Tigers glad Clayton stuck with football

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

BATON ROUGE &045; When he signed into one of the most storied football recruiting classes ever to gather at LSU in 2001, there was talk Michael Clayton might try to play both on the gridiron and the hardwood.

As a highly touted basketball star at Christian Life Academy in Baton Rouge, the 6-4 body was one various top 20 schools coveted.

Very abruptly, on his own reconnaissance, Clayton dropped the orange ball to focus strictly on the pigskin.

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Somewhere Nick Saban is clasping his hands and screaming, &uot;Thank you!&uot;

The junior set career highs Saturday, with 11 catches for 162 yards in a 35-7 victory over Division I-AA Western Illinois.

&uot;It’s important for us to have balance on offense,&uot; Saban said. &uot;If we’re going to be a dangerous team offensively &045; Skyler Green, Michael Clayton, Devery Henderson and our backs have to be effective.&uot;

Clayton, who walked off the field with his left ankle taped due to a sprain, has had three 100-yard games to open the season and six for his career.

His 1,926 yards ranks him sixth on LSU’s career receiving list.

COMPLACENT ANYONE? &045; The Tigers talked all week that they were going to play for 60 minutes against Western Illinois as is the philosophy of Nick Saban.

But, for more than 36 minutes the LSU offense looked like they were content with accomplishing just enough in a matter of seconds.

With a pair of fumbles from their starting running back, the Tigers blew golden opportunities to put the No. 1 Leathernecks to bed early.

&uot;There’s always three things that affect a game like this,&uot; Saban said, &uot;turnovers, the play of your quarterback and special teams. Our execution wasn’t where it needed to be all the time, and that’s not just on us. (Western Illinois) helped out with that.&uot;

GET A PRIEST &045; The Tigers turned the ball over three times, twice on those Addai fumbles and once on a high snap to punter Donnie Jones, in a span of 6 and 1/2 minutes.

Luckily, the defense brought the thunder to Death Valley, not allowing a single point for a 13-0 halftime lead.

Senior defensive tackle Chad Lavalais’ blocked field goal where he put a swim move on snapper Ryan Solie and engulfed Justin Langan’s 30-yard attempt was a big reason for that.

&uot;It was lucky for me to be there,&uot; Lavalais said. &uot;(Western) is No. 1 for a reason, and I respect that team like every other. But we made some mistakes out there. If you take those turnovers away who knows what happens.&uot;

Saban wasn’t impressed with his defense’s knack for surrendering big plays, including a 17-yard pass completion from Russ Michna to running back Travis Glasford that set up Western’s only points of the night.

&uot;Chad Lavalais played like a man possessed,&uot; Saban said. &uot;We had some mental errors on defense, but overall I think we played pretty good.

Lavalais’ stuff was the first time LSU blocked a try for three since Arnold Miller blocked a 42-yard attempt by Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., in 1998.

CONTROVERSY NO MORE &045; Matt Mauck likes the view from the top.

If there was ever any doubt who was the more excelled quarterback between Mauck and Marcus Randall, the junior from Jasper, Ind., put it to rest Saturday.

Dating back to the Arizona victory and during the first half of Western Illinois, Mauck completed 17 straight passes tying a school record, which he now shares with his predecessor Rohan Davey.

Mauck finished 23 of 33 with no picks, 305 yards and four touchdown passes.

&uot;His made steady improvement throughout the spring, fall camp and each game he’s played,&uot; Saban said. &uot;Y’all forget he only started six games last year. Fundamentally, (LSU offensive coordinator) Jimbo (Fisher) has done an outstanding job to develop Matt Mauck as a passer.&uot;

What is more noticeable about Mauck contrasting the past two seasons is his aptitude for spreading the wealth.

Sure Clayton caught 11 balls and a score, but four other receivers and one tight end were successful targets of Mauck’s.

A vast contradiction from the quarterback who in his first two years was criticized for zeroing on one receiver and not checking off if the mark was covered.

&uot;I think Matt Mauck played as fine a game as he has played since he’s been our quarterback,&uot; Saban boasted. &uot;He made some outstanding reads and some very good throws when things weren’t going so well out there.&uot;

NOTES &045; LSU had a running back and a receiver blast past the 100-yard plateau Saturday for the first time since the 2002 Sugar Bowl win. Shyrone Carey ran for 124 yards on 21 carries and Clayton reeled in 11 balls for 162 yards … Corey Webster snagged his first

and second interceptions of the season during the second and third quarter, respectively. It marked the third time he has had multiple picks in a game since last season … Travis Daniels’ blocked punt in the first quarter was the Tigers’ first since Clarence LeBlanc engulfed one at Mississippi State in 1999.