For the second straight week, junior kicker Trent Domingue booted a kickoff out of bounds.
And for the second straight week, LSU coach Les Miles replaced him with sophomore Cameron Gamble.
But this time, that move didn’t work out so well for the Tigers.
South Carolina freshman Rashad Fenton ran back Gamble’s second kickoff for a 96-yard touchdown to cut LSU’s lead to 14-10 about halfway through the second quarter of Saturday’s game.
LSU (5-0, 3-0 Southeastern) went on to win 45-24, but the big return was just another installment in a string of miscues for the Tigers special teams, specifically in kick coverage. Miles called the special teams sloppy and said the Tigers have “work to do there.”
“We’ll work on some of the techniques with what we expect from our kickoff coverage. We’ll press that,” Miles said.
Gamble booted the final three kickoffs against Eastern Michigan last week, averaging 62 yards per kick. He increased his average by 1 yard against the Gamecocks (2-4, 0-4), but the return touchdown was enough for Miles to use Domingue for the final four kickoffs.
Domingue squib kicked three of the last four kicks. Miles gave a threefold reasoning for the short kicks after Fenton’s explosive return.
“One, to change the timing of the return,” he said. “Two, to make it a question of who is supposed to field the ball. Three, if we can get a fair catch by one of the fielders, that would be something that we’d be for. I think some of those were successful.”
But the squib kicks gave the Gamecocks a shorter field, and they had scoring drives of 60 and 61 yards in the second half. The Tigers are allowing more than 25 yards per kick return, which ranks them 112th out of 127 FBS teams.
“I feel like we can definitely be better, and we will be down the stretch,” junior Tre’Davious White said.
Mouton for Moore
Leonard Fournette lost his right-hand man to a leg injury in the first quarter, but that didn’t slow the sophomore running back — or LSU’s running game — one bit.
Despite sophomore fullback JD Moore’s left knee injury early in the game, the Tigers racked up 396 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. LSU ran a good bit of single back out of the shotgun, but true freshman Bry’Kiethon Mouton served as the fullback when the formation called for one.
“It’s a motto that goes with LSU: Young guys are going to play big roles,” Fournette said. “He stepped in and did an excellent job. JD Moore did an excellent job preparing him for this day.”
Miles said losing Moore “didn’t really affect us much” and said the fullback’s injury was not a serious one.
Mills on the mend
Jalen Mills swayed back and forth, dancing with his teammates as the music blared out over Tiger Stadium. Who could blame him? The senior defensive back was finally dressed out and warming up for a game after missing the first four games with an ankle injury he suffered in preseason camp.
But Mills didn’t play a snap against South Carolina, and Miles didn’t say whether he would do so this week against Florida. White, Mills’ running mate in the secondary, suggested that the senior was held out of Saturday’s game as a precaution. White said he thought Mills would play against the Gamecocks, and he expects the same next week against Florida.
“It’s going to be great to have him back — the leader of the secondary, one of the most emotional guys I’ve ever known,” he said. “He just loves the game of football. To get him back to doing what he loves to do is going to be big for us.
“Come next week, you’re not going to be able to hold that guy back.”