BATON ROUGE – Ole Miss safety Deontay Anderson has got to be wondering how LSU tailback Leonard Fournette’s impact would feel when Fournette is not feeling so sluggish and, well, peaked.
Fournette, playing his first game in nearly a month because of an ankle injury, was not at his best Saturday.
“Everybody thinks I’m healthy,” Fournette said after the Tigers defeated Ole Miss, 38-21, Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. “But I’m out of shape. I’m like 230 or 233 right now (instead of 225). Over these next two weeks, I’m just going to work on getting myself back in shape and also rehabbing my ankle.”
For Fournette, though, not being at his best is apparently still good enough to set LSU game rushing records for rushing yards and average yards per carry with 284 yards on 16 carries for a 17.8-yard average. Fournette’s right shoulder and forearm were also working well enough to knock Anderson, the No. 1 safety prospect in the nation by ESPN last year out of Manvel, Texas, helmet over cleats.
“Man, that was big. He just man-hunted him,” said LSU defensive tackle Davon Godchaux, who had a perfect view of it as Fournette caught a short swing pass from quarterback Danny Etling on the last play of the first quarter and shifted into Hummer gear right on the LSU sideline.
After about 15 yards of acceleration by Fournette, Anderson approached him low from Fournette’s right. Fournette lowered his shoulder, knocked Anderson on his rear, and his momentum – or Fournette’s – kept carrying and he flipped. He “trucked him,” as players say. The blow did knock Fournette off balance, and as he went out of bounds with a 22-yard gain, Anderson was completely inverted behind him.
“Sometimes, I don’t even know what defensive backs are thinking,” Godchaux said. “You really think you’re going to tackle him one-on-one, right? I don’t even know what they’re thinking. I’d just push him out of bounds. I don’t know what they’re thinking. I guess they’ve got something to prove, but nobody can prove nothing when that man’s going 100 miles per hour.”
Anderson was credited with the tackle. He would have just one more in the game.
“At the end of the day, those licks hurt. I’d rather hit him than him hit me,” Fournette said.
“It was bad. It was bad,” Godchaux said admiringly. “Leonard made him look bad.”
Godchaux considers himself a connoisseur of the finer Fournette runs.
“I’m going to go with the game and the truck,” he said. “I’m going to say that truck is ranked number one.”
Someone asked if it really outranked the “truck” against Texas A&M in 2014 when Fournette flattened Aggies’ defensive back Howard Matthews, bringing up comparisons to Georgia Heisman winner Herschel Walker’s bulldozing of Tennessee safety Bill Bates in 1980.
“That one was pretty good, but dang, he made this guy look bad,” Godchaux said.
“We wanted to out-physical our opponent, and that was one of the things,” LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron said. “And that was one of the things. Plus it looked good. That’s one of the things that we love when Leonard does it.”
Fournette’s first true signature game that got his Heisman Trophy momentum going was against Auburn last year when he gained a then-career-high 228 yards on 19 carries in a 45-21 win. Fournette flipped and Auburn defender over his shoulders and bounced other ones away.
“Auburn last year was a big game,” Godchaux said. “But I think by far, this was his best game because he barely touched the ball. Most of his plays were big plays, so I think by far this was his best game.”
Fournette scored on a 59-yard run in the first quarter, a 76-yard run in the second quarter and a 78-yard run in the third. He gained 171 yards in the first half on just six carries for a 28.5-yard average. He broke the record of 250 yards set in 2004 against Ole Miss by Alley Broussard of Acadiana High in Lafayette. Broussard carried it 26 times in a 27-24 win that night. Fournette broke the record on just eight carries. His seventh carry was a 78-yard touchdown on LSU’s first play of the third quarter.
“I think he’s the best player in America. I’m glad he’s on our team,” Orgeron said.
“If he gets creases like he did tonight, I think he’s probably the best in the nation,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said.
And he was not at his best, particularly as far as conditioning.
“After every two carries, I was done,” said Fournette, who leaned on backup tailback Derrius Guice, who added 57 yards on 16 carries. “I’m telling Derrius to get in the game.”
Fournette even worried about the wrath of running backs coach Jabbar Juluke should he get run down from behind on one of the long ones.
“I was just tired,” he said. “I was tired, and my main thing was not to get caught. If I was going to get caught,
Coach Juluke was going to raise hell.”
Fortunately for Fournette, he has two weeks to get ready for LSU’s next game as the No. 19 Tigers (5-2, 3-1 Southeastern Conference have an open date this weekend before hosting No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) on Nov. 5 in Tiger Stadium.
“It will help me get my body right,” he said.
It’s already a little too all right from Anderson’s vantage point.
“It was just bad,” Godchaux said.
NOTES: Fournette also set a school record Saturday with the fifth 200-yard game of his career. He had been tied at four with former LSU tailback Kevin Faulk of Carencro. … LSU’s defense became the first this season to hold Ole Miss below 30 points and the first this season to shut the Rebels out in the second half. … LSU jumped from No. 23 in the USA Today coaches’ poll to No. 19 on Sunday and from No. 25 in the Associated Press poll to No. 19.
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