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September 8, 2012

Big game-changer

Defensive coordinator John Chavis appreciates LSU punter Brad Wing.

Chavis understands what a good punter can mean to a team in the all-important category of field position.

"The punter can truly be a weapon for you," Chavis said. "Any time you change field position, that's important. Not that many drives of 80 yards or plus take place. Then, when you are on a short field, you have to gamble (on defense)."

The Tigers got off a rocky start against Washington on Saturday night. A case could be made that the most meaningful play of the Tigers' 41-3 victory was a punt by Wing.

Chavis' defense limited the Huskies to a field goal after they recovered an Odell Beckham fumble at LSU's 20 on the opening kickoff. The Tigers proceeded to go three-and-out with two Zach Mettenberger passes going off the hands of Beckham.

But, with the ball at LSU's 34, Wing delivered a 62-yard punt which went out of bounds at Washington's 4. Wing kicked a low line drive to avoid the windy conditions which were present at Tiger Stadium on Saturday night.

"We knew during breakfast that it was going to be pretty windy tonight," Wing said. "The wind swirls a lot here at Tiger Stadium. With the wind, I knew I had to punt it pretty low."

When Wing came out for pregame warm-ups, he tried to kick the ball normally into the wind. He determined such a plan was not going to work.

"I experimented with the wind before the game," Wing said. "I kicked two or three balls straight into the wind. The ball got caught up in the wind and went about 30 or 35 yards. The wind just tore (ball) apart. I knew then, I had to go with a low line drive. We practice that low, across-the-field kick a lot."

Backed up to their 4-yard line, the Huskies managed just three yards in just three plays. Washington's Korey Durkee then got off just a 32-yard punt with the wind at his back. Field position changed with LSU taking over at the Huskies' 38.

"Special teams are huge," Wing said. "Washington had the momentum early on. That kick swung the momentum back our way. It pinned them deep. No offense is going to go 90 yards against our defense."

On the first play of the series, Mettenberger completed a 17-yard pass to James Wright. Then, Blue ran 21 yards for a touchdown. The Huskies' lead was gone and the Tigers' rout was on.

"Changing field position gives the defense a boost," said kicker Drew Alleman, who has a close look of Wing's work every day in practice. "Brad was on our 30 or 35 and he booms one to the left."

Wing wasn't the only Tigers kicker who enjoyed a good night. Alleman made field goals of 18 and 32 yards. James Hairston's average kickoff reached Washington's 1. Five of his eight kickoffs went for touchbacks. Wing averaged 54.3 yards on three punts.

"I felt like we kicked dominantly," LSU coach Les Miles said. "Brad Wing has a big night punting the ball. He averaged 54 yards and that is what we expect from him now on."

Alleman was not shocked when he was called on to kick a field goal when the Tigers had a fourth-and-goal at the Huskies' 1 early in the second quarter. Alleman connected on the field goal to give the Tigers a 17-3 lead.

"No, I wasn't surprised when we went for the short field goal," Alleman said. "Short field goals are not easy. The ones shorter than an extra point are tougher to make when the ball is on the hash mark. The hash marks are about five yards outside the goal posts."

Alleman thought he was going to get an opportunity of kicking a long field goal in the third quarter. However, Mettenberger spoiled his hopes by completing a long touchdown pass to Kadron Boone.

"I was messing with Zach," Alleman said. "We had a third-and-ten at the 33. So, I thought I was going to get a chance at a 50-yard field goal. Then, Zach messes that up by throwing a touchdown pass to Boone."


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