After the chants of “Les Miles!” faded away into the warm Baton Rouge night, after he approached the applauding student section for what many believed was his goodbye to Tiger Stadium, adoration for LSU’s embattled coach shifted elsewhere.
Fans leaned over the north-end-zone railings to snap selfies and shake hands with Leonard Fournette, whose record-breaking night was overshadowed by the final twist of the Miles saga.
The sophomore running back cemented his place in the record books during the Tigers’ 19-7 win against Texas A&M on Saturday by surpassing Charles Alexander’s single-season rushing mark.
Fournette rumbled for 159 yards on 32 carries and now has 1,741 rushing yards in 11 games, 55 more than Alexander managed through the same number of games in 1977.
“I just want to thank God and all my offensive linemen,” Fournette said. “Each and every day at practice, they’re giving 100 percent, with me and for me. I appreciate them.”
His record-breaking rush was an unceremonious 3-yard gain early in the third quarter. The ceremony came later during a TV timeout when Miles and running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson flanked Fournette as his achievement was announced over the PA system.
Shortly after Fournette toppled the 38-year record, Alexander posted a message on Twitter: “Congrats Mr. Fournette! LSU Proud!”
Miles said he looked at Fournette’s rushing total early last week to see how close he was to Alexander’s record. When he discovered the sophomore was 105 yards from the mark, Miles spoke with the team and unity council, which agreed they wanted Fournette to break the record.
The coach carefully chose how to present the idea to Fournette, who has downplayed his personal accomplishments all season.
“Our football team wants you to win this,” Miles said he told Fournette. “We want you to have that record because of how you play, who you have been and how selfless you are as a teammate here. We want this for you.”
The running back consented and ultimately achieved the milestone — while helping his team win.
Miles said Fournette “delivered our body blows,” two of which came on a 13-play, 8-minute drive to seal the victory. Facing third-and-11 from the Aggies’ 34-yard line, Fournette wrangled a swing pass for a 17-yard gain, putting the Tigers in position to wrap up the win.
That came four plays later on the sophomore’s 4-yard touchdown plunge that gave LSU a 19-7 lead with just less than three minutes remaining. The running back accumulated 59 of the 80 yards on the touchdown drive and accounted for 202 of the team’s 327 yards.
Fournette was all smiles as he posed for pictures and shook hands with dozens of fans elated to be near LSU’s newest record-holder. His teammates were pretty happy, too.
“It was a complete honor to block for a guy like that,” senior right tackle Vadal Alexander said. “He’s extremely talented, humble and physical. He’s a hard-working guy, so it was an honor to block for him and an honor to get the record with him. We’re forever going to be brothers.”
Franks commits to Florida
A week after pulling his longtime verbal pledge to LSU, quarterback Feleipe Franks announced his commitment to Florida on Sunday night.
“It’s great to be a Florida Gator,” Franks posted on Twitter.
Franks, a top-five pro-style QB in the 2016 class, was committed to LSU for nearly 18 months. The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder plans to enroll early at Florida.
Back in the polls
LSU’s absence from the national polls didn’t last long.
The Tigers climbed back into the rankings at No. 23 in both the USA Today poll and The Associated Press Top 25 released Sunday. LSU was ranked in both polls all season before last week’s editions, which it was left out of after three straight losses.
Saturday’s game was the fifth straight time the Tigers beat the Aggies, and they’ve won all four meetings since Texas A&M joined the Southeastern Conference in 2012.
LSU on Saturday extended its streak of eight-win seasons to 16, second nationally behind Boise State (17). ... The Tigers still have not lost consecutive games in Tiger Stadium under Miles. ... LSU has won nine straight coin tosses, tying the program record (set in 2006) for most consecutive won coin tosses since 1965. The 1981-82 teams lost 12 straight coin flips.