By CJ Rucker
The LSU football team’s receivers clawed themselves out of the doghouse against the University of South Carolina on Saturday.
Last week, the Tigers’ receiving corps turned in an overall underwhelming performance — dropping five balls against Eastern Michigan University. The only sign of life the LSU passing attack showed in that game came on the first play when sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris connected with sophomore receiver Malachi Dupre on a 19-yard crossing route.
Harris went on to complete three more passes, finishing the game with a paltry four completions on 14 attempts for 80 yards and no touchdowns.
This week, the Tiger receivers made a concerted effort to catch anything thrown their way.
“[The receivers] worked so hard this week,” Harris said. “We were out there probably 30 or 40 minutes after practice just working routes and they did a hell of a job.”
The receiver group, anchored by junior Travin Dural, caught 18 of Harris’ 28 passes for 228 receiving yards and two touchdowns against the Gamecocks. The Tiger air assault was graced with some good fortune after Dural corralled a ball that was tipped by tight end DeSean Smith near midfield and darted 62 yards for his first touchdown of the season.
By this time last season, Dural had already caught a team-leading five touchdowns. The lack of production from the passing game before Saturday’s game against the Gamecocks was a concern even for a run first team backed by Heisman frontrunner Leonard Fournette.
Dupre said he, as well as the rest of the receivers, wanted to redeem themselves after last week’s outing.
“Last week’s performance was motivation,” Dupre said. “The performance last week was still sitting in the back of our head.”
The Tigers’ revived air attack led them to a record setting day. The team earned 624 total yards, the most since its 672-yard outbreak against Furman University in 2013.
The LSU passing attack complemented a run game that has led the SEC in rushing nearly all season. Dural led the team in receiving yards with four receptions for 109 yards and one touchdown while Dupre hauled in six catches for 74 yards and one touchdown.
Every Monday and Thursday the LSU offense practices two-minute drill scenarios. The Tiger receivers weren’t faced with a situation to utilize the work they put in at practice until they took the field with 1:19 in the second quarter against the Gamecocks.
The Tigers marched down the field as Harris completed four of his eight passes to three different receivers before they netted a field goal just before the half.
Dural said he was happy with the way the receiving corps converted on key opportunities after dropping multiples passes last week.
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“We were more focused this week and we were ready to play,” Dural said. “It felt good to actually take advantage of the opportunities we were given. Last week we were given plenty of opportunities and we didn’t take advantage of it.”
LSU proved how lethal its offense can be when both the passing game and running game are clicking. LSU’s balanced offensive onslaught led to career highs for multiple players.
The outing against the Gamecocks marked the first time LSU had two 150-yard rushers and a 100-yard receiver in the same game. Harris’ 18 completions and 228 passing yards were career highs. Dupre set a career high in receptions with six, while Dural became the first LSU player to earn over 100 receiving yards in a game this season.
Although the passing game had been relatively quiet prior to Saturday’s game, the South Carolina defense respected the talented LSU receivers by lining up with two safeties for most of the game.
“Opponents still respect our passing game because they know the capabilities [Harris] has and this receiving group has as a whole,” Dupre said. “I feel like at the same time they have to respect our great running game.”
The Tiger receivers are making strides at just the right time. Although LSU seems to have spawned a three-headed-monster in the backfield with the emergence of the dynamic freshman running back Derrius Guice, it might look to throw the ball if teams try to stack the box in an effort to stop the run.
Dupre said he and the rest of the receiving corps will be more than ready when their name is called.
“We have a good receiving group — it’s gonna be pick your poison soon,” Dupre said.