Malachi Dupre

Leonard Fournette adds fuel to Heisman run in powering No. 8 LSU past Syracuse

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If the Heisman Trophy was to be presented this weekend, LSU running back Leonard Fournette would receive it. In reality the trophy will not be awarded for another few months, which leaves Fournette some more time to add to his Heisman Trophy campaign highlight reel. Fournette had two rushing touchdowns in No. 8 LSU’s 34-24 victory at Syracuse on Saturday in New York. The two rushing touchdowns traveled a distance of 76 yards, and he was not touched once on either run.

Syracuse did hang with LSU for a while before LSU started to pull away in the second half. Syracuse matched LSU’s offense point for point, with an LSU special teams touchdown by Tre’Davious White giving LSU the edge on the scoreboard. But Syracuse just coudl not keep up on offense despite a valiant effort from fifth string quarterback Zach Mahoney. Mahoney caught LSU off guard with a beautiful 40-yard touchdown throw down the center of the field to Brisly Estime in the third quarter.

After Syracuse cut the LSU lead to 24-17 early in the fourth quarter on another touchdown throw from Mahoney (to Ben Lewis), LSU pulled away. Brandon Harris completed an 11-yard touchdown throw to Malachi Dupre on the ensuing possession to regain the 14-point advantage. A field goal from Trent Domingue from 37 yards padded the lead four minutes later.

Fournette’s performance will surely be discussed. Fournette rushed for 244 yards and two touchdowns. Keep in mind he also had an 87-yard touchdown negated due to an illegal formation penalty on LSU. In doing so, Fournette became the first LSU running back to rush for 200 yards in a game in back-to-back weeks. Fournette will have a good chance to make more history with a third straight 200-yard day next week when LSU hosts Eastern Michigan.

Uh, good luck Eastern Michigan.

Four-star 2014 signee Clifton Garrett leaves LSU

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Clifton Garrett, one of the highest-rated members of LSU’s recruiting class last year, made little impact in his first season in Baton Rouge.  Apparently, that’ll be the case in perpetuity.

Citing multiple sources, 247Sports.com is reporting that Garrett has decided to transfer out of the Tigers football program.  While no reason for the decision to part ways was given, a general destination was given: the JUCO ranks, even as the specific school for the Illinois native has yet to be confirmed.

The recruiting website adds that “Garrett has already departed and has no plans of returning.”

Garrett was a four-star member of LSU’s 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 3 inside linebacker in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Illinois; and the No. 60 player overall according to Rivals.com. Just two Tiger signees that year were rated higher than Garrett: stud running back Leonard Fournette and stallion wide receiver Malachi Dupre, both of whom were Rivals five-stars.

247Sports had Garrett rated as a composite five-star signee, for those interested in another recruiting perspective.

As a true freshman, Garrett played in three games. Injuries, including a torn labrum in his shoulder that required surgery in January of 2014, helped to derail what many expected to be a significant(ish) role in his first season.

As the Baton Rouge Advocate notes, Garrett’s departure weakens what’s already a somewhat-thin linebacking corps:

Garrett’s departure leaves LSU with just eight scholarship linebackers heading into the 2015 season — two of which are converted from another position. Garrett had spent spring practice as the backup to middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith, Beckwith said in the spring.

LSU was low on linebackers even before Garrett’s departure. In fact, the team moved former defensive back Devin Voorhies and defensive end M.J. Paterson to the position to add depth. Ronnie Feist is presumed to be Beckwith’s immediate backup. He has played in nine games since arriving in 2012.

Travin Dural puts off NFL, will return to LSU

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More so than any other football program of late, LSU has been hit hard by early departures to the NFL.  At least on one front this year, however, the Tigers were spared such a hit.

In a conversation with Baton Rouge television sports reporter Michael Cauble Tuesday, Travin Dural confirmed that he will forego early entry into the NFL draft and return to LSU for another season.  A redshirt sophomore, Dural would be eligible for early entry into the NFL draft as he’s three years removed from high school.

LSU has lost 16 players to early entry the last two years, but, as noted by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the NFL has somewhat tweaked its procedures for this year’s class.

A maximum of five players from each school will receive a draft grade [from the NFL’s advisory panel] and the grades will be of three types: first round, second round or to return to school.

Regardless of the why, Dural’s return is a significant one.

In 2014, Dural was far and away the Tigers’ leader in receptions (37) receiving yards (758) and receiving touchdowns (seven).  The next closest was Trey Quinn‘s 17 catches and Malachi Dupre‘s 318 yards.

Les Miles says he has no interest in leaving LSU for Michigan

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Les Miles turned Michigan down to remain at LSU in 2007 and in 2010, and appears prepared to do so again in 2014.

Speaking to reporters after Monday’s practice, Miles reaffirmed his commitment to stay at LSU for an 11th season in 2015.

“There’s a tradition and a culture here we’ve kind of established. The young men that come in here really enjoy stepping into this room and being a part of that culture,” Miles told The Advocate. “I think that this team has the potential to play in championships.”

LSU played has two quarterbacks this season, sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris. Its leading rusher is true freshman Leonard Fournette. Its leading receiver, Travin Dural, is a sophomore, and its next three pass catchers – Malachi DupreJohn Diarse and Trey Quinn – are all freshman. This is a young team.

And its a young team that got better throughout the season. The Tigers beat then-undefeated Ole Miss, and nearly knocked off No. 1 Alabama. LSU closed the regular season by winning at Texas A&M, 23-17. One can see why Miles is optimistic.

And for the “Well, what is he supposed to say?” crowd, there is this, from LSU beat writer Ross Dellenger:

However, Miles refused to be quoted on the record on the subject, according to ESPN.com.

LSU closes the 2014 season against Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Miles is 103-28 with one national championship, two SEC championships and three SEC West championships in his decade at LSU.

Amari Cooper putting Alabama on his back for 10-7 lead

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This year’s version of Alabama-LSU may not match the magnitude of the epic 9-6 game just a few seasons ago, but it sure is playing out to be quite the defensive battle in Death Valley tonight. After seeing Auburn come up short at home in the hours leading up to the game, Alabama is hoping to avoid being the second SEC team upset today. Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper is doing his part to keep the Tide in it with a second quarter touchdown to tie things up at 7-7. A late field goal in the first half gave Alabama a small 10-7 lead at the half. Cooper set a new school record for most receiving yards in the process.

Cooper did what the best players in the sport do. When his team needed a lift, he provided it. On a fourth down with four yards to go, Nick Saban kept his offense on the field and was rewarded with Cooper catching a pass for a first down from Blake Sims. Moments later, Cooper caught a ball and found room to the end zone to tie the game on a 23-yard scoring play. Saban has suggested before he would like to see others on offense step it up, but if Cooper is going to be able to carry the team on his back then Saban is not going to hesitate to let it happen.

It was LSU that opened the scoring in this one though, in the first quarter. Quarterback Anthony Jennings lobbed one up for Malachi Dupre from 14 yards out. Dupre hauled in he pass along the left side of the end zone, but the play was initially called incomplete. The SEC officials took to the instant replay to get a better look and wasted little time in overturning the initial ruling, awarding LSU a touchdown. LSU’s offense has not been able to do much outside of that possession though. Jennings has completed just two of 10 passes for 31 yards, the one touchdown and one interception.

Alabama had a chance to get on the scoreboard earlier in the second quarter, but kicker Adam Griffith had his 27-yard attempt smack the top of the left upright and fell back toward the end zone, keeping Alabama off the scoreboard and igniting a litany of Twitter jokes about Alabama’s kicking woes. Perhaps that led Nick Saban to keep his offense on the field on the next possession when faced with a fourth down from farther out. That decision paid off with the Cooper touchdown. Griffith would make up for the miss later in the second quarter by sending a 39-yard try through the uprights, giving Alabama a 10-7 lead.