UPDATED: Tiger duo runs over Ole Miss
UPDATED FROM PRINT EDITION
OXFORD, Miss. — LSU had no problem executing its plan to run and grind away at Ole Miss while keeping the ball away from the Rebels’ dangerous offense Saturday night.
It just took a while to translate it into many points.
But once the Tigers quit cashing in for field goals at the end of long drives and traded them for touchdowns, LSU pulled away and coasted to a 40-24 victory over Ole Miss.
Mainly, Derrius Guice is back –— and he had running mate — as the Tigers (6-2, 3-1 SEC) won their third straight conference game to head into this week’s open date on a high note before resuming with the challenge of the century against No. 1-ranked Alabama in two weeks.
“Tremendous job by our team,” head coach Ed Orgeron said. “Three SEC victories in a row.”
Orgeron continued to downplay the personal angle after coming away with a convincing victory at the same stadium where he coached the Rebels for three years before being fired.
It wasn’t about him, he said.
No, it wasn’t. Mostly, it was about LSU’s two-headed tailback, Guice and Darrell Williams, who played their own game of one-upmanship.
The duo combined to create 495 of the Tigers’ whopping 593 yards of total offense.
Danny Etling threw for 200 yards despite problems protecting him.
But most of the game focused on the backs as Guice reeled off 276 yards rushing, the third highest single-game total in school history and only nine yards short of his own school record. It was the third game of his career of over 250 yards — the first and only player in SEC history to do it.
“He’s finally healthy,” Orgeron said of Guice, who’s battled a sprained ankle most of the year. “We challenged our team. We needed to run the football.
Maybe it could have been worse for the Rebels — “I’m not 100 percent,” Guice said. “But I’m going to give it my all every time I’m out there, no matter how I feel.”
Williams, meanwhile, came away as the first LSU player ever to both rush for 100 yards and get 100 yards in receptions.
“We thought that we could run the football on them,” Orgeron said. “We challenged our team that we needed to run the football. This is a (Ole Miss) team that can score at any time. We needed to be dominate and control the game.”
Even the passes seemed like runs — no Tiger wide receiver had a catch — as Williams ran for 105 yards on 22 carries and matched it with 105 yards receiving on swing passes that were little more than laterals. Guice also had a 9-yard reception — 495 total yards for the duo.
“They hurt us too much on the ground and we didn’t take adavantage of some opportunities on offense,” said Ole Miss interim head coach Matt Luke.
But for all that, the tailback duo had only one touchdown, a 7-yard touchdown run by Guice late in the first quarter.
Orgeron appreciated Connor Culp’s four field goals in as many tries — it was the Tigers’ biggest uncertainty just a few weeks ago — but three points at a time wasn’t putting much distance between the Tigers and Rebels on the scoreboard when LSU settled for them twice in the first half and again to start the third.
“We fought, we knew were going to have to fight,” Orgeron said. “We wanted to finish drives. We were moving the ball and had to get some field goals.
“We challenged our team to play with more sense of urgency.”
So the Tigers started finishing off drives and seemingly everybody — except the tailbacks who were doing the heavy lifting — started stumbling into the end zone in the second half.
Tiger offensive coordinator Matt Canada does like to spread things around.
Etling scrambled his way to a 5-yard touchdown run that put LSU up 23-9 late in the third quarter.
Blocking back J.D. Moore, who seldom touches the ball and complains about it even less, took a shuttle pass for 11 yards for another score in the third quarter’s waning moments to put LSU up 30-16.
Then — wonder of wonders — a tight end even caught a touchdown pass as Foster Moreau was too wide open to miss with too big of a head start to be caught on a lumbering 60-yard reception for the Tigers’ final touchdown.
Culp, who’d been far too busy for Orgeron’s liking most of the game, capped the LSU scoring with a career-best 47-yarder.
“He’s getting confidence,” Orgeron said.
It put LSU up 40-16 before the Rebels scored a late touchdown and 2-point conversion with backup quarterback Jordan Da’amu with 1:51 to play.
Orgeron credited his secondary for holding the SEC’s leading passer, Shea Patteron, to just 116 yards in the air while intercepting him three times.
“We kind of bent some, but we didn’ break,” Orgeron said. “We had to play man-to-man about 80 percent of the time. I thought our DBs had a heckuva game. considering the passing game they have.”
Despite problems protecting Etling, LSU moved the ball well in the first half but two impressive drives stalled to result in field goals and Ole Miss backup quarterback Jordan Ta’amu directed a last-minute field goal drive to cut the Tigers’ margin to 13-6 at the half.
Guice already had 126 yards rushing at the break despite sitting out the 10-play drive that netted Culp’s 38-yard field goal.
LSU held Patterson to just 33 yards in the half before he limped off after throwing an interception that set up the Tigers field goal with 1:17 remaining.
But Ta’amu seemed to catch the Tigers off guard, reeling off a 15-yard run and compleing two passes for 23 yards that set up the Rebels for a 26-yard field on the final play of the half.
LSU had explosive plays on its first two possessions, although Williams’ 63-yard gain on a swing pass resulted only in a field goal.
But Guice broke off his longest run of the year on LSU’s second possession, breaking free for 59 yards and scored the half’s only touchdown moments late on a 7-yard run.
Ole Miss got a 31-yard field from Gary Wunderlich in the first quarter and he was true from 26 yards on the half’s final play.
LSU running back Derrius Guice (5) runs on a long gain against Mississippi during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. No. 24 LSU won 40-24. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)