SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Leonard Fournette sat on the ground, his legs spread as he hunched over in obvious pain.
LSU’s star running back got smacked in the region below the waist and above the thigh.
Yes, that region.
“Downstairs,” a smiling Fournette said.
The only way Fournette could be stopped Saturday was getting hit in the you-know-whats.
The No. 8 Tigers rode their stallion to a 34-24 win over feisty Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, also getting key plays from quarterback Brandon Harris and an interception from linebacker Deion Jones as Fournette recuperated from that mysterious low blow.
Fournette rumbled for a career-high 244 yards on 26 carries, scored two touchdowns and continued his wild march a week after being dubbed the Heisman Trophy favorite.
The former St. Augustine star became the first LSU player in school history with consecutive games of 200 rushing yards, and he’s just the third LSU player to have five consecutive 100-yard games.
His 244-yard outing Saturday was the third-best in school history, and he became the fastest LSU player to reach 500 rushing yards in the first three games of a season. He has 631.
“It’s a great thing,” defensive end Lewis Neal said, “to watch him.”
LSU, a 24-point favorite, escaped central New York with its 50th straight regular-season nonconference victory. The Tigers (3-0) shook off a lackluster first half — they led just 7-3 at intermission — and a whopping 14 penalties in what coach Les Miles called a “sloppy” performance.
It didn’t need to be shiny and clean — not with that hard-hitting, tackle-breaking tailback in the backfield.
Fournette ran for touchdowns of 14 and 62 yards, and he broke off runs of 19, 30 and 48 yards — the last coming on a wacky broken play in which a nearly sacked Harris flipped the ball to his reliable running back.
“Fournette is a great football player,” Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said. “All it takes is one guy out of his gap and another guy not replacing for a great football played like him to make a big play.”
Harris, the Tigers’ sophomore playcaller, completed 8 of 16 passes for 157 yards, and he flashed the downfield skills that were missed in the first two games. He hit Malachi Dupre on a 42-yarder in the third quarter to set up a field goal and then had two consecutive completions in the fourth quarter with Fournette sidelined.
He found Travin Dural for a 51-yard completion on third-and-9 and then threw a fade pass to Dupre for an 11-yard touchdown. The throw — Dupre called it “perfect” — put the Tigers up 31-17 with 9 minutes, 14 seconds left.
Fournette, during the pass, was on the sideline, legs spread as trainers knelt around him.
“I didn’t realize he was out,” Dupre said. “Brandon’s performance throughout the game was great. He’s executing properly. Weekly, I can see his performance increase.”
Said Fournette of Harris: “I’m proud of him.”
Harris has not been made available for interviews for more than a week.
On Syracuse’s next possession, defensive end Arden Key tipped quarterback Zack Mahoney’s pass, and Jones picked it off to all but seal a win in front of a mostly orange-clad 43,101 inside this stuffy dome.
The Tigers go marching back to Baton Rouge at 3-0 for the 10th time in Miles’ 11 seasons with the program, and they do it knowing this: They played poorly at times and still won by 10 points on the road.
“The significance of this day was, as a team, our football team won in a sloppy manner,” Miles said, showing frustration about the 120 yards of penalties. “All in all, we’re a pretty talented football team that needs to improve. Not happy with the penalties.”
With his running back? Happiness, for sure. Fournette could have had so much more than 244.
An illegal formation penalty negated Fournette’s 87-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and a holding call brought back a 20-plus-yard run in the first half.
Fournette re-entered late in the game and ripped off a 30-yard carry to get within 7 yards of breaking the single-game school rushing record, set by Alley Broussard in 2004. LSU took a knee on its final two offensive snaps. Why not hand it to the big guy?
“Once I had secured victory, that was the key piece,” Miles said. “I think Leonard will have plenty of opportunities to achieve records and get awards. I think that’ll happen.”
A smiling Fournette held court on the field after the game. He laughed and joked around. The 230-pounder said he didn’t realize how close he was to the single-game rushing mark — and he didn’t care, either.
“That doesn’t bother me. If it comes later down the line, it comes,” he said.
And what about his downstairs region?
Everything’s good now — a far cry from when he sat helpless on the sideline.
“Couldn’t do nothing,” he said, smiling.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter: @DellengerAdv.