Many LSU fans probably came to Tiger Stadium on Saturday night with a question: How healthy is Leonard Fournette?
The answer: Healthy enough to run for more yards in one game than any other player in program history.
The Tigers’ star running back ran for a school-record 284 hard-hitting, jaw-dropping yards, scoring three touchdowns of more than 50 yards and leading No. 25 LSU to a 38-21 win over No. 23 Ole Miss in an electric late-night environment.
Leonard Fournette's mother texted him a scripture passage before LSU's win over Ole Miss on Saturday night.
Fournette dazzled, danced and dashed — all on a previously bum ankle that kept him out of the past two games. He scored on runs of 78, 76 and 59 yards, shattering Alley Broussard’s 12-year-old single-game record by the third quarter, and he became the only running back in LSU history with five 200-yard games in his career.
At one point in the third quarter, Fournette bent down to tie his shoe, crouching to the ground for about 8 seconds to secure the laces. Not much else stopped the future first-round NFL draft pick on this cool night in front of an announced crowd of 101,720, easily the most rocking environment of the season.
"It was amazing just watching him run," left tackle K.J. Malone said.
Fournette electrified the crowd — and all of college football — with an incredible first half against the Rebels: six carries for 171 yards, a 28-yard average. He improved upon that on LSU’s first offensive snap of the second half: Fournette blasted through the right side, shooting down the sideline for 78 yards to crack the 200-yard mark.
His 17.8-yard average is also a single-game LSU record for any player with 15 or more carries. Fournette got his 284 yards on 16 carries.
"I've never been a part of a player like Leonard, to be honest with you," interim coach Ed Orgeron said. "But yeah, he's dynamic. I believe he's the best player in the country.
Fournette and Kevin Faulk were tied with four 200-yard games at LSU. This was Fournette's first 200-yard outing since running for 212 against Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl in December.
He looked like his old self, recovering from a lingering left ankle sprain with three straight weeks of rest.
Remember the LSU-Ole Miss series, when the game meant the world to college football and to the careers of the coaches who battled in it?
Danny Etling completed 19 of 28 attempts for 204 yards and found receiver D.J. Chark for a 40-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Backup running back Derrius Guice ran for 57 yards — LSU had 311 rushing yards in all — and Orgeron picked up a satisfying victory over the program that fired him in 2007.
Orgeron is now 3-0 in his brief stint in charge of the Tigers, and LSU (5-2, 3-1) gets a week off before hosting top-ranked Alabama (8-0, 5-0) on Nov. 5 in what’s expected to be a marquee clash that CBS picks up for its nighttime slot in a doubleheader weekend.
"We want Ba-ma!" students chanted as a group of LSU players carried the Magnolia Bowl trophy to their section.
Moments later, LSU public address announcer Dan Borne announced Fournette's record to the remaining fans at Tiger Stadium. They roared for their star.
LSU’s defense wasn't bad, either, shutting out the Rebels (3-4, 1-3) in the second half. Dave Aranda’s group held Ole Miss to 104 yards in the final two quarters, and the Tigers swarmed quarterback Chad Kelly.
"He’s a cool cucumber out there, now," Orgeron said of Aranda. "He’s like a mad scientist."
They sacked him twice in the third quarter and picked him off twice in the game. Cornerback Donte Jackson and linebacker Duke Riley had the interceptions, and Orgeron’s team quickly recovered from a 10-0 first-quarter deficit.
How? The Tigers handed to Fournette.
It was a roaring first half that ended in a 21-21 tie.
Fournette ripped off runs of 24, 59 and 76 yards, scoring on the last two.
His most jaw-dropping play didn’t even come on one of those runs. On a 22-yard swing pass, Fournette lowered his shoulder into Ole Miss defensive back Deontay Anderson, who flipped over, falling on his head as the crowd gasped. The 2-second video clip quickly went viral — another booming run from the New Orleans native.
"At the end of the day, those licks hurt. I’d rather hit him than him hit me at the end of the day," Fournette said.
He got help, of course.
On his 59-yard scoring jaunt in the first quarter, backup fullback Bry’Kiethon Mouton delivered the springing block, and Fournette out-raced Ole Miss safety Zedrick Woods, 30 pounds lighter than the running back. Mouton was in for starter J.D. Moore, who missed the final three quarters with a stinger.