Everyone remembers the Heisman celebration. When LSU freshman running back Leonard Fournette rumbled 4 yards into the end zone for his first career touchdown and struck the infamous pose, he immediately became the talk of both local and national media.
Fournette was the star. It’s a tag that comes with being the No. 1 recruit in the nation.
Meanwhile, another rookie rusher quietly made his mark.
Former four-star recruit Darrel Williams, who has found his way into the regular rotation in the LSU backfield over the first three weeks of the season, also scored his first collegiate rushing touchdown.
There was no Heisman pose.
So he hovered under the radar until Louisiana-Monroe travelled to Baton Rouge.
The Warhawks defense, ranked No. 2 in total defense in the Sun Belt Conference, kept the Tigers offense sputtering for two quarters, so offensive coordinator Cam Cameron turned to the I-formation.
The fullback has been coveted in Cameron’s offensive scheme, dating to his days as Baltimore’s play-caller. With the Ravens, Cameron often featured players such as Le’Ron McClain and Vonta Leach in rushing attacks that were the focal point of his offense.
At LSU, Cameron continued to take advantage of the extra man in the backfield.
Senior Connor Neighbors wasn’t the man at fullback. Instead, Williams lined up in front of senior running back Kenny Hilliard. Williams received the handoff, though, bounced off a ULM defender, cut to the left end of the LSU offensive line and found an open field ahead for the 22-yard score.
“Darrel Williams is big, strong and makes nice cuts,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “He plays physical and carries the ball with ball security. He blocks runs and is learning the fullback spot as well as the tailback spot.”
Cameron wasn’t finished putting two rushers in the backfield.
With 7:22 left in the third quarter and the ball on the ULM 1-yard line, Williams trotted back onto the field as the fullback in the I-formation. Behind him was Fournette, on whom the Warhawks’ attention was focused.
Sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings handed off to Williams, who pounded forward for his second touchdown.
Williams may not have been the newcomer the world was raving about in the offseason, but he’s given Miles a reason to him into the Tigers’ backfield.
“Darrel kind of reminds me of Spencer Ware a little bit,” junior safety Jalen Mills said. “He’s a big guy who’s looking for the contact. He’s not shying away from it. Hand tackles are not going to get him down, and he’s playing a very big role for our offense right now.”
Even with Williams’ success, the Tigers’ running backs struggled early.
ULM came into Saturday’s contest as the No. 1 rushing defense in the Sun Belt, allowing 115 yards on 63 carries through two games. When the teams entered the locker room at halftime, Hilliard led all LSU rushers in net yardage with 25.
The Tigers ground game didn’t break through the Warhawks front line until the third quarter, where LSU averaged 5.2 yards per attempt and totaled 73 yards rushing.
After finishing the first half with 18 yards rushing, Fournette nearly tripled his yards with a 24-yard touchdown run with 3:26 left in the third.
He didn’t follow with a Heisman pose this time.
The fourth quarter featured much of the same from the Tigers running backs corps. With 12:19 remaining, Hilliard scored on a 4-yard run to put LSU ahead 31-0.
When the final whistle blew, the player who jump-started the Tigers run game finished with the lowest yard total of the regulars. Williams had 37 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
Fournette led the charge with 52 yards and a score. Hilliard ended his night with 50 yards and a touchdown.
Hilliard said he doesn’t expect the run game to change heading into Southeastern Conference play next weekend.
“I feel like we’re going to stick to the game plan that (Cam) Cameron has and go out there and just execute the plays being called,” Hilliard said.