LSU’s running backs and fullbacks are slowly becoming the team’s most-used receivers.
No. 24 LSU (6-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) enters Saturday night’s game against No. 3 Ole Miss (7-0, 4-0) having completed as many passes to receivers (eight) as it has backs over the past two weeks.
The Tigers’ passing problems — they’re in the bottom 30 in the nation in yards and attempts per game and completion percentage — are being partly solved with the dump-off pass to the running back.
“Those things have always been in our offense,” running back Terrence Magee said. “Just hadn’t got to them yet.”
Just less than half of quarterback Anthony Jennings’ targets over the last two games — wins over Kentucky and Florida — have been to a running back or fullback. He’s found them eight times among 17 completions in those games.
Some passes appear to be designed for the back — an easy, high-percentage throw for LSU’s young quarterback. Jennings has rolled out to find fullback Melvin Jones five times over the past two weeks.
In Saturday’s 41-3 win over Kentucky, Jennings’ go-to guy was Magee. The senior had three catches for a team-leading 44 yards. He made a one-handed catch on a crossing route, took a screen pass 18 yards and slipped a tackle after one catch to pick up a first down.
“It’s having the ability to get out late and give him somewhere to check the ball to,” Magee said.
That’s been important.
Jennings has struggled to find open receivers down the field, aside from his connection with Travin Dural, who has 26 catches. All other receivers have a combined 34 catches. Running backs and fullbacks have 27.
Jennings misfired multiple times against Kentucky, overthrowing Malachi Dupre once, underthrowing Dural and missing a touchdown to fullback Connor Neighbors.
He threw about a yard behind Magee before the running back made that wild one-handed catch.
Coach Les Miles pointed to Jennings’ decision-making for the problems. He makes late decisions, thus throwing off his feet.
“I don’t know that it’s so much the accuracy as it was the decision where to go with it,” Miles said. “When you make a quality decision, your feet are set and you make a nice throw that’s kind of what you see. If you make a late decision, you miss the decision and you try to get back to it with an off-rhythm throw or one where your feet aren’t necessarily set. I think that affects the accuracy of the throw, and I think that really is more what he’s speaking to.”
Another ‘special’ TD
In Miles’ 10 seasons at LSU, the Tigers have scored 21 touchdowns on special teams in a variety of ways — the latest coming Saturday night on Tre’Davious White’s 67-yard punt return in the first quarter against Kentucky.
White’s return was the 12th on a punt for the Tigers, and first since 2012, when Odell Beckham Jr. took one back 89 yards against Ole Miss — this week’s opponent.
Of the other nine special-teams touchdowns under Miles, LSU has had three on kickoff returns, two on blocked field goals and one each on a blocked punt, fumbled punt, fake field goal and missed field goal by the opposition.
Moving on up
With his 100th and 101st wins as LSU coach the past two weeks against Florida and Kentucky, Miles moved up to 18th on the list of winningest coaches at SEC schools.
Miles had been tied with Pat Dye (Auburn) and Houston Nutt (Arkansas, Ole Miss) with 99 wins, but now stands alone in 18th. He is now three wins behind Doug Dickey, who recorded 104 victories at Tennessee and Florida.
Ole Miss returned about 1,400 of its allotted 7,000 tickets to Saturday’s game, LSU associate athletic director Brian Broussard said. Ole Miss had to make the decision on tickets in August. Alabama will be the only visiting team to Tiger Stadium this season not to return tickets. ... LSU has beaten a top-10 opponent in Tiger Stadium at least one time in each of the past four years. Last year, LSU beat No. 9 Texas A&M, 34-10, in Tiger Stadium. Other top-10 wins at home under Miles since 2010 include: No. 3 South Carolina (23-21 in 2012), No. 3 Arkansas (41-17 in 2011) and No. 5 Alabama (24-21 in 2010). ... LSU is 45-4 in night games in Tiger Stadium under Les Miles. The record improves to 45-3 in Saturday night home games, with all three of those losses coming to teams that were either No. 1 at the time (Florida in 2009 and Alabama in 2012) or reached No. 1 at some point during the year (Mississippi State in 2014).