By Andrew Alexander, DIG Sports Editor
Saturday’s midday Southeastern Conference showdown between the Tigers and Gamecocks will be remembered as one of the most unique game day experiences in modern LSU history. The Tigers donned purple jerseys and white helmets as the visiting team in their own stadium in front of an uncharacteristically small Death Valley crowd of just over 42,000 fans, in what we now know was South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier’s final game.
Beyond the images of the Palmetto State flags on the jumbotron and the shrill of “Sandstorm” blaring through the Tiger Stadium speakers, Saturday’s game will be remembered as the emergence of one supremely talented LSU freshman running back.
After unleashing an 87-yard touchdown run less than a minute into the second half, sophomore running back Leonard Fournette looked well on his way to a fourth straight 200-yard rushing performance.
Fournette, the focal point of the run-heavy LSU offense through four games, would run the ball only three more times the rest of the game, finishing with a season low of 158 yards and only one touchdown. It’s safe to say No. 7 is having a sensational season when his smallest rushing total is still 158 yards.
Enter Derrius Guice.
With only 17 yards on two attempts in the first half, Guice took over the lion’s-share of the rushing load midway through the third quarter and dazzled from the onset.
On his first snap of the second half, Guice rushed for 17 yards, setting up a manageable third and short situation to keep the Tigers’ drive alive. LSU would score four plays later on a 62-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris to junior receiver Travin Dural.
“[Guice is] pretty talented,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “Reckless might be the best word. Angry might be a better word. There are a number of ways to describe his running style. Efficient.”
Efficiency was Guice’s modus operandi on Saturday, as the Baton Rouge native averaged 10.1 yards per carry en route to a 161-yard, one touchdown performance that earned him SEC Freshman of the Week honors.
“You saw today what I see everyday,” said senior offensive tackle Vadal Alexander. “[Guice] is incredible at breaking tackles. He runs hard and so it’s tough to bring him down.”
Guice rushed for three more yards than Fournette (158), which also marked the second time in school history two LSU running backs rushed for more than 150 yards in the same game. The last time such a feat occurred was September 7, 1996, when Kevin Faulk (246) and Rondell Mealey (161) ran wild, as LSU scored 21 unanswered fourth quarter points to beat Houston 35-34.
“[Guice] feeds off the older guys and tries his best to do better than us and that’s what it’s about,” said Fournette. “It’s about seeing each other do well, and I think he’s done a great job.
“He’s a wild child, and I guess he just hates the ground. He’s done a tremendous job carrying the ball and doing what he has to do to help the team out.”
Guice’s most impressive run came late in the third quarter when the freshman running back took a handoff and broke away from two Gamecock defenders behind the line of scrimmage before barreling for a 25-yard gain, shaking off nearly half the South Carolina defense in the process.
— Shea Dixon (@Sheadixon) October 11, 2015
“[Guice is] an unbelievable athlete,” Harris said. “I was blocking for him and next thing I know, I look up and he’s 40 yards down the field making a spin move. Those are the things we see, and I think Coach Frank [Wilson] has done a great job with coaching the running backs.”
Guice’s monstrous performance, along with sophomore Darrel William’s 61-yard, two-touchdown day revealed to the rest of college football the staggering backfield depth the Tigers possess.
LSU leads the SEC is rushing yards, averaging 346.4 per game, and the Tigers are ranked third in the nation behind only Georgia Southern (377.4) and Baylor (357.6). Keep in mind that Fournette did not even play the last quarter and a half against South Carolina.
The most illuminating testament to LSU’s dominant and deep rushing attack came from a member of the Tigers’ most recent opponent, who seemed downright amazed at the abundance of running back talent in Baton Rouge.
“[Fournette] is a great back,” South Carolina linebacker T. J. Holloman said. “He runs hard. He’s a one-cut guy. He makes one cut and sticks his head down and runs really hard. But [Derrius Guice] is the one that really impressed me. He had a really good game.”
College football world, meet Derrius Guice.