The jarring impact of LSU running back Leonard Fournette’s shoulder with crumpling Auburn defensive back Blake Countess blew the top off of sold-out Tiger Stadium – and more than likely resonated with Heisman Trophy voters.
And if that 40-yard touchdown run wasn’t eye-catching enough, Fournette added a 29-yard score in which safety Tray Matthews tried to tackle the running back high, only to be sent tumbling, heels-over-head, toward the sideline.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Fournette finished that play with a finesse move that buckled the knees of safety Nick Ruffin, and No. 13 LSU was well on its way to a 45-21 victory over 18th-ranked Auburn on Saturday.
Fournette finished with a career-high 228 yards and three TDs on 19 carries (an average of 12 yards per carry).
Which run was Fournette’s favorite?
“No favorite run,” he said. “I have favorite guys and that’s my (offensive) line.”
As for bowling over tacklers, he said simply, “It was fun. I did it in high school, now it’s in college. The crowd reacted wonderful.”
Fournette was rested for much of the second half – perhaps the only thing preventing him from breaking Alley Broussard’s single-game LSU rushing record of 250 yards, set against Mississippi in 2004.
“The bottom line is we got our rear kicked,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “They did a good job blocking and the kid (Fournette) broke some tackles, too, and made a few big runs. But at the same time, in the first half the (Auburn) offense was awful. They really didn’t give our defense any kind of a spark or any kind of hope.”
Fournette has 387 yards and six TDs through the first two games of the season for LSU (2-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference), which will go as far as its stellar sophomore running back can take it.
How far Auburn (2-1, 0-1) will fall in the national rankings will be apparent by Sunday. With its lopsided loss in Death Valley coming one week after it needed overtime to avoid an upset by Jacksonville State, odds are it’ll l be the latest SEC squad to tumble out of the AP Top 25.
Fournette wasn’t the only one gashing Auburn. LSU finished with 411 yards rushing.
LSU still doesn’t really know how well it can pass the ball. Quarterback Brandon Harris, who was 9-for-14 for 71 yards in a victory at Mississippi State a week earlier, was 12-of-17 for 74 yards and a touchdown against Auburn. The dual-threat sophomore QB rushed for 66 yards and two TDS on eight carries.
“Bandon Harris did exactly what we asked him to do,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “He managed the game, managed the clock … He made plays with his feet, made plays with his arm, got us into the right play. I enjoyed how he performed.”
LSU’s defense had a pretty good day, too, intercepting Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson once and sacking him five times. Johnson fumbled on a sack by defensive tackle Frank Herron, who also recovered at the Auburn 5 to set up Fournette’s final TD, a 1-yard dive over the pile. Davon Godchaux had two sacks. Jamal Adams had LSU’s interception and dropped a chance for another.
Auburn running back Peyton Barber, who had surpassed 100 yards in each of his first two games this season, was held to 34 yards on seven carries.
Asked about possible switching QBs, Malzahn said, “We are going to evaluate everything – at every position.”
Auburn trailed 24-0 at halftime and scored its first points when Johnson escaped up the middle of the field for a 65-yard scoring run early in the second half to make it 24-7, but it never got closer than that.
The temperature was 91 degrees at kickoff, tying for the fifth-hottest start to a game in Tiger Stadium. While fans were fanning themselves and guzzling discounted bottles of water, Fournette blazed 71 yards on LSU’s first play from scrimmage to set the tone for his day and set up Harris’ short TD run on an option play.
QUOTABLE: Miles joked about his reaction to seeing Fournette shed tacklers with such force that they knocked over their own defensive teammates: “I asked (running backs coach) Frank (Wilson) and Frank said he has been teaching that all along. Leonard was the first one that picked it up.”
NOTES: LSU linebacker Deion Jones was ejected for targeting after a high hit on Johnson just after the Auburn QB delivered a short pass in the fourth quarter. Jones will have to sit out the first half of next Saturday’s game at Syracuse.
SOURCE: The Associated Press