LSU was in desperate need of a spark, but this time it wasn’t the fault of a lackluster ground game.
On third-and-goal, Tyrion Davis-Price was swallowed by a sea of Kentucky Wildcats, stopped a foot short of LSU’s first touchdown of the game.
The Tigers lined up for fourth down with a faint pulse, down 21-0 early in the third quarter. But Davis-Price supplied some life, and hope, when he leaped over the middle to pull the Tigers within 21-7.
If nothing else, it ensured LSU would not be shutout at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. He would notch his second touchdown in the fourth quarter in similar fashion to make the score 35-21, but the positives were few and far between as the Tigers fell to 3-3 after a 42-21 loss.
LEXINGTON, Ky. — A horse named Time for Trouble ran in the third race at Keeneland here Saturday.
The irony in LSU’s lackluster offensive performance against the Wildcats was that it ran the ball better than it had all season against a team whose rushing defense was No. 25 in the country entering the game. For weeks, the Tigers have struggled to establish any ground attack with an offensive line that was mostly break, with little bend, averaging 70.8 yards rushing per game.
“If it's first down and 10 and you lose 2 yards, it's second down and 12, you're behind the chains,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said last week. “That's why we started last week with trying to get some first down passes. Not all first down passes. But a mixture of first-down passes and get second-and-5, and get manageable downs where we can run the football.”
LSU ran the ball on 13 of its 31 first-and-10 opportunities. Davis-Price carried seven of those for an average of 10.4 yards per carry.
At half, Davis-Price had run for 52 yards on nine attempts. He finished the game with a season-high 147 yards rushing while averaging 6.7 yards per carry on 22 attempts with two touchdowns. His longest gain, a 30-yarder around the right edge, was the biggest run play of the season for the Tigers, eclipsing freshman running back Corey Kiner’s 26-yard run against Central Michigan.
“We said we were not going to abandon the run and we didn’t,” Orgeron said. "He (Davis-Price) ran very hard. That’s the best he’s run. He stuck with it and look what he did. I’m very proud of him.”
The other running backs got their touches, too.
Freshman running back Armoni Goodwin ran for 18 yards on four carries, while Kiner added 5 yards on four carries. Excluding quarterback Max Johnson, who had negative-23 yards rushing after being sacked three times, the three running backs tallied 170 yards, the most since a victory over Florida in December.
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Fans shook white towels and performed the wave around Kroger Field as fireworks blasted and they chanted “C-A-T-S, CATS CATS …
On the final scoring drive, Davis-Price fought for a 3-yard gain on fourth down at the Kentucky 11. After an incomplete pass, he took the ball 9 yards up the middle and followed that with a 2-yard touchdown run to bring the score to 35-21 in favor of Kentucky.
But the lack of protection by the offensive line didn't help a struggling passing game, something the Tigers had relied heavily on in previous weeks. The Wildcats set the tone when senior linebacker DeAndre Square ripped the ball from Johnson’s grasp on a 9-yard sack on LSU’s opening drive.
Between the end of the first quarter and through the second quarter, Johnson missed on six of his seven passes after completing his first eight, scrambling for most of his completions.
Johnson after the game still commended the offensive line’s improvement, which allowed Davis-Price to shine even as the passing game struggled.
“I’m not surprised,” Johnson said. “Our linemen have been working their butts off on the running game. Ty has been working his butt off. It just sucks.”