By firstname.lastname@example.org (Ben Boynton)
Entering their game against No. 4 Alabama last season on Nov. 7, the No. 2 LSU Tigers looked like a real threat to make the College Football Playoff and compete for a national championship. Coach Les Miles’s crew was 7-0 and sported the early Heisman front-runner in sophomore running back Leonard Fournette, who came into the game in Tuscaloosa averaging a staggering 193.1 rushing yards per game.
That success didn’t continue inside the confines of Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Fournette carried the football 19 times for just 31 yards and a single touchdown, with 18 of those yards coming on a single run in the fourth quarter. By that point, the Tigers trailed 30-10 in a game they would go on to lose 30-16. The loss was the first of three straight in a slide that dropped LSU briefly out of the Top 25.
“Not everybody’s head was in the right place,” Fournette said at SEC Media days this summer. “I think we forgot our why. Like why we work so hard just to get here and we were on top of the world, you know, 7-0.”
Fournette would finish 2015 with 300 carries for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns, but his three lowest rushing totals of the year came in those three losses. He averaged 162.75 yards per game on the year, but put up just 76.7 yards per game in the losing streak.
This year, the No. 13 LSU team that hosts No. 1 Alabama on Saturday is not the same team that fell flat in Tuscaloosa. For starters, coach Les Miles has been replaced by interim coach Ed Orgeron. Former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was also fired and replaced by tight ends coach Steve Ensminger.
Under the new leadership, the Tigers have been much more explosive. The offense is putting up an average of 536 yards per game in Orgeron’s three games, all wins. That’s compared to 339 yards per game under Miles this season. The rushing attack alone accounts for 304 yards per game.
Like his team, Fournette had a rocky start to 2016 that has turned around recently. He has missed four games this season due to nagging ankle injuries, but returned for LSU’s most recent game two weeks ago against Ole Miss. All Fournette did in that game was rush for a school-record 284 yards on just 16 carries that also included three touchdowns in the 38-21 win.
LSU defensive back Tre’Davious White raved about Fournette’s work ethic at the SEC Media Days this summer.
“The way he works, he’s like a machine. The way he works and the way he goes about his business, it’s not surprise that he’s had the success he’s had,” White said. “Since the guy has walked into the building he has been all about the team. I feel when a guy like that, that much power and be all about our team is a great thing.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports