TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The battle of elite Southeastern Conference running backs went in favor of the Crimson.
Derrick Henry outshined LSU’s Heisman front-runner Saturday night in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Alabama back finished with 210 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries as the Crimson Tide rolled to a 30-16 victory.
Henry didn’t go into it wanting to compare himself to Leonard Fournette though.
“I was motivated just to win the game,” he said.
Fournette finished with just 31 yards rushing. He entered averaging 7.7 yards per attempt and 193.1 per game, but Saturday marked a nightmare for Fournette.
His offensive line had no answer for the Alabama front. The Crimson Tide consistently clogged up rushing lanes and swallowed up cutback attempts, preventing Fournette from making the highlights that had become so common this year.
“That’s their bread and butter,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “To be able to control that was really good.”
Fournette averaged only 1.6 yards per carry and didn’t reach the end zone until nine minutes remained.
“Our biggest emphasis on defense is to stop the run and make teams one-dimensional,” Alabama linebacker Dillon Lee said. “When people call out what we consider ourselves best at, we want to make a statement.”
Henry’s biggest benefit was that he didn’t have to run against his own defense.
He made his first statement on a 40-yard gain midway through the second quarter. He hit a huge hole and stiff-armed LSU safety Jamal Adams all the way inside the 5-yard line. Then he barreled into the end zone from 2 yards out on the next play.
That gave him 14 straight games with a touchdown, extending his school record. It’s also the longest active streak in the nation.
Henry returned to the end zone early in the second half on a 1-yard power run, four plays after a Brandon Harris interception.
Henry made it three touchdowns late in the third. That 7-yarder put Alabama ahead 27-10 and marked the first time since 1996 an Alabama running back ran for three touchdowns in a game against the Tigers.
Henry took over late to milk the rest of the clock. He had 78 yards on Alabama’s last possession that ran off the final 9 minutes, 18 seconds.
“We didn’t want to put our defense back on the field,” said Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson, a Monroe native. “We felt like we could end the game right there.”
Henry has run for 589 yard and seven touchdowns in his past three games, all coming against SEC opponents.
His performance against LSU, combined with a quiet night from Fournette, brought him closer to the national lead in rushing. Henry entered the game ranked No. 10 in the country, trailing Fournette by 308 yards. That deficit is now 129.
“The guy’s having a great year, and he had a great game.” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “It couldn’t have happened at a better time.”
This will likely boost his Heisman hopes as well. Henry held 14/1 odds to win college football’s top award, according to Bovada. Fournette, by comparison, was a 4/9 favorite.
“He’s definitely a Heisman candidate,” Robinson said. “We showed that tonight.”