Heading into an open date just three weeks ago, LSU tailback Leonard Fournette was the clear-cut favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.
In a span of eight days, those hopes and dreams — as well as the Tigers’ aspirations for a College Football Playoff berth — took a double hit.
Fournette was held below 100 rushing yards in back-to-back games against Alabama and Arkansas, both losses for the Tigers, allowing the Crimson Tide’s Derrick Henry to race to the front for college football’s most coveted individual honor.
After Fournette picked up just 31 yards on 19 carries in a loss to Alabama on Nov. 7, had a better evening statistically in the Tigers’ 31-14 loss to Arkansas on Saturday night.
Fournette had 91 rushing yards on 19 attempts to push his total for the season to 1,474 yards, the second-highest single-season total in school annals, but there was little else to be happy about.
After gaining 210 yards to upstage Fournette in Alabama’s showdown with LSU last week, Henry temporarily moved into the national rushing lead when he rolled up 204 more yards in a 30-6 romp over Mississippi State on Saturday.
Henry has 1,458 yards and 19 touchdowns, while playing one more game than Fournette, who has 17 TDs to go with his 1,474 yards.
But holding on to the national lead in rushing yardage was little consolation to Fournette when LSU’s offense was overpowered by Arkansas.
Fournette appeared to be in shock when he met with reporters after the game.
“I really have no words,” he said. “Sorry, I don’t know what to say.”
When asked how frustrated he was, Fournette said, “I can’t really explain it. I’m not frustrated with us. We lost. … Everybody hates losing.”
Like the previous game with Alabama, Fournette had little running room from the start.
On his first carry, he was pushed back and dumped for a 4-yard loss, and he totaled just 7 yards on his first five attempts.
Early in the second quarter, after Arkansas had built a 14-0 lead, Fournette finally started gaining some traction.
He had 20 yards on his next four carries, but the offense continued to struggle until a touchdown just before halftime and a 92-yard drive, capped by his 2-yard TD run to get within 21-14.
Fournette said he had no idea if Arkansas had used a similar plan to take him out of the game the way Alabama did, but wide receiver Malachi Dupre said it didn’t appear the Razorbacks did anything special to specifically stop him.
“I’d be lying if I said any defense wasn’t putting an emphasis on stopping the run, but I think teams are still respecting our passing game,” he said. “Arkansas was rushing (the passer with) four or five defenders, so we have to execute whether it’s a run play or a pass play.”
“We just have to go back to practice Monday and work harder,” a somber Fournette said. “The goal is just to win. ... It’s always been our goal to win, so we just have to pick it up.”