No. 9 LSU and Fournette ready to run vs. Eastern Michigan
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) There will be no shortage of interested observers this weekend, not to mention Heisman Trophy voters, eager to see what LSU’s Leonard Fournette will do next.
And it doesn’t sound like coach Les Miles intends to disappoint them by backing off the workload on his star running back when the ninth-ranked Tigers (3-0) host Eastern Michigan (1-3) on Saturday night.
LSU is favored by about six touchdowns, but Miles made it clear he wants victory virtually assured on the field before he starts making lineup changes.
”I’ve never seen a game decided or won before you arrive,” Miles said. ”If that’s the case, I just want you to know, we’ll call our starting lineup much differently.”
But as long as games begin in a scoreless ties with 60 minutes on the clock, Miles said, his regime ”would invite – and insist on inviting – all of the best to the field.”
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Fournette might very well be the best of the best. The sophomore from New Orleans has already piled up 631 yards and eight touchdowns rushing in only three games – and those totals represent only those runs which weren’t wiped out by teammates’ penalties.
”We were sloppy in our penalties and some corrections need to be made,” Miles said.
Eastern Michigan has struggled to win games but has consistently moved the ball and scored points. So Eagles coach Chris Creighton hopes his team can put together its best performance of the season and stay close by sustaining long offensive drives.
”They have very few weaknesses,” Creighton said of the Tigers. ”We’re going to have to be able to spread them out and be balanced and somehow keep them off balance and muster yards and move the chains. But it’ll be a tall task.”
Some things to watch when Eastern Michigan plays at LSU:
FOURNETTE’S FATE: While all signs point to Miles giving Fournette his share of carries early, there may be wisdom to resting him if the Tigers succeed in building the type of lead odds makers expect. LSU has a pair of SEC contests coming up, starting at South Carolina and then at home against currently unbeaten Florida this month. Then come four more conference clashes in November, including road games against No. 13 Alabama and No. 3 Mississippi.
ACTION JACKSON: The Eagles have a workhorse running back of their own in 6-foot, 220-pound Darius Jackson. He leads the MAC with 103 yards rushing per game. ”He doesn’t really bring a lot of attention to himself, but he really, really wants this bad and is playing lights out,” Creighton said. ”He’s got a pretty rare combination of speed and size. … He outruns people and runs people over.”
PENALTY PROBLEMS: LSU has been penalized 28 times for 258 yards in three games this season, and some of those flags have wiped out touchdowns. Fournette had an 87-yard TD called back at Syracuse last weekend for illegal formation. If not for the penalty, Fournette, who finished the game with 244 yards rushing, would have shattered LSU’s single-game rushing record of 250 yards, set by Alley Broussard in 2004.
MOVEABLE OBJECTS: The Eagles expect to have their hands full with Fournette, given how they’ve struggled to stop the run. Eastern Michigan is allowing a MAC-worst 383.2 yards per game on the ground.
PASSING QUESTIONS: LSU hasn’t had to throw much to win so far and might not have to this weekend, either. But the Tigers eventually would like to see more from quarterback Brandon Harris and highly regarded receivers Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre. So far, LSU is passing for 100.7 yards per game and has two TDs through the air.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org