ORLANDO, Fla. — Turns out, LSU didn't need Leonard Fournette.
It needed halftime adjustments.
The No. 19 Tigers tweaked their running game plan during halftime, and sophomore running back Derrius Guice eventually wore down No. 15 Louisville in a 29-9 win Saturday in the Citrus Bowl.
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Guice piled up 138 yards rushing — 91 in the second half — and was named the game's most valuable player. He averaged 5.3 yards a carry, as the Tigers rode the Baton Rouge native for 26 touches.
He caught a touchdown pass; returned a kickoff 50 yards, bashing into kicker Mason King for a crowd-rousing boom; and he raced 70 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, too.
It wasn't a 70-yard touchdown run or an ankle-breaking juke, but when Derrius Guice returned…
"At first we really weren’t (running the ball well), but as the game went on, we made certain adjustments for runs that they were just stopping with their alignment," fullback J.D. Moore said. "Smart decision to change up. Some we weren't executing. After halftime, we were able to make the adjustments we needed."
It resulted in another standout performance from Guice, who finished the season with 1,387 yards rushing. In the five games Fournette missed, Guice ran for more than 800 yards.
It didn't start well in this one — he averaged 2.8 yards a carry in the first half — but it ended with him standing on a podium accepting the MVP trophy.
"As a running back, you've just got to be patient," he said. "You can't get upset. You can't get mad when things don't always go your way. ... The second half, just waited for things to set up and develop, and I was able to hit a long run."
Riley honors McKnight
Duke Riley’s last game as an LSU player was in a jersey number other than his own.
The Tigers senior linebacker swapped his regular No. 40 for No. 4 to honor Joe McKnight, Riley’s mentor and fellow John Curtis alum.
McKnight was killed Dec. 1 in an apparent road rage incident in Terrytown. He wore No. 4 at John Curtis and in college at Southern California.
“I lost a brother and someone I always looked up to,” Riley said in a story posted on LSUsports.net. “Joe was someone I grew up watching, someone that was my biggest role model. People say legends never die so I’m wearing this No. 4 jersey for Joe McKnight against Louisville."
Junior running back Nick Brossette also wore No. 4 Saturday as he usually does. Teams are allowed to duplicate numbers if players don’t play on the same side of the ball.
Bowling for Heismans
LSU's win over Louisville and quarterback Lamar Jackson makes the Tigers 2-1 in bowls against the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
LSU lost to Penn State and running back John Cappelletti 16-9 in the 1974 Orange Bowl and beat Oklahoma and quarterback Jason White 21-14 in the 2004 Sugar Bowl for the BCS national championship.
The Cardinals were without several key starters and backups for the Citrus Bowl.
Louisville was already missing starting outside linebacker and sack leader James Hearns and reserve linebacker Henry Famurewa. Both were shot at a Heisman Trophy party near the Louisville campus Dec. 10, suffering non-life-threatening injuries.
Starting safety Josh Harvey-Clemons (hamstring) didn’t dress out. Also out were three Louisville cornerbacks: starter Tremaine Washington and backups Shaq Wiggins and Alphonso Carter.
Third-string running back Malik Williams (leg) was also out.
Did you notice?
When LSU had to kick off from its 20 after the unsportsmanlike conduct flag on Derrius Guice in the third quarter, the Tigers sent out Catholic High walk-on Jack Gonsoulin instead of regular kickoff specialist Cameron Gamble. Gonsoulin's kick bounded 71 yards to the Louisville 9 before Traveon Samuel picked it up and returned it to the Cardinals' 12.
Gonsoulin then handled the kickoff duties and even made the tackle on Louisville's next return after a Colby Delahoussaye field goal.
The Tigers (8-4) have now won at least eight games for the 17th straight season, the longest such active streak in the Southeastern Conference. ... LSU is now 25-22-1 in bowl games and 2-2 in the Citrus (formerly Capital One and Tangerine) Bowl. ... LSU rotated Maea Teuhema and Toby Weathersby at right tackle during the game. ... Game officials were from the Pac-12 Conference. ... This is was the first Citrus Bowl not to feature a Big Ten team since California beat Clemson in January 1992.
Save the date
Like James Bond, LSU football will return Sept. 2, when the Tigers face Brigham Young at NRG Stadium in Houston. It will be the first football game between the Tigers and Cougars. LSU opened the 2014 season at NRG against Wisconsin and played Texas Tech there in the 2015 Texas Bowl.