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LSU football: Tyrann Mathieu has penchant for making big plays

Morgantown, W. Va. – Ceaseless prayer. Spotless living. Son of Zeus. I’m looking for a reason why Tyrann Mathieu is That Guy – you know, the guy on whom the sun always shines, who seemingly can do no wrong, who could find the needle in that haystack on one try, and look at everyone else wondering why the heck they couldn’t see it, too.Michael DeMocker/The Times-PicayuneLSU sophomore cornerback Tyrann Mathieu has been a big play waiting to happen ever since his first game with the Tigers, and it has happened with remarkable consistency.See, there’s just no accounting for the almost always perfect timing of Matthieu, LSU’s sophomore cornerback from New Orleans.There’s no rhyme or reason why he seems to be attached at the hip to big plays, how he uncannily separates the football from the enemy, how the ball always appears to be drawn to his palms when it’s lying on the field.There’s no mathematical equation that adds up to him appearing always to get to opposing quarterbacks when he blitzes, or routinely being in on the action when foes are tackled for losses.There’s no reason why one, or all, of those things routinely happen in LSU’s biggest games, such as his nationally televised college debut against North Carolina last year, or the Cotton Bowl, or this year’s opener against highly regarded Oregon.They just do. And they always have.Whatever is his time in the 40-yard dash, he plays faster, leaving a vapor trail behind when he blitzes. Whatever is his bench press, he’s stronger on the football field, probably able to forklift offensive linemen if they’re an obstacle.Whatever size he’s listed at — and, officially, he’s 5 feet 9, 175 pounds — he always plays five inches taller and 50 pounds heavier. And at this pace, by the time he finishes up at LSU, he’ll be Paul Bunyan.”Growing up, playing football, I always was around the football, always wanted to just make the most of it that I could,” explained Mathieu, who leads LSU with 24 tackles (three for losses) and also has a half-sack, three pass breakups, three passes defensed and a quarterback hurry. “That’s it. You try to pick every play (to make a big play). I remember my coach back at home (David Johnson at St. Augustine), he always would tell me, ‘You’re probably going to have three or four chances to make a big play.’ So once a play develops, I try to stay a step ahead, try to anticipate those guys’ next move, and luckily I’ve been able to come up with some big plays.”I developed that at a real young age. I was always around the football.” The Tigers (3-0), obviously, have benefited from that since the day Mathieu stepped on the field.He produced like a veteran playmaker from the beginning and hasn’t slowed a bit, already having tied the school record for forced fumbles (six) in all of 16 games. One of those forces came in his debut against the Tar Heels. That night, Mathieu also finished with nine tackles, 1½ tackles for losses and a sack.He closed the season in the Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M the same way it began — seven tackles, including one tackle for a loss, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, an interception, a sack and a pass breakup to earn the defensive Most Outstanding Player award.And as if to show it was no fluke, Oregon got a taste of the same in the opener, the highlight of which was his special-teams tackle, strip and fumble recovery for a touchdown.Simply, Mathieu might not be more active if he had tentacles, possibly couldn’t be in more places if he could teleport.Especially when the lights are brightest and the spotlight is there for the taking.”I think when it’s prime time and those lights are on and everybody is watching you, you want to make that big play,” he said. “I think it’s a personal thing with me, a pride thing with me. I want to go out there and play as hard and as tough as I can.”Both of those traits are evident.So, too, is that Mathieu just might be the most versatile player on an explosive, unyielding defense. One of the reasons he seems to be everywhere is that he is a little bit of everywhere.”I think I’m a complete player, for the most part,” Mathieu said. “I can play cornerback, nickel back, line up at linebacker, I can play safety – I did that in high school. I can do a lot of different things for our defense.”Mostly, what he does for LSU’s defense is make plays.He finds the ball, or the ball finds him. They appear to have the type of relationship where one can’t – won’t – go for long without visiting the other.”You just try to go out there and play your role,” he said. “Just be that guy who always makes big plays.”There doesn’t really need to be a reason why it happens. For LSU, all that matters is that it happens.John DeShazier can be reached at or 504.826.3410.

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