By Andrew Alexander, DIG Sports Editor
A German term for “lightning war,” blitzkrieg is a series quick and decisive short battles designed to knockout an enemy before it can ever fully mobilize. Power, surprise and speed are vital elements of in such an attack.
Led by sophomore running back Leonard Fournette, LSU’s dominant rushing attack, propelled the Tigers to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter of its season opener before Mississippi State even had chance to blink. The initial Fournette onslaught was too much for the Bulldogs to overcome, as LSU (1-0, 1-0) escaped Starkville with a 21-19 victory.
Though perhaps lacking the element of surprise because of his past gridiron accomplishments, Fournette nonetheless used his exceptional combination of power and speed to run over, around and through the Bulldog defense en route to 159 yards and three rushing touchdowns.
“I just think he’s a dominant back,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “He’s the kind of guy that can make you miss and bring power. Late in games he can be a difference. He can make people miss and scamper into the end zone. And (defenders) are not all that fired up about tackling the big guy.”
The New Orleans native picked up right where he left off in the Music City Bowl against Notre Dame last December, when he dazzled with a 264 all-purpose yard, three touchdown performance.
Fournette’s impressive 28-carry workload anchored a LSU offense that is still bordering on one-dimensional. The Tigers ran the ball 47 times to just 14 pass plays.
Fournette admits he did not expect the lion’s share of the carries in the season opener.
“If they give me the ball, they give it to me,” Fournette said. “If they don’t, they don’t. We have other outstanding players on the team.”
A couple of Fournette’s high profile teammates said Fournette lived up to their expectations.
“That’s the Leonard I expect, the team expects and Leonard himself expects,” LSU sophomore wide receiver Malachi Dupre said. “He did a tremendous job tonight, carrying the ball, blocking and doing whatever he needed to do to help the team win.”
The man handing the ball off to Fournette also said he was not shocked at his teammate’s extraordinary performance.
“When he’s running the ball like that, you’ve got to keep giving it to him,” LSU sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris said.
Fournette’s season opening performance helped justify the mountains of offseason hype he had received and likely catapulted him to the top of most early season Heisman-Trophy watch lists.
Scoring from one, 18 and 26 yards out, Fournette showed even more versatility Saturday night, incorporating a goal line direct snap (aka the Wild Buga) and vaulting himself over the defense for his first touchdown of the season.
“Coach Frank (Wilson) always told me, ‘over and up,’ and that’s the only thing I did, jumping over the pile,” Fournette explained.
Despite the 14 touchdowns and nearly 1,200 yards Fournette’s already amassed in his 14 game LSU career, he is always quick to compliment the rest of his teammates, a trait not unnoticed by his head coach.
“He’s a humble man, and he works hard at his trade,” Miles said. “He’s a very fine teammate, he’s a leader. With those kind of guys, it’s easier to push the ball towards them because he comes back and thanks the line and realizes that it’s a team thing.”
Fournette admitted he does not feel any pressure to perform because of the bevy of talented players on LSU’s roster.
“We have other outstanding athletes on the team that can do the same thing I can do with the ball, probably even better,” Fournette said.
SEC defenses will struggle to contain Fournette this season, but if LSU unleashes some of the other “outstanding athletes” the sophomore running back alluded to, the rest of the conference could be in trouble.
Then the real blitzkrieg will begin.