LSU’s Wing likes to pit himself against opponent’s punter

By scott hotard and les east

Advocate sportswriters

LSU punter Brad Wing is hit by Georgia’s Damian Swann after he punts in the first half of the Southeastern Conference Championship Game on Saturday in Atlanta.
LSU punter Brad Wing is hit by Georgia’s Damian Swann after he punts in the first half of the Southeastern Conference Championship Game on Saturday in Atlanta.

It may be a small, often-overlooked part of the game, but Brad Wing said he views every weekend as a personal matchup between himself and the opposing punter.

Saturday at the Georgia Dome, the LSU freshman faced perhaps his toughest foe yet.

Georgia counterpart Drew Butler won the Ray Guy Award as a sophomore in 2009 as the nation’s best punter and has continued to rank among the Southeastern Conference leaders the past two years.

“We knew it was going to be a battle for field position,” Wing said. “I just try to have a game within a game and try to outperform their specialist every time I go out there.”

Wing took care of his end as he and Butler matched each other punt for punt, wowing the crowd at the Georgia Dome with their special-teams fireworks in the Tigers’ 42-10 victory over the Bulldogs in the SEC title game..

In the first half, Wing averaged 54.1 yards on seven punts, including longs of 67 and 64 yards. In the second half, he misfired for 24 yards on his only punt while trying to pin Georgia deep.

The 67-yarder broke the SEC title-game record set by Florida’s Alan Rhine at 65 yards in 2000. The 64-yarder was the third-longest punt in title-game history.

Butler was every bit as good.

The senior averaged 51.6 yards on eight punts, the best average for a punter in title-game history. He boomed a 62-yarder in the first half, the fourth-longest punt in title game history. Three of his punts started LSU inside its 20.

“It’s great when you break records and stuff like that, but this team has been through a lot,” Wing said. “I’m just glad we got the W.”

It has been the best of both worlds for Wing, who has helped LSU reach the BCS title game in his first college season while serving as a valuable weapon in the punting game.

A candidate for All-Southeastern Conference, Wing averages 44.1 yards per punt, with 23 boots inside the 20.

No. 1 only one unbeaten

As the Tigers were getting ready to take the field Saturday, No. 7 Houston was losing its first game of the season to Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA title game. So by the end of the day, LSU was the only team among the 120 in the NCAA Bowl Subdivision to be undefeated.

“I think that definitely means a lot to us,” Tigers offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert said. “Obviously that’s something real special. I don’t even really know what to say because that’s out of all of the Division I teams, we’re the only one not to lose so far. We’ve had a pretty tough schedule to get to this point. I guess all I can say is wow.”

LSU linebacker Ryan Baker said, “It’s a great feeling to be the only guy at the top of the mountain looking down.”

Savoring SEC title

The Tigers usually have a 24-hour rule, meaning they have that long to enjoy a victory before putting it behind them and moving on to the next opponent. But with more than five weeks between the SEC title game and the BCS title game, LSU might be able to bend that rule.

“I think we’ll bask in this one for a little bit,” Hebert said. “A 13-game schedule week in and week out, the pressures and the stress and the physicality of it — getting this break is going to be nice. I’ll definitely be enjoying this one for a couple of days.”

The team will get a break from football this week while the players take final exams.

“It’s nice to get a break (from football),” guard Will Blackwell said. “It’s been a long season, and we’re just focusing on this one more game.”

Quote to note

“We knew it wasn’t going to be over until we said it was over. We came out in the second half and imposed our will. We’ll take that momentum going into New Orleans.” —Blackwell on LSU outscoring Georgia, 42-0, after falling behind, 10-0.