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November 19, 2012The past two weeks couldn't have worked out better for LSU sophomore tight end Travis Dickson.
With the Tigers set to face Mississippi State and Ole Miss in consecutive weeks they turned to Mississippi native Dickson to fill an immediate void at tight end with the loss of Nic Jacobs to an indefinite suspension.
While the numbers weren't as telling in LSU's 37-17 victory over State, Dickson had a bigger stake in Saturday's game plan with a career-high five catches and 69 yards in a 41-35 win and Magnolia State sweep for the product of Ocean Springs High School.
"The timing couldn't have been more perfect," Dickson said. "Back to back in-state teams that I had a lot of buddies playing for, guys that I grew up playing football with in Mississippi that I'm now playing against."
Dickson, the younger brother of former LSU tight end Richard Dickson, redshirted in 2010 and played sparingly in six games last season, making one catch for 10 yards against Western Kentucky.
LSU has been content to ride with senior Chase Clement and Jacobs, a sophomore, for the majority of the season - predominantly in running two-tight end sets.
When the ball went the tight end's way Zach Mettenberger connected with Jacobs five times for 58 yards and Clement four times for 44 yards with neither scoring a touchdown.
With Jacobs out for the State game Dickson was heavily involved in LSU's running game when the Tigers utilized two tight end alignments but did not catch a pass.
"Not a whole lot changed for me," Dickson said. "I've always kind of had the role where I'm one play away from being in the game. I've always been prepared and once I realized that I really kicked it into another gear.
"When I found out I would be playing more, I got with Chase," Dickson said. "He's a veteran guy who has kind of been a mentor to me. I spent a lot of time in the film room with him and learning the defenses and being prepared for the game."
Although the numbers don't support such a claim, Dickson said it's been the objective of LSU's offense to utilize the tight end more than just as a blocker.
So when Mettenberger accomplished that, throwing for 282 yards in all versus Ole Miss, it turned out to be that Dickson was the beneficiary of the Tigers' offensive intentions to feed the ball more the tight end through the air.
"Our offense has been trying to get the ball to the tight end all year, especially like the Ole Miss game where there were a lot more opportunities," Dickson said. "He (Mettenberger) has a real good relationship with our tight ends. All year we've been trying to get the ball more and more to the tight end and we had finally had an opportunity."
The first half didn't provide much of a glimpse into Dickson's break-through moment with one catch for 30 yards - a half in which LSU trailed 21-17 at halftime.
As has been the case when the offensive line's needed more help to protect Mettenberger, LSU has had to rely on maximum protection with tight ends and running backs staying in to help the offensive line.
Depending on his particular read on the play Dickson would either stay in to block and try and slow down the Rebels' blitz or find a spot within the zone which proved to be extremely effective.
"Some of it was off certain blitzes," Dickson said. "I'd make a specific read and just find a hole the ball was right there to me. I'm just kind of reading the zone defense and taking an open spot and taking advantage of it."
That appeared to be the basis of Dickson's success that included four second-half catches for 39 yards. One of those grab - a 6-yarder - resulted in a first down on third-and-three and enabled LSU to sustain the drive and go in to tie the game at 28-all with 11:39 to play.
"Whenever you get your opportunity you've just got to make the most of it," Dickson said. "This was a big game for me and the seniors. Being Ole Miss, an in-state team for me, and we've got a bunch of seniors I'm close with and I just had a lot of heart for them.
"I'm a pretty vocal guy, especially this game with these seniors," Dickson said. "I was trying to keep them up and keep everything positive. We have a senior class with a lot of heart and a lot of leadership. I was just trying to do my part for them."