OXFORD, Miss. — Receiver Travin Dural limped to LSU’s team bus. Running back Nick Brossette needed crutches to get there.
Left tackle Jerald Hawkins watched LSU’s loss Saturday without ever stepping on the field, and the same goes for fullback J.D. Moore and tight end Dillon Gordon.
“We lost a couple guys going into this one and lost a couple guys coming out,” coach Les Miles said after the 38-17 loss at Ole Miss. “Lost some on-the-field chemistry.”
Whatever chemistry LSU’s offense developed during its 7-0 start has diminished with each passing injury. The Tigers played most of their defeat to the Rebels on Saturday without four starters.
With Gordon and Moore already out for the season, LSU (7-3, 4-3 Southeastern) could hardly afford more injuries. But Hawkins didn’t play despite Miles’ anticipation otherwise, and Dural exited the game with a hamstring injury late in the first quarter. Brossette’s injury is to his right ACL, Miles said.
The Tigers piled up 508 yards and controlled time of possession, but their performance remained a far cry from their early-season dominance. True freshmen received significant playing time in place of all four injured players.
Rookie Toby Weathersby started at right tackle, and Vadal Alexander moved from right tackle to left tackle — his first game at that spot. True freshman Tyron Johnson and John Diarse filled in for Dural, who entered the game leading the team in receiving yards.
The offense was disjointed and, for the third straight week, took nearly the entire first half to get on the scoreboard. Its final meaningful drive ended in a busted goal-line play, but Miles knew the source of his team’s offensive woes.
“Any time you put a different lineup, it’s a different team,” he said. “There’s a different communication skill, a different feel of the offense. ... I think we’ve changed some of the characters, some of the guys that are playing. I think it certainly makes a difference.”
Two projected NFL first-round draft picks battled at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday.
LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White and Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell dueled for much of the Tigers’ loss to the Rebels (8-3, 5-2).
Who won? Well, Treadwell caught four passes for 58 yards, including a touchdown. He made some shifty moves to shake free of White as quarterback Chad Kelly’s favorite target.
Kelly threw to Treadwell 11 times in his 34 attempts. White committed a pass interference penalty against the receiver in the end zone.
“He’s one of the best,” White said after the game. “It’s a battle of two of the best players. I wanted that challenge, followed him the whole game. He made some plays. I made some plays also. It’s going to happen when you’re going against one of the best.”
Treadwell, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior, is ranked the No. 8 overall prospect in the 2016 draft and is the top receiver in the class according to CBSSports.com. White, a 5-11, 190-pound junior, is projected as the No. 22 overall prospect and the fourth-best cornerback.
Though one of LSU running back Leonard Fournette’s impressive streaks ended Saturday, he inched closer to claiming a spot in LSU’s record books.
The sophomore running back failed to score a touchdown against Ole Miss after doing so in 11 straight games, his streak foiled by a fumble on the goal line.
Fournette, however, stands just 105 yards from breaking the program’s single-season rushing record set by Charles Alexander in 1977. And his 108 yards against the Rebels pushed him past Terry Robiskie (1973-76) and Joseph Addai (2001-05) for fifth place on LSU’s career rushing yards list with 2,616 yards.
Air it out
Fournette wasn’t the only LSU player flirting with records Saturday. Brandon Harris completed 26 of 51 passes for 324 yards, all career highs for the sophomore.
He attempted the most passes for an LSU quarterback since Rohan Davey threw 53 times in the Tigers’ win against Illinois in the 2002 Sugar Bowl.
Josh Booty holds the program record for single-game passing attempts with 58 in a loss to Auburn in 1999.
Harris is technically tied with Jeff Wickersham, who tossed 51 passes against Mississippi State in 1983, for second on the all-time list. The NCAA didn’t count bowl-game statistics until the 2002-03 season.
Advocate sportswriter Ross Dellenger contributed to this report.