When LSU closed out its 41-35 comeback win against Ole Miss on Saturday, it wasn’t Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, James Wright or any other Tigers wideout at the top of the receiving statistics. Instead it was Travis Dickson, a sophomore tight end whose name hasn’t echoed through Tiger Stadium much this season.
Dickson has played in 10 of LSU’s 11 games, but had failed to make a catch before Saturday. By the end of the day, Dickson had team-highs of five catches and 69 yards.
“It was real exciting,” Dickson said. “We were expecting them to blitz, and it ended up being open. The way they played it, I just kind of found a hole and me and Zach (Mettenberger) were on the same page, and he just threw it right on the money.”
Mettenberger threw for 282 yards for the game, with Dickson emerging as the favorite target.
Dickson had just one career catch before the weekend, snagging a 10-yard reception against Western Kentucky in 2011. The Ocean Springs, Miss., native redshirted his first year in Baton Rouge and played in six games last season.
He entered 2012 as the third-string tight end, behind Chase Clement and Nic Jacobs and was battling freshman Dillon Gordon for playing time. With Jacobs out for violating a team policy, Dickson took full advantage of his opportunities against his home-state rival.
“I’ve always been one of those guys that’s one play away from playing a big role, so I’ve always stayed prepared,” Dickson said. “(It was fun) playing against Ole Miss, a team where I’ve got a bunch of good friends from high school playing against. I answered them for a little bit so I don’t have to hear anything from them when I go home.”
It may have been Dickson’s first big break, but LSU coach Les Miles said it likely won’t be his last.
“He has developed,” Miles said of Dickson. “It’s an amazing thing when young guys come in, they learn, they invest and they fight to get better. They improve, and they do it quietly. They do it in a position where possibly in the stands have not noticed, but the coaches have. I think you will see him the rest of the way out. He is a guy that we will count on.”
Saturday’s game against Arkansas may turn into the feel of a Big 12 shootout as opposed to a Southeastern Conference defensive battle.
Razorbacks quarterback Tyler Wilson leads the conference with 302.8 pass yards per game, helping Arkansas become the No. 3 passing team in the league.
“I think that Tyler is a tremendous talent and a very capable quarterback,” Miles said. “It will be a challenge to us. The only way to contain a guy like that is with coverage and rushes in certain down and distances. It is an evolving strategy throughout the game.”
LSU has struggled defending the pass of late, giving up more than 300 yards through the air in each of the past two games. The good news for the Tigers is Mettenberger has matched the defensive frustrations with three strong outings of his own, throwing for more than 250 yards in the past three contests.
“The other 10 guys on the offense are playing at a really high level right now and that makes my job a lot easier,” Mettenberger said. “My success always comes from the guys around me.”
Mettenberger could find some more success this weekend going against the Razorbacks, who rank dead last in the conference in pass defense, surrendering 292.1 yards per game.
Minter a Butkus finalist
LSU junior middle linebacker Kevin Minter was named as one of five finalists for the Butkus Award on Tuesday, given annually to the nation’s top linebacker.
The Suwanee, Ga., native joins Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, Oregon’s Dion Jordan, Alabama’s C.J. Mosley and Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o as finalists for the honor.
Minter leads the Tigers with 101 tackles in 11 games and has twice been named SEC Defensive Player of the Week. He’s also recorded a team-high 13.5 tackles for loss to add to his three sacks, five pass breakups, interception and forced fumble.
On Oct. 6 at Florida, Minter had 20 tackles — including a school-record 17 solo stops — which was one shy of the school record for total tackles and the most for an LSU player since 1988.
The Butkus winner will be announced in the first week of December.
The Big Easy
With the possibility of a Sugar Bowl berth still alive for LSU, Miles mentioned the potential return to New Orleans and the same field where LSU was shut out 21-0 in the BCS National Championship game a year ago.
“First of all, it is a great city for us with the exception of one game,” Miles said. “We play extremely well in that facility. I would like to go back and reacquaint ourselves with playing best in the Dome.”