Any number of statistics or variables could be attributed to the turnaround of LSU’s season.
The number that sticks out, though, is 254: That’s how many rushing yards the Tigers have averaged in their past three Southeastern Conference games, wins against Florida, Kentucky and Ole Miss.
LSU’s offensive linemen have seemingly settled into their roles. Senior center Elliott Porter looks to have shaken off the rust after missing the first two games of the season, and sophomore right guard Ethan Pocic appears to have adjusted to his new position.
Freshman running back Leonard Fournette has noticed the offensive line’s cohesion. It was evident during a 264-yard rushing performance in a 10-7 win over then-No. 3 Ole Miss on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
“They did a tremendous job,” Fournette said. “We just had to make an adjustment in the second half. They were calling the perfect plays. I felt great with the calls and the (offensive) line.”
Since LSU’s 41-7 loss at Auburn on Oct. 4, the Tigers have averaged 4.88 yards per carry and have six rushing touchdowns. LSU has rushed the ball 50 or more times in three consecutive games for the first time since a five-game stretch in 1984 — all wins. Anthony Jennings has totaled 25 completions in those three games.
On the winning drive Saturday, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron dialed up 12 consecutive running plays. The line opened holes, and the trio of Fournette, senior Kenny Hilliard and sophomore fullback Melvin Jones rumbled for 92 yards.
Senior tight end Logan Stokes, who capped the possession with a 3-yard touchdown reception, said the line’s success is the result of improved communication.
“Defenses change,” he said. “There’s a lot of communication that goes into it. Communication errors hindered us from doing what we’re doing, but now we’re on the same page.”
Porter said togetherness has been the key
“Since Florida and on, we played a lot better,” he said. “We just keep on improving and being together. That’s what we do at practice, in the games, in meetings. Everything is coming together as one.”
The inadvertent whistle
There are many ways to kill a drive. A rare inadvertent whistle was the culprit Saturday night.
After Fournette seemingly rolled away from a tackle and kept both his knee and elbow from touching the ground, he sprinted inside the Ole Miss 5-yard line to set up a first-and-goal on the Tigers’ first drive.
The referees ruled an inadvertent whistle had been blown, and LSU elected to replay the down. The drive ended with a missed field goal.
“That inadvertent whistle was a stinker, boy,” coach Les Miles said. “You’re looking at a chance to go down to the 2-yard line and score the first seven (points) to start the game to put pressure on the opponent, but it was inadvertent.”
Miles joked that coaches should have a “polka-dotted” flag for when they wanted to redo a play.
“I want you to go think about that,” Miles said. “If I get a pick, I could call an inadvertent call. What do you mean an inadvertent call? I didn’t mean that call. I get it back.”
With just under seven minutes to play in the first quarter, LSU senior safety Ronald Martin watched a batted pass fall through his hands — a missed interception.
Martin got another chance with 31 seconds remaining when he jumped in front of a deep throw from Ole Miss senior Bo Wallace. But a defensive pass interference penalty on junior safety Jalen Mills negated the play.
Martin wasn’t finished. With 2 seconds remaining, he picked off an underthrown ball from Wallace to seal LSU’s victory.
Despite the previous missed opportunities, Martin said there was never time to sulk.
“Once (Ole Miss) called that timeout, we talked to each other, saying, ‘Man, let’s just get the next play and put that behind us,’ ” he said. “We had it in our mind that we weren’t going to let them score.”
LSU has defeated at least one top-10 team at home in four straight seasons. The Tigers beat No. 5 Alabama in 2010, No. 3 Arkansas in 2011, No. 3 South Carolina in 2012 and No. 9 Texas A&M in 2013. … Ole Miss, at No. 3, was the highest-ranked homecoming opponent for LSU since the Tigers’ 7-3 win over the then-No. 1 Rebels in 1959. ... The Tigers moved up eight spots to No. 16 in The Associated Press Top 25 and six spots to No. 17 in the coaches poll.