Third-ranked LSU suffered a blow during practice this week when standout left tackle Chris Faulk suffered a knee injury that will require surgery and rehab and likely keep the 6-foot-6, 323-pound junior sidelined for the rest of the season.
In his place Saturday stepped sixth-year senior Josh Dworaczyk, who himself suffered a season-ending knee injury during fall camp last year.
Dworaczyk made the most of what could soon become a full-time job, helping LSU pound out 242 yards on 52 carries in a 41-3 rout of Washington on Saturday night at Tiger Stadium.
“We’re fortunate to have quality two deep where if you lose a guy, the next guy steps into the breach and plays to the responsibility of the position,” LSU coach Les Miles said.
En route to their record 39th straight nonconference, regular-season victory, the Tigers dominated their smaller Pac-12 opponent up front, driving the Huskies off the line of scrimmage on rushing plays and keeping quarterback Zach Mettenberger free from pressure.
On a night when LSU allowed no sacks, Mettenberger completed 12 of 18 passes (overcoming several drops by his receivers) for 195 yards with a 32-yard scoring strike.
He had so much time to throw the ball, he could have stood in the pocket and wrote his linemen a thank-you card for all the time they gave him.
Not that the play of LSU’s line was much of a surprise. Even without Faulk.
Faulk was considered a potential first-round pick in the NFL Draft this spring before going down with the knee injury.
He earned second-team All-Southeastern Conference recognition as a sophomore and was expected to push for a spot on the first team this year.
But the Tigers were lucky they had someone like Dworaczyk waiting in the wings.
After starting 26 games for LSU at left guard in 2009 and 2010, Dworaczyk entered 2012 as a backup at the position to sophomore La’el Collins, but the former Catholic-New Iberia standout was considered a jack of all trades who could spell any of the starters on the offensive line. He’s been around so long, he started for the Tigers when they played at Washington to start the 2009 season.
“I’m not sure what the coaches have in mind, but it’s in my mind to go out there and do my best,” Dworaczyk said. “That’s all I can do. If I get the chance to continue going out there as the starter, I will be pleased with that.”
Dworaczyk & Co. opened enough holes in the line to set Alfred Blue (14 carries, 101 yards) loose for his second 100-yard game in as many starts this season.
But Blue was hardly alone. Michael Ford went for 48 yards on 10 carries. Kenny Hilliard had 46 on 12 tries with two scores.
Spencer Ware, who missed the first game of the season with an undisclosed injury, rumbled for 41 yards on eight carries.
The signature drive for the offensive line came when LSU went 47 yards on seven plays to take a 14-3 lead late in the first quarter. All seven plays were rushes — by four different players.
“Hopefully,” Miles said, “that kind of physical play will always be a characteristic of LSU football.”
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