by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
JAY WARD (CB)
29 TOTAL TACKLES
1 INT RET FOR TD
1 BLOCKED FG
Ward's breakout season actually began with his DBU rep in tatters....and none of it was his fault. He had to sit there and take a barrage of internet trolls ripping on his abilities and mentality as a football player, all while nobody knew the struggle the sophomore was enduring at the time:
Undergoing a surgery on his torn meniscus only two weeks prior, Ward wasn't even supposed to be playing against Mississippi State...but once Derek Stingley suffered a chaotic health scare which abruptly ended his participation vs Miss State the night before, Ward was thrown out to the "air raid wolves" by Bo Pelini & Corey Raymond in the wrong scheme.
Despite breaking up 3 passes while playing on one leg in the game, Ward was roundly destroyed by the national media for LSU's defensive woes vs Miss State, #5 himself allowing 2 TDs as K.J Costello took advantage of the injured Tiger. Pelini's squad allowed a sickening 44 points and lost by 10 at home to an unranked Mike Leach unit, with the secondary receiving much of the blame for the 623 passing yards surrendered...Jay Ward thrown to the hounds a second time through social media's churning hell.
Throughout it all, Ward was one of the only players on that field still giving their all by the 4th quarter, diving after opponents with reckless abandon...here was Ward showing leadership through the suffering, as he tried to put out multiple fires at the same time.
After Miss State, Ward would sit out the Vanderbilt & South Carolina games to regain his health, seeing the field sparingly vs Missouri or Auburn as he recovered from his meniscus surgery, but against Arkansas, Ward began a streak of definitive performances:
First, he flew off the weak side edge like a mutinous spitball of fury, launching himself with leaping outstretched arms and blocking the last second game-sealing field goal, preserving the Tigers' badly needed 27-24 victory; Then, against Alabama as the world fell in on LSU, Ward punched the ball out of Slade Bolden's hands inside the red zone and stopped another Tide touchdown, saving some face for this LSU defense.
During the final two games of the year vs Florida and Ole Miss, Ward proceeded to take the 2020 campaign over:
Against the Gators of Florida, not only did Ward rack up 8 tackles, 6 as a solo artist, DBU's Kingslayer also batted down two Trask passes while isolated in one on one coverage inside his own end zone, denying touchdowns during a back and forth 1st quarter. But he easily tops that by pulling off one of the most incredible red zone interceptions you'll ever see. He battled for the ball as Kyle Trask's red zone pass zoomed through Jay's diving grasp, clipped WR Toney's cupped hand, ricocheted off Dwight McGlothern's facemask and headed straight back towards Jay, the LSU #5 rising off the floor to his knees just in time to cradle the unbelievable interception.
It was a display of acrobatic whimsy LSU fans hadn't seen all year outside of a few players....and here was Jay Ward ready to announce himself as a new DBU star.
Already wearing a title ring on his finger, notably playing well vs Miss State and batting 3 passes away in the 2019 Peach Bowl, relishing the duel against Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts (now Eagles starter) Ward knows what it takes. No wonder he became the chief playmaker amongst the LSU secondary at the tail end of a leaderless season...
In the final game of the year, CB Jay Ward may have allowed the first touchdown of the Ole Miss bout, but he atoned when he cut in on a short hitch route at its apex and intercepted Corral, taking the ball to the house for LSU's 4th defensive touchdown of 2020 and the first of his Tigers career.
But he didn't stop there, grabbing his second pick of the game off Corral later on to go alongside his 5 solo tackles, his gutty play handing LSU a 5 point 53-48 victory over Lane Kiffin's Ole Miss Rebels, a game played in the middle of a rain-soaked monsoon.
Without Jay Ward...do the Tigers finish 5-5??
If we're having to ask the question, then we know the answer...
2020 was a rough year for so many, Jay Ward included, yet through it all he kept is head up and kept his focus on two things: first, his recovery from the knee surgery, second: becoming a big time piece of Corey Raymond's DBUnit.
He blocked out the noise and proved to all concerned just what kind of young Tiger he is...and I'm proud to watch him in purple and gold.
HOLD THAT TIGER!!!
Watch out...Jay is about to have an electric 2021...I could even see him used at free safety such is his versatility in coverage.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC
SHOUTOUTS: A.D, Duchess, E11 Josh, Brandon, Trey Goodwin