Even after a career day when he ran over, under, around and through numerous Auburn defenders, LSU’s ever-humble running back Leonard Fournette gave all the credit to his offensive line.
He might be onto something there. The line dominated Auburn’s front seven on the way to 411 rushing yards, 228 of which belonged to Fournette, during its 45-21 win Saturday in Tiger Stadium.
Though the sophomore had several highlight-reel runs, he was often well downfield before defenders even had a chance to tackle him. Fournette averaged 8.6 yards before contact, and he accumulated 164 yards before getting hit, according to ESPN statistics.
“They’re doing a good job protecting us,” Fournette said of the offensive linemen. “They’re our stepmothers. They protect us in any way.”
Junior cornerback Tre’Davious White gave a different analogy.
“The way that the front blocks for him is like if he were their little sister and they don’t want anybody to touch their little sister,” White said.
The offensive line’s big performance came after the position battle at guard was finally settled. True freshman Maea Teuhema started at left guard against Auburn (2-1, 0-1 Southeastern) after coming off the bench and impressing in the second half at Mississippi State the week before.
LSU (2-0, 2-0) originally started redshirt freshman Will Clapp at left guard and junior Josh Boutte at right guard, but Clapp has since shifted over to the right side.
Teuhema picked up right where he left off, turning his defender out of the hole as Fournette rumbled for a 71-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage.
“Seventy-one yards on the first play is a great feeling,” Clapp said. “It really just sets the tone for the game and how we’re gonna call plays.”
LSU coach Les Miles had implied he would keep a three-man rotation going at the guard spots, but Boutte did not enter the game until the final minutes. Teuhema seems to be a fixture at left guard going forward.
“For most kids starting as a true freshman, you’re going to see holes in their game,” Clapp said. “But Maea, he’s just plain great. What he has been able to do, I wasn’t able to do that last year as a true freshman. I needed a year to redshirt.”
Drop for drop
LSU’s defense suffocated Auburn in the first half Saturday, giving up only 70 yards and no points. But when sophomore safety Jamal Adams got to the locker room, he dropped to the floor for 20 push-ups.
Adams dropped an interception that would have led to an easy touchdown on Auburn’s final drive of the half that could’ve put LSU ahead 31-0, a mistake he said will give him nightmares for a while.
“If you drop picks, in the DB room you always do 20 push-ups for every dropped ball,” White said. “He definitely got in there and got his push-ups. But it’s something he’ll learn from. I feel like he’ll have more chances.”
Despite the drop, Adams capitalized on his first chance earlier in the second quarter. The sophomore said he recognized Auburn’s formation, and he ranged over to snatch the ball away from senior receiver Duke Williams for his first career interception.
“I wanted to bait them,” Adams said. “I saw what type of personnel they were in, and I knew they were gonna try to go the ball to (Williams). So I showed going to the middle, but I rolled back over and made a huge play.”
Adams’ teammates in the secondary said his first interception was long overdue.
“I was so happy for him because we always talk in the DB room and tell him he’s made a lot of great plays, but he hasn’t got his hands on the ball yet,” White said. “He finally got one in a big time game like that.”
LSU joins the top 10
After crushing Auburn, LSU jumped into the top 10 in both major polls.
The Tigers checked in at No. 8 in the Associated Press poll and at No. 9 in the coaches poll. LSU hadn’t cracked the top 10 since last September, before its home loss to then-unranked Mississippi State.
LSU-Syracuse on ESPN
LSU’s showdown with Syracuse on Saturday will air on ESPN, the school announced Sunday.
The Tigers and Orange will kick off at 11 a.m. CDT from the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse beat Central Michigan 27-20 in overtime Saturday to push its record to 3-0.