LSU-South Carolina Preview
So far only Mother Nature has stopped Leonard Fournette and LSU.
A month after having one game canceled due to thunderstorms, more inclement weather is a major factor for the undefeated Tigers.
Devastating floods in South Carolina have led to a change of venue, with the Gamecocks having moved Saturday’s scheduled home game against No. 7 LSU to Baton Rouge.
This matchup was supposed to be at Williams-Brice Stadium, but police who would help with traffic and security were needed elsewhere due to the aftermath of massive flooding that killed 14 people. Many roads around Columbia are closed or have been washed away.
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier was asking people to donate to the Red Cross when the decision was announced.
"Moving the game is best. The governor, our president, law enforcement, they all think this is the right thing to do. We’re just not ready for a ball game Saturday afternoon," Spurrier said on WIS-TV in Columbia.
Coach Les Miles and the LSU program can sympathize with Spurrier and the Gamecocks community. The Tigers moved their opener in 2005 against Arizona State from Baton Rouge to Tempe because of damage from Hurricane Katrina.
LSU also had its opener this year at home against McNeese State canceled because of persistent lightning.
"We want to support South Carolina in anything they want to do," Miles said Wednesday. "We have been through weather issues here."
Still, moving the game to Baton Rouge gives an even bigger edge to LSU (4-0, 2-0 SEC), which has won 38 of its last 41 home games and 11 of 12 against the Gamecocks (2-3, 0-3).
Fournette is a big reason why the Tigers were favored regardless of location. He leads the nation with 864 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns while gaining 8.7 yards per carry. The sophomore running back’s staggering numbers – which include being 170 yards shy of his total from last year – have come in one fewer game than many of his challengers.
The same can’t be said of LSU’s passing game, which ranks last in the conference at 95.5 yards per game and two touchdowns. The Tigers were held to 80 yards through the air, as quarterback Brandon Harris completed 4 of 14 passes in last weekend’s 44-22 win over Eastern Michigan.
Fournette, a Heisman Trophy candidate, picked up the slack again, scoring three times and gaining 233 yards on 26 carries, but Miles is looking for more from the passing game.
"We’re looking at shuffling the lineup. We’re looking at all those things," Miles said. "I like the effort of my wide receivers. It’s not as productive as it needs to be. It needs to be more in line with the coaching. … We have to execute better. Period."
Top receivers Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural have combined for 18 catches, 242 yards and one touchdown. They totaled 12 TDs last year, but key drops near the goal line last weekend forced LSU to settle for field goals.
"If he does go along with that, apparently he has a plan and we have to trust that plan and be prepared for those changes," wide receiver John Diarse said. "Any time you kind of have those hiccups on your team, your coach has to make some type of change, whether it’s a big change or whether it’s a small change.
"We’ve got to find a rhythm. We’ve got to find a flow of things."
That hasn’t been a problem for the defense, which ranks third in the SEC with an average of 293.5 yards allowed. The unit yielded a season-low 255 yards – 94 rushing – while creating three turnovers against Eastern Michigan.
South Carolina is trying to avoid its worst start to its SEC schedule since finishing 0-8 in 1999. The Gamecocks have dropped seven of their last eight in league play after falling 24-10 at Missouri last weekend.
Freshman quarterback Lorenzo Nunez injured his shoulder against Missouri and Spurrier said Thursday former walk-on Perry Orth will start against LSU.
Orth, a junior, started at Georgia three weeks ago in a 52-20 loss, and has completed 24 of 50 passes for 288 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in seven career games.
Spurrier is fully aware of the threat Fournette poses to his defense, which gives up an average of 170.0 yards on the ground.
"You gotta hit him low," Spurrier said. "You gotta try to get his ankles together if you can. Obviously, our defensive backs and linebacker-type guys, hopefully our d-linemen can stop him hitting him in the waist area and so forth. It’s called ‘gang tackling.’
"You know, Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson, their teams didn’t win every game."
LSU has won five straight against South Carolina, with the last one coming in 2012.