LSU treated South Carolina with all of the Southern hospitality one might expect.
The school raised the South Carolina state flag atop Tiger Stadium’s north end zone seats, and the LSU band played the school’s alma mater and fight song. LSU even handed over the ceremonial keys to Tiger Stadium to the Gamecocks.
They won’t need ’em. They won’t want to come back.
Quarterback Brandon Harris hit career highs for yards, attempts and completions, Leonard Fournette rolled up a seventh straight 100-yard game and his backup broke the century mark in a 45-24 drubbing of South Carolina on Saturday afternoon.
No. 7 LSU (5-0, 3-0 Southeastern) finished with 624 yards of offense. It was a breakout game of sorts for the Tigers’ once-floundering passing game and a group of receivers who had the yips in a sloppy performance last week.
That offensive yardage: It was the second-most under coach Les Miles and the most in an SEC game since 1987.
“We needed that going forward,” receiver Travin Dural said.
Harris completed 18 passes on 28 attempts, throwing for 228 yards and two touchdowns — a 62-yarder to Dural and a 10-yarder to Malachi Dupre. He shook off last week’s 4-for-15 outing against lowly Eastern Michigan — one rife with drops by his receivers — and helped the Tigers glide to their first 5-0 start since 2012.
LSU put on a show for a half-full stadium. The announced attendance of 42,058 was the smallest crowd to watch a game in Tiger Stadium since 1957. The game was relocated from Columbia because of the massive flooding in the Palmetto State; officials did not announce the relocation until Wednesday.
“It was very weird,” Fournette said.
LSU proved — maybe for the first time this season — that it’s not a one-man band.
Freshman running back and former Catholic High star Derrius Guice ran for a career-high 161 yards on 16 carries, bouncing off tacklers in Fournette fashion. Guice averaged 10 yards per carry, Darrel Williams raced for 61 yards and two touchdowns and the Tigers’ pass-catching gang had its most prolific day in 13 games, dating to a loss last season to Mississippi State.
Seven players caught passes, led by Dural’s 109 yards and Dupre’s career-high six catches.
“I think (offensive coordinator) Cam Cameron did a great job,” Miles said. “I think (offensive line coach) Jeff Grimes did a good job with the line and suggestions he makes in the run game.”
Fournette, the school’s Heisman Trophy hopeful, ran for 158 yards, including a fiery, up-the-gut 87-yard touchdown dash in the third quarter that had fans roaring.
It wasn’t always so easy for the Tigers’ 230-pound sophomore sensation. The Gamecocks clogged the middle early in the game, limiting Fournette at halftime to just 49 yards and a 3.3-yard average. The Tigers had plenty of other options in a bludgeoning of coach Steve Spurrier’s slumping Gamecocks (2-4, 0-4).
LSU ran for 396 yards — many of those coming with fullback JD Moore sidelined after a first-quarter leg injury. The Tigers had two runners gain more than 150 yards in an SEC game for the first time — and the leading rusher wasn’t Fournette.
“He’s a wild man,” Fournette said of the tackle-breaking Guice. “He’s a wild child. I guess he hates the ground.”
LSU turned this one into a rout early in the second half, scoring on its first three drives of the third quarter to take leads of 24-10, 31-10 and 38-17. It all started — get this — with Fournette, who became the fastest LSU player to break the 1,000-yard mark in a season.
His 87-yard touchdown run came 59 seconds into the second half of a close game; LSU led just 17-10 at halftime. It was on LSU’s bread-and-butter play: a Fournette carry behind the Tigers’ most prevalent run blockers: center Ethan Pocic and right guard Will Clapp.
“I had that feeling I was going to break one,” Fournette said. “I had a hole, and I hit it.”
The game had a bizarre feel.
Tiger Stadium’s upper east side stands were closed, and so were the seats atop the new south end zone addition. Massive swaths of Tiger Stadium’s lower bowl were empty.
The day had more of a spring game-like feel than a matchup of SEC squads, and LSU kindly welcomed the nomadic Gamecocks with warm receptions.
The South Carolina flag flapped next to LSU’s 2007 national championship flag atop the north end zone stands. The Gamecocks ran out of the visiting runnel while a few members of the Tigers band blaring Carolina’s fight song.
The school played the tune “Sandstorm” before kickoff — a Carolina tradition — and after each SC touchdown, the South Carolina fight song boomed from the Tiger Stadium speakers.
It turned ugly for the Gamecocks not long after kickoff, though.
LSU took a 14-3 lead before Carolina’s Rashad Fenton returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, exposing a kickoff coverage team that has been woeful at times this season.
But the Tigers rolled after halftime, scoring on those first three drives of the third quarter. Fournette had that 87-yard sprint, Dural hauled in that 62-yard completion, and Williams and Guice each ripped off 25-yard runs on a 75-yard touchdown march for a 38-17 advantage late in the third quarter.
Guice scored with 13:15 left — long after Fournette received his final carry. The star from New Orleans watched the final quarter and a half from the sideline. About 90 minutes later, an LSU Police officer and a state trooper escorted LSU’s cherished runner out of Tiger Stadium through a secret exit.
He doesn’t leave the stadium like most players. He’s not like most of them.
On Saturday, the others made sure LSU didn’t need a fourth straight 200-yard rushing game from him to win.
Said Fournette: “This is LSU’s team — not Leonard’s team.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter: @DellengerAdv.