Miles said, “and I think there’s some real confidence in our football team that no matter what the environment, we’re capable. We can play.”
LSU has five of its final eight games at home, but the Nov. 5 showdown against No. 3 Alabama is not one of them.
Did you notice?
With the game well in hand and LSU running out the clock on Saturday’s win, fans in the visiting section of the stadium near the LSU tunnel cheered and chanted and held signs that endorsed their team.
One such sign had a basketball theme.
“Shaq would dunk on Jerry West,” the sign read.
West, from Chelyan, W. Va., is the NBA great who played guard for West Virginia from 1956-60. He remains one of the school’s most famous alumni.
Miles was told after Saturday’s game that many coaches in his position would “sandbag” rather than speak confidently about how well their team has played.
Why is he different?
“I don’t know if we’re good enough right now to do everything we want to do. That’s putting the cart in front of the horse,” Miles said. “I can tell you that we’ve played a good schedule to this point, and our guys seem to answer the bell and enjoy competitive environment. I feel comfortable going on the road and playing with this team. I think if we continue to improve, continue to do the things we’re capable of, somewhere down the road we’ll stake claim on something important.”
“That’s as much sandbagging as I can do,” he said.