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LSU wide receiver Malachi Dupre (15) pulls in a pass to score on a 63-yard touchdown catch and run as Southern Miss defensive back Curtis Mikell (19) defends during the second half of the LSU Southern Miss football game Saturday Oct. 15, 2016, in Tiger Stadium. LSU won 45-10.

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG

Malachi Dupre knows his stats.

Not the good ones, though. 

Since moving back to the slot, Dupre’s caught 15 of his 20 targets for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Both of those scores and 100 of those yards came during the second half of a 45-10 win against Southern Miss last Saturday.

LSU's junior receiver has been credited with only one drop in the last four games.

But Dupre’s bad numbers? Those are seared into his brain — three receptions on 15 targets through the first two games of 2016. He didn’t have a catch in Week 2 against Jacksonville State, which hadn’t happened since the 2014 Music City Bowl against Notre Dame.

When asked on how much he tried not to focus on that, Dupre made sure to clarify.

“Oh, I focused on it,” he said, “because I knew it wasn’t acceptable.”

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LSU wide receiver Malachi Dupre (15) runs 53 yards for the touchdown in the third quarter against Southern Miss, Saturday, October 15, 2016, at LSU in Baton Rouge, La. LSU won 45-10.

Dupre, a confident yet self-aware football player, was brutally honest with himself after those first two games. He was on the field for a reason, he said. After all, he led LSU in catches (43), receiving yards (698) and receiving touchdowns (6) last season.

Yet, Dupre wasn’t making plays early in the season in a year when the passing game was considered the biggest question mark for the Tigers, he said

“When you play football at LSU, that’s one step under the NFL,” Dupre said. “Your production being that low is not acceptable, especially with the offense that we had coming into this year. Our passing game has been a question mark coming into the season. I’m getting all those targets, and I’m not getting much out of it.

“I knew that wasn’t acceptable, so I told myself whatever I had to do to fix I would.”

Knowing he possessed the necessary talent, Dupre was adamant that his confidence never wavered through the early struggles. Reverting back to the slot certainly didn’t hurt either.

It’s a spot on the field Dupre said is fun, as he is able to exploit slower defenders with his speed and collect yards after the catch.

“It was only a matter of time before he had those big games before we were like, ‘Malachi’s back,’ which he never really went anywhere,” said fellow receiver Travin Dural. “Just the first couple of games, he was in a slump.”

He had a relationship with new offensive coordinator Steven Ensminger too even before Les Miles and Cam Cameron were fired. Dupre used to pop into the tight end meeting room when Ensminger was dolling out snacks to his unit. 

“Coach Ensminger’s cool,” Dupre said. “He listens to us. He wants us to be in positions that we feel comfortable. I feel like he’s doing a great job so far being diverse in the passing game. I like him keeping his foot on the pedal when we were up and not being conservative with the lead."

Still, LSU’s third-leading scorer last season, only behind running back Leonard Fournette and former Tigers kicker Trent Domingue, didn’t have a touchdown through five games.

That changed Saturday. Dupre ended up uncovered on a play-action pass in the third quarter. He sprinted underneath Danny Etling’s deep ball and maintained his balance for a 63-yard score.

In the fourth quarter, Dupre snatched Etling’s touch pass in the back of the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown, the Tigers’ final points of the game. Dupre finished with 100 yards receiving against the Golden Eagles, the first 100-yard game for any LSU receiver this season.

Dupre acknowledged the scoring production was weight lifted off his shoulders.

“It was a long time coming,” Dupre said after the game. “It felt like it would never come. I’m glad it happened.”

Etling agreed that Dupre didn’t need the touchdowns to restore his confidence.

“I think he was pretty confident already. He’s always tell me to throw him the ball,” Etling said with a smile. “So he must be confident that he’s going to come down with it. I think he kind of showed everyone what I’ve been seeing in practice the past couple of weeks."