A pregame fracas led to a change of heart for LSU running back Leonard Fournette.
Fournette, who was not dressed out during warmups and not expected to play in Saturday’s loss to Florida, petitioned interim coach Ed Orgeron just before kickoff that he play against the Gators.
Fournette, clearly not at full strength and running on a bum left ankle, finished with 40 yards on 12 carries in LSU’s 16-10 loss to No. 21 Florida. The draft-eligible junior likely played the final home game of his college career.
He was not available for interviews afterward.
“You can see he wasn’t full speed,” Orgeron said after the game.
Fournette barreled through a couple of would-be tacklers but his spins and cuts weren’t of his normal caliber. He didn’t play in the fourth quarter at all, standing on the sideline without a helmet and with a towel draped around his neck.
He wasn’t supposed to play at all until that pregame scuffle.
During warmups, about 90 minutes before kickoff, both teams clashed near midfield. LSU defensive backs — namely Dwayne Thomas — were in the middle of a scrum that started with Thomas bumping into Florida defensive back Quincy Wilson.
“One of their guys was in my way,” Wilson said after the game. “I bumped into him on purpose to set it off. We ain’t going out like that.”
LSU and Florida have a lot on the line in Baton Rouge, and some of that tension appears to h…
Fournette, in a jumpsuit and watching warmups, raced over to the scuffle. Florida defensive backs coach Torrian Gray nudged Fournette. The running back shoved Gray twice with one hand.
"SEC Nation," the SEC Network’s pregame show that shot live Saturday from Baton Rouge, reported shortly after the scuffle that Fournette asked Orgeron if he could dress out.
“I know he’s a competitor. This is a personal game,” center Ethan Pocic said. “I wouldn’t put it past him.”
"It was a game-time decision," Orgeron said. "Leonard wanted to play. He struggled all week in practice. He came to me right before the game and said, 'Coach, I want to play.'"
Stumping for Coach O
After Saturday’s game, LSU players stumped for Orgeron to be LSU’s new full-time leader.
“They need to hire coach O,” Pocic said. “They need to give him an extension. That’s my opinion. If people don’t like my opinion, that’s fine. Coach O has improved this team by infinity amounts.”
Said defensive back Tre’Davious White: “If you ask any player on the roster and you ask if you they want coach O as their coach, they’ll say yes.”
Orgeron’s future is uncertain, and athletic director Joe Alleva provided little insight into the ordeal during a halftime interview with LSU Sports Radio Network.
“There’s no question the most important question surrounding our athletic department is the hiring of a new football coach. Because of the timetable we’ve had we’ve had a lot of time to do due diligence, do a lot of research and look into all the character and demeanor and all the integrity issues that go into looking at a new head coach,” Alleva said.
“It’s a critical position as far as leadership. Our whole athletic department revolves a lot around football and it’s critical that we get the right man in place. I’m very confident that we will. We have a lot of great people interested in it so we’ll see where it goes.”