Brandon Harris should have been sacked.
He stepped up in the pocket to dodge a Syracuse pass rusher poised for a big hit, but the defender clung to the sophomore quarterback’s ankle as he tried to escape. With nowhere else to turn, Harris flipped the ball backward into sophomore running back Leonard Fournette’s hands.
Fournette had originally faked a handoff and set up to block, but he wheeled back behind Harris when he saw the play was busted. He bobbled the pitch but rumbled 48 yards to set LSU up for its first touchdown of the game in the first quarter of its 34-24 win against the Orange on Saturday.
“I didn’t see him do that,” senior right tackle Vadal Alexander said. “All I saw was, people started screaming and I looked up like ‘How did Leonard get way down there?’ ”
The play was just one of the many highlight-reel runs the sophomore has to his name. But sophomore receiver Malachi Dupre was most impressed with what Fournette did when two defenders converged on him at the end of the play.
“He could have easily run out of bounds. He had two guys in front of him, but he lowered his shoulder running full speed, giving his body up like that,” Dupre said. “It shows his selflessness and his will to try to make plays even if a play really isn’t even there.”
Alleva pushes for night game
LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva said he has requested that the Tigers’ Oct. 17 home game against Florida be played at night, but that ultimately the decision rides with the Southeastern Conference’s television partners.
“If CBS wants all our games, they have our rights,” Alleva said.
Alleva said he talked to SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey earlier this week about keeping the Florida game at night.
“But if Florida is undefeated, that game is probably going to be at 2:30 (p.m.),” he said.
LSU’s home game against Auburn was moved to 2:30 p.m. for CBS, but Alleva said there is no limit to how many home games can be changed to day games.
The Tigers are getting healthier.
Junior defensive end Tashawn Bower took snaps at practice Wednesday and should be able to play against Eastern Michigan on Saturday, Miles said during his post-practice news conference Wednesday. Bower suffered a lower leg injury against Syracuse and later returned to the game.
Freshman defensive end Isaiah Washington injured his hand during fall camp and hasn’t seen a snap this season, but Miles indicated that might change against the Eagles.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he played in the game,” the coach said.
Senior tight end Dillon Gordon is still day-to-day with an Achilles’ injury, but Miles said he’s running on a treadmill. Gordon got hurt against Auburn on Sept. 19 and didn’t dress out Saturday.
Senior defensive back Jalen Mills’ status is unchanged from last week, as he’s still able to run and cut on his injured ankle. Miles again gave no official return date, though he implied Monday that Mills may return in two weeks.
“We’re going to put a date on it here pretty quick,” Miles said during his weekly radio show Wednesday. “I don’t know exactly how far away we would be, but it would be wrong to guess.”
Piling them up
How dominant has Fournette, LSU’s Heisman Trophy candidate, been so far this season?
This dominant: Fournette has amassed 631 rushing yards so far this season, which has helped him outrush 46 of the 126 FBS teams other than LSU.
What’s more impressive is 28 of those 46 teams he’s outgained have played four games this season, while Fournette has played in only three games because the McNeese State game was canceled by lightning.
He is also averaging a nation’s-best 210.3 yards per game, which means only 36 teams — including LSU, which ranks seventh in FBS at 315.0 yards per outing — are averaging more yards per game than Fournette.
Failure to communicate
Dwayne Thomas’ man ran right past him for a 40-yard touchdown, but Jamal Adams shouldered the blame.
Receiver Brisly Estime cut Syracuse’s deficit to 17-10 with four minutes left in the third quarter of Saturday’s contest. Thomas appeared to expect help over the top from Adams, who sprinted to the flats to cover a flare route.
Adams, a sophomore safety, said the play was a result of “a lack of communication.”
“I was supposed to be in the middle of the field. I can take the blame for that,” he said. “But we’re definitely going to get better from it and learn from it. Hopefully we won’t see that again.”
LSU’s secondary allowed former walk-on and third-string quarterback Zach Mahoney to throw for 154 and three touchdowns, with all three scores coming the the second half. Adams attributed the Orange’s late-game fireworks to players losing focus, but the Tigers never criticized each other for it.
“In the DB room, we don’t knock guys down; we pick each other up,” Adams said. “When we make a mistake, we own up to it. Me and (Thomas) were just talking, and we let it go. You’ve got to learn from it.”
LSU’s win against Syracuse was the highest-rated game on ESPN last week, the network announced Wednesday.
The game drew 3.2 million viewers on TV and was also the most-watched game on WatchESPN, boasting an average minute audience of 72,000 to go along with 359,000 unique viewers.
Ninth-ranked LSU has played 12 quarters — or 180 minutes of clock time — in its three games this season and the Tigers have yet to trail on the scoreboard.
LSU has been tied for 23 minutes and 8 seconds of clock time before the Tigers scored their first points in the three games.
LSU has outscored its opponents 35-0 in the first quarter of its three games and 45-6 in the first half.
The Tigers defense is the only one in the FBS to not allow a touchdown in the first half this season. The six points they gave up were scored by Mississippi State and Syracuse on field goals.
Advocate sportswriters Scott Rabalais and Sheldon Mickles contributed to this report.