Leonard Fournette churns through Texas Tech as LSU wins Texas Bowl
HOUSTON — LSU coach Les Miles wasn’t at all surprised by Leonard Fournette’s performance in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl.
At this point, Miles is used to seeing his All-America running back take over games.
Fournette scored five touchdowns and ran for 212 yards as the Tigers (No. 20 CFP, No. 22 AP) used a big third quarter to pull away for a 56-27 win over Texas Tech on Tuesday night.
“This is a night that Leonard Fournette would have again and again and again,” Miles said. “I wouldn’t call it routine because he is not a routine runner; he’s a special back. But we would expect him to have nights like this. He’s fast and strong and capable.”
Fournette’s five touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving) tied the record for most total touchdowns in a bowl game, matching seven previous performances. LSU’s 56 points set the school record for scoring in a bowl game.
Texas Tech (7-6) cut the lead to one early in the third quarter before the Tigers (9-3) scored 21 straight points, with two touchdowns by Fournette, to make it 42-20 entering the fourth.
Fournette had two rushing touchdowns of 2 yards, ran for TDs of 43 and 4 yards, and took a screen pass 44 yards for another score.
The Texas Bowl MVP described his performance succinctly.
“I would say the night was productive,” he said.
Patrick Mahomes threw for 370 yards and four touchdowns for Texas Tech but was under heavy pressure all night. He was sacked six times and scrambled away from probably 10 more.
“I knew it would be a challenge, particularly when we had to go into throwing mode every play,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “It’s a good front. It’s a good defense.”
Miles thought his defense set a tone for the game by limiting Tech to minus-5 yards on the first drive.
“That surely sent a message to the quarterback, this is just not going to be his day,” Miles said.
Jakeem Grant set a Texas Tech bowl record with three touchdown receptions.
The Tigers believe their offense was helped by having coordinator Cam Cameron on the sideline instead of up in the booth, where he had been all season.
“I thought it worked wonders,” right tackle Vidal Alexander said. “It was a great decision he made.”
It was the 10th 100-yard rushing game and fourth 200-yarder this season for Fournette, who extended his LSU single-season rushing record to 1,953 yards. LSU outrushed Texas Tech 384-29 as the Tigers took advantage of a run defense that was one of the worst in the nation.
Fournette joined Alabama’s Derrick Henry as the only running backs in Southeastern Conference history to rush for more than 1,900 yards in a season. Fournette’s 162.8 yards per game lead the nation.
Brandon Harris threw for 254 yards with a touchdown and an interception and ran for another score for LSU.
Dakota Allen intercepted a pass by Harris early in the third quarter, and Texas Tech made it 21-20 on a 31-yard touchdown reception by Reginald Davis three plays later.
Fournette was stopped for no gain on one carry on LSU’s next drive and managed just 2 yards on the next one. But Texas Tech couldn’t corral him on his next run, and he broke free for 43 yards to give him the LSU record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 20 and push the lead to 28-20.
The Red Raiders were driving on their next possession when Rickey Jeffersonintercepted a pass that was deflected on the LSU 1-yard line.
Fournette pushed LSU’s lead to 35-20 on a 4-yard touchdown run after the interception. Trey Quinn had a 46-yard reception to set up that score.
“I think that the fact that they scored and made it 35-20 instead of 28-24 or 28, that was a big turning point,” Kingsbury said.
Harris made it 42-20 when he ran 26 yards for a touchdown with 9 seconds left in the third quarter.
Grant had a 4-yard reception for Texas Tech that made it 42-27 early in the fourth.
Fournette sailed into the end zone Superman style on a 2-yard run with about 8 minutes left.
He got going early when he shed one defender and hurdled another on a 35-yard run on his second carry. He finished that drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to give LSU a 7-0 lead. He celebrated the score with the “running off on the da plug twice” dance from a song by rapper Plies. The dance basically looks like a spirited run in place, with arms pumping and a bit of a shuffle.
Texas Tech closed the gap when Grant grabbed a 46-yard touchdown pass, but the 2-point conversion failed and the score was 7-6.
D.J. Chark ran 79 yards for a touchdown on LSU’s next play to make it 14-6. One Texas Tech defender caught up to him at about the 10-yard line but Chark simply dragged him into the end zone for the longest run in Texas Bowl history.
“He has blazing speed,” Alexander said. “I was trying to run with him and he was just leaving me.”
Fournette pushed LSU’s lead to 21-6 when he took a screen pass 44 yards for his first career touchdown catch with about 6 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter. He wasn’t that excited about the reception.
“I like running the ball; I don’t like catching,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.