COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Leonard Fournette ran over a guy, Jamal Adams stuffed another and Davon Godchaux harassed a third.
Members of LSU’s No. 2-ranked 2014 signing class ended their freshman regular season with one of their best games.
The Tigers’ youth shined in a 23-17 win at Texas A&M on Thanksgiving, displaying the kind of explosive plays in critical moments that were expected from such a highly touted group.
“I felt like we came out and did what they asked us to do,” Adams said. “We didn’t try to be superheroes, but we definitely made plays for our team, and we helped the team out.”
LSU (8-4, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) now awaits its bowl destination, which will be announced Dec. 7. The Tigers secured a 15th consecutive season with eight wins or more — that’s the second-longest streak in the nation — and they avoided a last-place finish in the SEC Western Division with the victory over the Aggies (7-5, 3-5).
What’s more: Their future, most would say, lived up to lofty expectations.
Said coach Les Miles after Thursday’s game: “We’ll be pretty something next year.”
Freshmen accounted for 50 percent of LSU’s rushing yards (1,341) and more than half of its rushing scores (14) in the regular season. Rookie receivers finished with 701 yards — 35 percent of the team’s total. That group had five touchdowns. Freshman defenders combined for 105 of LSU’s 845 tackles and 7.5 sacks and tackles for loss.
Fournette, the former top-ranked recruit in the nation, led the group. He showed flashes that might justify the hype — like that rumbling 22-yard touchdown run Thursday.
Fournette raced through a gaping hole in the left side of the line, lowered his shoulder and rocked A&M safety Howard Matthews onto his back.
Fournette kept running and scored in a play that ESPN’s “SportsCenter” made No. 1 on its top 10 plays Thursday.
Said Fournette: “Coach kept telling us, ‘If they have one person free, make them miss.’ Tried my best ability to make him miss.”
With his 146 yards against Texas A&M, Fournette moved up to No. 3 on LSU’s all-time freshman rushing list, surpassing Kevin Faulk. Fournette finished his regular season with 891 yards. He needs 111 in a bowl game to be the school’s all-time freshman rushing leader.
The former St. Augustine standout said he’s done “pretty well” in his first season. Entering the season, he had a goal of 1,000 yards and hoped to be a Heisman Trophy candidate by year’s end. He’ll fall short of the latter goal. The former is still very much in play.
He overshadowed a gaggle of other rookies who made an impact in 2014, including Adams (56 tackles, three tackles for loss), Godchaux (25 tackles in nine starts) and receivers Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn (31 combined catches for 511 yards).
LSU ended the regular season playing 17 of 23 true freshmen in this signing class. Those who didn’t play: defensive tackles Travonte Valentine (ineligible) and Trey Lealaimatafao, receiver Tony Upchurch, offensive linemen Will Clapp and Garrett Brumfield and tight end Jacory Washington.
At least three rookies — linebacker Clifton Garrett and defensive backs Russell Gage and John Battle — could be eligible for medical redshirts. Players who have played in less than 30 percent of a team’s games and were injured in the first half of the season are eligible for those.
Meanwhile, those who played substantially made an impact — and have Miles looking to the future with a smile.
“We said coming into the season that we’re going to be a young team, we’ve got to grow up,” he said. “Frankly, this team has done the things we’ve asked them to do.
“A young team gets better,” the coach said, looking to next season. “You have 15 spring practices. Potential of at least 12 (bowl practices). Depends on the bowl.”
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THE FRESH FEELING
LSU’s second-ranked signing class last year played a substantial role in the 2014 regular season.
Offense, freshman yds/total yds; freshman TDs/total TDs
Rushing: 1,341/2,634; 14/23
Passing: 452/1,957; 6/16
Receiving: 701/1,967; 5/16
Freshman tackles/total tackles: 105/845
Freshman tackles for loss and sacks/total TFL & sacks: 7.5/88
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UP TO NO. 3
LSU RB Leonard Fournette is just 111 yards away from being the school’s all-time freshman rushing leader:
Player, yards (season)
1. Justin Vincent, 1,001 (2003)
2. Dalton Hilliard, 901 (1982)
3. Leonard Fournette, 891 (2014)
4. Kevin Faulk, 852 (1995)
5. Jeremy Hill, 755 (2012)