Dig Baton Rouge

Northern Exposure

By Andrew Alexander, DIG Sports Editor
@TheOtherAA

As the pocket collapsed around him late in the first quarter, LSU sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris desperately looked for an outlet, anyone he could throw the ball to in order to avoid the sack.

Enter Leonard Fournette.

Initially serving as a blocker on LSU’s pass play, Fournette saw his quarterback in peril and whirled around, calling for the football, as Harris fell towards the ground.

One flick of Harris’ wrist and Fournette had the ball and dashed for a 48-yard gain down the sidelines into Syracuse territory. Two plays later the sophomore running back scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 14-yard gallop into the end zone.

There’s no denying LSU’s sophomore running back is sensational, becoming the first running back in LSU history to rush for 200+ yards in consecutive games following his 244-yard, two touchdown performance versus the Orange.

But the Tigers (3-0, 2-0) were once again exposed Saturday afternoon, as the undisciplined, yet extremely talented team they are.

LSU penalties once again negated big offensive plays and helped its opponent sustain drives. The Tigers’ margins of victory this season have been two points, 24 points and 10 points. While all three games’ margins of victory could have been larger, the first and third games should leave LSU coach Les Miles and his staff very concerned.

“I think we’re a very talented team, and I think we play dominant at times, but with those penalties, we play too close,” Miles told the media during his weekly Monday press conference.

The Tigers committed 14 penalties for 120 yards against Syracuse. Two weeks earlier LSU committed nine penalties for 95 yards on the road versus Mississippi State.

Those penalties negated huge, momentum-shifting touchdowns that could have buried LSU’s opponents. Fournette’s 87-yard touchdown run last weekend: called back for an illegal formation penalty. Travin Dural’s 89-yard jet sweep against Mississippi State: called back for holding. Brandon Harris’ 37-yard touchdown pass to Dural in the first quarter of the LSU-Mississippi State tilt: called back for holding. Countless other plays, including several key first downs could be added to this list.

Yes, the Tigers are more talented then nearly every team they will share the field with in 2015, but that’s not the point. Disciplined football teams, regardless of talent level take advantage of their opponents’ penalties. It’s why the Bulldogs were able to storm back in the second half three weeks ago and nearly steal a win from LSU, or why Syracuse kept their contest with the Tigers remarkably close for most of the afternoon.

Fournette’s ability to single-handedly take over a game and dominate opponents will allow LSU to win the majority of its games in 2015. His 631 yards and eight rushing touchdowns through three games are the most in school history, and his 210.3 rushing yards per game leads the NCAA by over forty yards.

Even with Fournette’s weekly heroics, the Tigers will not contend for any championship in 2015 until they nip their penalty issue in the bud.

“We’re in pursuit of a penalty-free game,” Miles said.

Tiger fans wait with baited breath for that game to materialize.

Follow Andrew on Twitter (@TheOtherAA), and be sure to check out The A Game with Andrew Alexander Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on WUBR 910AM CBS Sports Radio.

 

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