By CODY WORSHAM
Tiger Rag Editor
Danny Etling didn’t see Malachi Dupre streaking down the center of the field, unguarded, in the third quarter of LSU’s 45-10 win over Southern Mississippi on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
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He heard him.
“I was play-faking, so I didn’t see him at first,” said Etling. “As I was turning, all I could hear was, ‘Yo! Yo! Yo!'”
Dupre had been silent all season prior to Saturday. The supremely talented junior had hauled in just 15 passes for 136 yards through LSU’s first five games. None went for scores, and along the way, Dupre dropped several catchable balls, leaving him — and his fans — frustrated with his underwhelming performances.
Maybe that’s how he managed to shout loudly enough for his voice to pierce through a stadium full of screaming Tiger fans and into the ears of his quarterback– sheer frustration. Whatever the cause of his cacophony, it worked. Etling listened, planting his feet at the Tiger 30 and, with hardly a glance, firing a strike 50 yards downfield into Dupre’s eagerly-awaiting arms. The junior nearly stumbled after the catch, but kept his balance and crossed the end zone 20 yards — and, seemingly a lifetime’s duration — later for his first touchdown of the season.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Dupre said. “When he said ‘hut,’ I don’t know what the cornerback was thinking. It wasn’t a corner blitz. He just came up, and I started screaming. I was screaming, ‘Yo!’ as loud as I could.
“I’m glad he saw me. I’m glad my screaming worked.”
The 63-yard touchdown was part of an LSU offensive outburst that saw the Tigers at their most explosive. LSU entered the game with just two offensive plays of 50+ yards on the season. Against Southern Mississippi, they racked up three — in the third quarter alone.
The first came courtesy of Derrius Guice, who picked up 61 of his 162 rushing yards on a 3rd and 1 carry early after the halftime break. That touchdown broke a 10-10 halftime tie that had Ed Orgeron fuming in the locker room.
“I knew we were going to have to go through some adversity at some point with this football team,” Oregeron said. “It happened in the first half. But we came right here in the locker room at halftime and addressed those issues. They were challenged and came back and played a tremendous second half.”
Guice’s score broke the deadlock. DJ Chark’s broke the foe’s back.
On 1st and 10 from the Tiger 20, LSU leading 24-10, Chark took a 12-yard hitch from Etling and broke free, gaining the edge on the defense and taking it to the house.
“DJ’s super fast,” Dupre said. “That’s no secret.”
Chark’s speed is so renowned, in fact, that his teammates call him “Flash.”
“His name would’ve been demoted if he got caught,” Dupre joked.
If Chark’s touchdown showcased his raw speed, Dupre’s second was a display of pure skill. Etling lofted a third-down toss over Dupre’s back shoulder, and the junior hauled it in — while being interfered with — and still kept both feet in the back of the endzone. It was the sort of contested catch Dupre’s come to expect of himself, but failed to make in the five games prior.
“That’s been one thing I’ve been great at my whole career,” Dupre said. “Me doing it in practice every day doesn’t count. In the games at the beginning of the season, I wasn’t doing my best job. Tonight I went out there and played the way I was supposed to.”
It was a refreshing change of pace for Dupre, who entered the year with a first round draft grade but knew he wasn’t playing up to his potential prior to Saturday’s game. He and injured tailback Leonard Fournette, who missed his third game of the season, bonded over their trials.
“Leonard and I were playing around last week,” Dupre said. “He was our leading scorer last year. I was second. To say I haven’t gotten in the end zone, it wasn’t the best feeling.”
That feeling was nowhere to be found after his slump-busting Saturday. Dupre finished the game with three catches for 100 yards — he became LSU’s first receiver to eclipse the century mark on the season — and the pair of scores, his first two-touchdown outing since the Tigers’ 35-28 win over Florida a year ago.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Dupre said of returning to the endzone. “It felt like it would never come, but I’m glad it happened.”
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