Dig Baton Rouge

Fournette for Heisman?

By DIG Sports Staff

LSU running back Leonard Fournette was the clear frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy heading into the Tigers’ showdown against Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium last weekend. In the wake of Fournette’s a 31-yard performance against the Tide, however, the Heisman picture has become murkier. Will Fournette still become LSU’s second Heisman Trophy winner since Billy Cannon in 1959? DIG’s sports staff takes a deeper look.

Andrew Alexander (@TheOtherAA) – NO

Leonard Fournette is unquestionably still a Heisman candidate, even after his dismal 31-yard performance against the Crimson Tide, but the gap between No. 7 and the field has closed mightily. The juxtaposition of Fournette’s lackluster game and Alabama running back Derrick Henry’s 210-yard, three-touchdown display of dominance in primetime last weekend will likely be enough to keep Fournette from hoisting the stiff-armed trophy in December.

Henry is the new Heisman favorite at 3/2 odds, according to Bovada (a Las Vegas sports book), after being outside of the top five of the Heisman race last week. Fournette is currently No. 2 in the odds at 2/1.

In a way it feels as if Henry beat Fournette in some sort of warped “Heisman moment” contest. Saturday’s game was the biggest stage of the regular season for both running backs: Henry passed with flying colors, while Fournette failed miserably.

Even if Fournette breaks Herschel Walker’s single-season SEC rushing record of 1,891 and LSU wins out to finish the regular season at 10-1, Heisman voters will not be quick to forget his Alabama performance, which was the antithesis of a Heisman moment.

C.J. Rucker (@Ruckmatic) – YES

There’s no doubt that Leonard Fournette’s Heisman chances were hurt after his less-than-stellar performance against the University of Alabama. However, I still believe the Heisman trophy is still his to lose. The reason why most LSU fans might be panicking over Fournette’s 31-yard performance against the Tide is because the whole world was tuned into the prime time game. I think it’s important to keep that one game in perspective.

Fournette is still averaging 19 more yards per game than any other running back in the country and is only one touchdown behind Alabama’s Derrick Henry, despite playing in one less game because of the McNeese State cancellation in week one. Let’s not forget that Henry, who many are proclaiming as the new Heisman frontrunner, rushed for a modest 52 yards on 13 carries against Louisiana Monroe and 95 yards on 27 carries against an Arkansas defense that gave up 171 rushing yards to Texas Tech.

While Fournette could have used the game against Alabama to strengthen his Heisman resume, he shouldn’t be penalized for not having a great game against a Crimson Tide defense that’s only allowing only 76 yards per game on the ground.

When the nation’s second leading rushing defense decides to put eight to nine guys in the box, a Heisman level performance is unlikely. Obviously the Tide weren’t the first team to stack the box against Fournette this year, but they’re the first team with multiple NFL prospects in every position group to do so.

At the end of the day, the rest of LSU’s opponents have given up at least 125 yards per game and Fournette should have no trouble maintaining his 173 yards per game average even if teams decide to load the box.

Casey Gisclair (@Casey_Gisclair) – YES

College football is a team sport – maybe the biggest team sport in the world.

So with that said, it would be completely illogical and downright disrespectful for Heisman voters, college football nuts and, most specifically, LSU fans, to end Leonard Fournette’s Heisman Trophy candidacy after the team’s loss against Alabama.

There simply was nothing Fournette could do.

The Crimson Tide outmatched LSU in every way. As soon as Fournette touched the football, multiple defensive linemen and linebackers usually met him in the backfield.

Alabama knew what LSU’s game plan was and there was no running back in the history of college football that could have had success against that defense on that night.

Fournette’s lack of impressive statistics was a result of bad blocking, average execution from his quarterback (which enabled the Tide to stack the line) and a defense that simply couldn’t get off the field enough to let LSU wear Alabama down.

Here are the facts about Fournette and why he still needs to be a Heisman frontrunner: Fournette still leads the NCAA in rushing yards, despite having one bad game and one game canceled. If the Tigers played the McNeese game, we could easily add 200 more yards to his tally – if not more.

Also, it’s a complete myth and media fabrication that Heisman winners aren’t allowed to ever lose games and/or play poorly in some tilts.

Newly crowned Heisman frontrunner Derrick Henry has failed to get 100 yards in three games already this season.

Former Heisman winner Robert Griffin lost three games the year he won the trophy – two by 27 or more points.

The year Mark Ingram won it, he was held to 16 carries for 30 yards against Auburn and 17 carries for 50 yards against Arkansas.

Relax. Exhale. It happens.

One game does not a season make and Leonard Fournette’s season is still one that’s Heisman worthy.

Alabama stymied Fournette and the LSU offense for most of the game in Tuscaloosa last Saturday, notching its fifth straight win against the Tigers. Photo courtesy LSU Sports Information.
Alabama stymied Fournette and the LSU offense for most of the game in Tuscaloosa last Saturday, notching its fifth straight win against the Tigers. Photo courtesy LSU Sports Information.

Alex Asaro (@ALpatrick1021) – YES

I just do not understand how after one horrifically called offensive week by the LSU coaching staff it is time to give up on Fournette’s chances of winning the Heisman trophy in 2015.

The Heisman is not an award that is decided in one game. It’s true that a big factor in winning the award is making that extra push and being the guy to put the team on his back in clutch situations, which Fournette failed to do in this past weekend against Alabama, but how can you deny the production out of Fournette this season?

His stat lines have been incredible when you think about the number of SEC defenses he has faced week after week. His numbers will not hit anywhere near the lowly 19 carries for 31 yards again in his career at LSU.

I expect Fournette to make the most of his situation and run angry to show the critics that he is not given up on the is season and neither should the fans and media. My prediction, regardless of how well Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and Alabama running back Derrick Henry play, is that Fournette can get at least 120 rushing yards and a touchdown in each of the last three regular season games, and will bring the Heisman trophy back to Baton Rouge in December.

Wesley Wright – YES

Until last Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Leonard Fournette was king of the running backs in 2015, and undoubtedly the Heisman trophy favorite.

And he still should be.

Why? Because he’s having a season Hercules would be proud of. Fournette’s 31 yards in Alabama have more to say about the entire offensive unit than his individual performance. Quarterbacks have won 13 of the past 14 Heisman trophies, and with a weak class of quarterbacks in terms of Heisman trophy candidates, this is the year the award will likely go to the best running back.

The last non-quarterback to win it, Mark Ingram, had a 30-yard performance against rival Auburn in 2009 when he took home the trophy. Before his abysmal performance against Alabama, Leonard Fournette had not run for less than 150 yards in a game and ran for over 200 yards three times.

Even though Fournette only managed 31 yards against the best defensive front in the nation last Saturday, he is still leading the nation in rushing.

Fournette has the stats on his side, but he has lost the momentum. If the Tigers can manage to win out Leonard can regain the hearts of the voters with what I think is his most dynamic quality, his home run ability.

Fournette is known for his power and physicality but Leonard can also hit the home run ball. His longest runs this season are 87, 75, and 71 yards respectively. By comparison Derrick Henry, leading Heisman trophy candidate at the moment, has runs topping out at 56, 55, and 40 yards.

If the Tigers can rattle off some wins and Fournette can break a few more big touchdown runs in the process, he’ll remind all the voters exactly why he struck the Heisman pose after his first career collegiate touchdown against Sam Houston State last season.

 

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