Wing, Alleman moving on from Carolina game
After perhaps the worst game of his LSU career, Brad Wing sent a text message to someone he hoped would understand.
Desperate for a pep talk, Wing answered the return call that came only moments after he hit the send button. A familiar voice spoke on the other end of the line — Donnie Jones, the former LSU punter who’s now in his ninth season in the NFL.
“He told me the first punt of his senior year, he shanked it 12 yards,” Wing said. “He was preseason-this, preseason-that. He was going to get drafted the next year, and then he shanked it 12 yards…He told me everybody’s been there and to have a short memory about it. … He said one game doesn’t define you.”
While Jones attempted to convince him otherwise, Wing still dealt with the frustration of his outing 24 hours later. For someone who considers himself a perfectionist, his performance Saturday was far below his standards.
Wing averaged just 33.5 yards on his four punts and failed to pin one inside the 20-yard line for the first time this season. He had two punts travel shorter than 25 yards, his worst going out of bounds 10 yards past the line of scrimmage.
Even his best punt of the night didn’t go according to plan. Wing booted one 56 yards to the South Carolina 11-yard line in the third quarter, but returner Ace Saunders took it back 50 yards before a penalty offset some of that gain.
“I was putting a bit of pressure on myself to hit that 70-yard bullet every time,” Wing said. “I’m never going to be able to play for LSU again once my time’s up, so I’m just going to go out there and have fun. If I don’t hit the ball I want to, then I’ll make sure the next one is.”
Wing admitted he’s struggled with punting from deep inside opponent’s territories. He said pooching it short is not his strength, but that it’s something he has to get over.
“I get too cautious with it,” Wing said. “If you overthink, it never works out. That’s something I’ve done my whole life.”
While average punting performances typically go unnoticed by most, one bad night can lead to harsh backlash — particularly for Wing, whose expectations soared after his breakout season in 2011.
One national writer even went so far as to call Wing a liability.
“I’m going to be honest, and I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I thought it was real stupid,” Wing said of that criticism. “I think I’ve established a pretty good résumé for myself here at LSU. For him to call me a liability, it was almost so far-fetched that I didn’t take any offense to it.”
The stats also support Wing’s disagreement. Entering the South Carolina game, Wing was averaging 45.3 yards per punt, almost a yard more than his 2011 average. Opponents had returned just six of 27 punts, with two of those ending in fumbles and two others totaling negative yardage.
LSU coach Les Miles didn’t rush to panic, calling Wing’s night uncharacteristic but correctable, and said he has become a victim of high expectations — of others and his own.
“We just recognize that he’s accustomed to performing much better,” Miles said. “When you’re used to having that monster punt, frankly maybe that’s not something we should count on and allow him to give it to us a little more regularly.”
Wing wasn’t the only specialist to come out of Saturday’s game with frustration. Kicker Drew Alleman missed a 32-yarder against South Carolina — his fourth miss of the season, and his third inside 40 yards.
For the guy many considered as one of the top two kickers in the Southeastern Conference after making 16 of 18 attempts last year, Alleman admits he’s failed to live up those lofty expectations.
“It hasn’t been going the way I want it to go,” Alleman said. “But there are still games left. I have to finish out strong.”
He said both he and Wing studied film Sunday to find their mistakes. He mentioned trouble with his plant foot and a fear of pulling the ball left, which is exactly what he did in his miss Saturday.
“The fans expect the best out of us, and we expect the best out of us,” Alleman said. “This team’s counting on us…One kick, and you’re done. You have to move on. There are always going to be big kicks in front of you.”
Though it was hard for either player to find a positive outlook on Saturday night, each one took a little solace in the ability to comfort his teammate.
“As a specialist, not every day is going to be your day,” Alleman said. “That day was rough on me and him. We just have to work hard this week and fix the little things.”