By: Joe Trinacria
Outside of the standard pre-game pyrotechnics, there was no air show to be seen at Death Valley on Saturday night. Instead, Coach Les Miles and his Fighting Tigers stuck with what has been their bread and butter all season – a consistent rushing attack featuring their stable of running back talent.
LSU ran for 303 total yards in their 41-3 dismantling of Kentucky, highlighted by a game to remember for Terrence Magee. The senior exploded for 127 yards on nine carries with two touchdowns, in addition to leading the Tigers in receiving with three catches for 44 yards. If that wasn’t enough, No. 18 also contributed on special teams with a dazzling 49-yard kickoff return.
“He’s not an easy tackle,” Miles said of Magee, who averaged 14.1 yards per carry on the night. “If you give him a little bit of space he’s going to make the exact right cut and he’s going to maximize it downfield. He’s got great speed.”
Fitting with LSU’s offensive scheme this season, Magee wasn’t the only back who exploited the weak defensive front of the Wildcats. Freshmen Leonard Fournette and Darrel Williams combined for a total of 101 yards, with Fournette adding a 1-yard touchdown for good measure. Even quarterback Anthony Jennings got in on the action, showcasing his speed on a 31-yard scramble in the fourth quarter.
“It’s very important to get the running game going early,” Fournette said. “The running backs play a big role in the offense. It opens up the passing game and takes some of the pressure off Anthony.”
The enigmatic Jennings played well enough to extend key drives and protected the lead by playing mistake-free football. He finished 7 of 14 with 120 yards and a touchdown, and would’ve had another if fullback Connor Neighbors held on to an easy pass early in the first quarter.
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and the Tigers heavily favored the running game against Kentucky, attempting 51 rushes against only 15 passes. For LSU to continue their success in the home stretch of the season, look for this ratio to continue.
“Just knowing that the running game is working, we can play-action off of that. We have a variety of different things we can do off the running game and behind this offensive line it is a great tool,” Jennings said.
LSU hosts bitter SEC rival Ole Miss next Saturday at Tiger Stadium, a must-win game in order to keep the Tigers’ already slim playoff hopes alive. The No. 3 ranked Rebels have held opponents to an average of only 113.3 rushing yards per game this season, but look for LSU to pound the ball on the ground and see what they’re working with early in the game. If they can’t seem to find success rushing, Jennings and the passing game will either doom or save the Tigers.