AUBURN, Ala. — D.J. Welter might have taken his final bad angle.
Welter, LSU’s senior starting middle linebacker and a lightning rod for criticism, whiffed on Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne during a 15-yard reception during LSU’s 41-7 loss on Saturday night.
LSU (4-2, 0-2 Southeastern), unranked in both major polls for the first time in six years, travels to Florida (3-1, 2-1) on Saturday with personnel issues that go beyond its quarterback position. Middle linebacker seems to be in a state of flux, too.
Welter, a starter at middle linebacker all of last season, started the first six games this season, but his playing time has been whittled by the 6-foot-2, 245-pound Beckwith.
The two rotated each series in the win over New Mexico State last weekend, the most playing time the sophomore has seen in his career — until the trip to Auburn. Beckwith rotated in each series with Welter before replacing him mid-drive after the senior’s gaffe.
Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall hit Artis-Payne for the 15-yard gain. Artis-Payne caught the pass out of the backfield and headed toward the sideline. Welter took a poor angle and missed Artis-Payne on a diving tackle attempt.
Beckwith said he has been feeling more “comfortable” at middle linebacker, but he would have graded his game as a “C” on Saturday.
“Had some good tackles, but I had some tackles that I also missed,” he said.
Another night kick
LSU will play at night for the seventh time in seven games.
The Tigers meet Florida at 6:30 p.m. CDT Saturday in Gainesville — a matchup set for an SEC Network telecast.
Kickoff times were released Sunday after CBS used a six-day hold last week, putting off its decision until learning the outcomes of Saturday’s highly ranked matchups. CBS has a day-time doubleheader Saturday. No. 13 Georgia meets No. 23 Missouri at 11 a.m., and No. 3 Mississippi State hosts No. 2 Auburn at 2:30 p.m.
So far this season, the Tigers have been on SEC Network twice (Sam Houston State and New Mexico State), ESPN three times (Wisconsin, Mississippi State and Auburn) and ESPNU once (Louisiana-Monroe).
A record tumble
The Tigers fell out of the coaches poll and The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 2008 following the program’s worst loss in 15 years.
The loss sent LSU from No. 15 to the outside looking in — an unfamiliar place. LSU held the second-longest streak in the nation for consecutive weeks in the AP poll at 87. The Tigers last fell from both major polls on Nov. 23, 2008, following a home loss to Ole Miss.
Auburn moved up to No. 2 (from No. 5) in both polls. Five top-10 teams — No. 2 Oregon (on Thursday), No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 6 Texas A&M and No. 8 UCLA — lost this week.
On Saturday night, quarterback Brandon Harris and receiver Malachi Dupre became the first true freshman quarterback-receiver combination to start a game at LSU. … Defensive end Danielle Hunter racked up a career-high 12 tackles, and linebacker Lamar Louis had a career-best nine.