Tre’Davious White can empathize with fellow LSU cornerback Donte Jackson.
White has experienced what Jackson went through Saturday afternoon in a 16-10 home loss to Florida – getting beat for a long touchdown in man-to-man coverage and fumbling the ball away on special teams.
In fact, it happened to White just last week in a 38-10 win at Arkansas. The senior got fooled by Razorback receiver Dominique Reed’s hesitation on a 44-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. In the third quarter, White muffed a punt.
“That one play last week got away from me, and that one play on special teams got away from me – just like the exact thing that happened to (Jackson) today,” White said. “I just told him, ‘It’s going to happen. It’s just the position that we’re in.’”
But White’s mistakes against Arkansas were far less costly in a game the Tigers (6-4, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) dominated from start to finish. Unfortunately for Jackson, his miscues against the Gators (8-2, 6-2) resulted in 10 points in a one-score loss.
With the Gators backed up to their 2-yard line, trailing 7-3 in the third quarter, quarterback Austin Appleby floated a pass to Tyrie Cleveland down the sideline. Cleveland got inside leverage against Jackson off the line of scrimmage, but he peeled back toward the sideline to adjust to the pass.
Jackson attempted to track down Cleveland once he came down with the pass, but the receiver shrugged off the defensive back around the Florida 45-yard line. With no help over the top, Cleveland sprinted into the end zone easily.
According to cfbfilmroom.com, a site that charts advanced stats in college football, Jackson had allowed just 17 receptions on 41 targets entering Saturday. He had allowed only one touchdown and had two interceptions.
Tigers safety John Battle acknowledged he should have lined up deeper in the middle of the field in the event Cleveland got by Jackson. For a defense that prides itself on keeping teams out of the end zone, Battle wouldn’t make any excuses.
“That touchdown’s not supposed to happen,” Battle said. “We’re not supposed to allow points, no matter if it’s a field goal or a touchdown. That didn’t really too much hurt us. We’re still not supposed to give up those points.”
Though Jackson was not available for interviews after the game, White said he felt like his teammate was able to move past the first gaffe.
“I feel like he brushed it off,” White said. “He knew what he had to do. I feel like he did a great job of letting that play go away. I talked to him about it. Like I said, everybody has games like that.”
After Florida took a 13-10 lead in the fourth quarter, Jackson committed the second of two special teams blunders for the Tigers. With LSU having already botched a field goal attempt earlier in the game, Jackson ran into a teammate on a kickoff return and the ball popped free.
The Gators recovered and eventually took at six-point lead on another Eddy Pineiro field goal. Even after the fumble, Battle said Jackson was up-beat.
“Donte, he’s a great guy, great character,” Battle said. “He’s always energized. He was positive. We told him we had his back no matter what. That’s what we do because we’re brothers.”
Key nearing sack record
Tigers outside linebacker Arden Key may finish the season short of his objective of 20 sacks, and he didn’t break LSU’s single-season sack record on senior day, another goal he'd set.
However, on Saturday against Florida, Key became the fourth player in program history to record double-digit sacks.
With his 10th sack of the season, the sophomore is now tied for third on LSU’s single-season sack record list. Key is two shy of Oliver Lawrence’s program-best 12 sacks in 1989.
“It’s an honor,” Key said of joining rare company. “A lot great D-linemen came through here, and I’m fourth on the list. So (double-digit) sacks, that’s pretty good.”
On the season, Key now has 18 quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles. Perhaps Key could have had more than one sack Saturday if not for Florida quarterback Austin Appleby’s elusiveness. Appleby escaped a Key sack in the second quarter when Key started the play lined up over the center.
“We didn’t realize he was a big quarterback like that,” Key said of Appleby. “So we were pretty much just hitting him, seeing if he would fall. He wouldn’t do it. We just made a change where we got to wrap him up.”
Asked if he would get the sack record against Texas A&M at 6:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving night, the ever-confident pass rusher smiled.
“Yes, sir,” he said.
Top prospects on hand
An unscheduled home conference game was also an advantage to LSU on the recruiting front.
Along with a handful of its 2017 commitments, the Tigers hosted three uncommitted five-star prospects for Saturday’s game against Florida. Clinton (Mississippi) running back Cam Akers, Episcopal (Texas) defensive tackle Marvin Wilson and Amite receiver Devonta Smith were all on hand in Tiger Stadium.
Akers, the No. 2 running back prospect in the country according to 247Sports.com, has offers from Ole Miss, Florida State, Ohio State and LSU. Wilson, the top-rated defensive tackle in the nation, has offers from Texas, LSU, Florida State, Alabama and Texas A&M. Smith, the top-rated player in Louisiana, is considered a heavy favorite toward Alabama, according to 247Sports.com.