It all started on the game’s very first snap. Leonard Fournette dashed 71 yards on the first play of the game and never slowed down from there, leading the charge as No. 13 LSU drubbed No. 18 Auburn 45-21 in Baton Rouge on Saturday afternoon.
Fournette posted a career high 228 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries, looking like the best running back in football – college or professional – in the process. His 71-yard burst set up a two-yard Brandon Harris dash to give LSU a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter, and his 40 yard dash pushed the Bayou Bengals’ lead to 24-0 with 2:10 to play before halftime. After Auburn pulled within 24-7 to open the third quarter, Fournette responded with a 29-yard touchdown run to push the lead back to 31-7. He charged in from one yard out to give LSU a 38-7 lead with 4:14 to go in the third quarter. The magnetic sophomore was not seen again after that as he limped to the sideline with an apparent knee injury, which isn’t believed to be serious.
Fortunately for LSU, Saturday wasn’t just a three-hour highlight reel for Fournette. The rest of the team clicked around its Heisman candidate. Sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris completed 12-of-17 passes for 74 yards and a touchdown and added eight rushes for 66 yards and two more scores. As a team, LSU ran 48 times for a stunning 411 yards and five touchdowns, while limiting Auburn to 37 rushes for just 160 yards and one touchdown.
Enjoying their final hours this month (and, quite possibly, this season) as a ranked team, Auburn looked every bit like the team that struggled to beat 0-3 Louisville and miraculously snuck by FCS Jacksonville State. Jeremy Johnson was the turnover-prone quarterback he’s been all season, tossing one interception to LSU safety Jamal Adams (and should have had another) and losing one fumble that set up Fournette’s final touchdown. For the day he completed 11-of-19 throws for 100 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came well after the game had already been decided, plus a 65-yard touchdown run that briefly put his Tigers back in contention to open the third quarter.
Peyton Barber, Auburn’s lone bright spot last week, rushed just seven times for 34 yards.
Auburn was outgained by more than 200 yards. It converted only three of 10 third downs. It lost the turnover battle 2-0. Most importantly, it looked every bit like a team that has a 2012-like slide waiting, considering the lackluster way in which the ballyhooed Tigers started this season. Auburn (2-1, 0-1 SEC) faces a toss-up game against Mississippi State at Jordan-Hare Stadium next week, then gets San Jose State on Oct. 3. Trips to Kentucky (no gimme) and Arkansas (neither) wait after that, and then Gus Malzahn and company embark on a season-ending stretch with four teams currently ranked 17th or higher in its final five games. Sheesh. The Tigers are now 1-5 in their last half-dozen games against Power Five competition.
LSU (2-0, 2-0 SEC) can afford to keep its Terminator of a running back on ice for the next few weeks if it so chooses. The Tigers head to Syracuse next week, then host Eastern Michigan after that. In fact, LSU does not face a currently ranked team until its trip to Alabama on Nov. 2. Fournette should be fully functional by then. Here’s hoping Alabama’s defense is as well.