COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Derrius Guice stuffed a Texas A&M turkey full of yards and touchdowns Thursday night while Leonard Fournette could only watch on television back home with his ankle injury.
Guice, LSU's No. 2 tailback, filled in for the injured Fournette and then some as he broke the school record for yards in a game set by Fournette just last month by gaining 285 yards on 37 carries while scoring four touchdowns to lead the No. 25 Tigers over No. 22 Texas A&M, 54-39, in front of 102,961 at Kyle Field.
"He's no surprise to us," said Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, who watched Guice gain 79 yards on 10 carries in a 19-7 win over the Aggies last season. "He's a home run hitter."
LSU (7-4, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) finished the regular season with a flourish, totaling 622 yards as quarterback Danny Etling also played his best game as a Tiger, completing 20 of 28 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns. It was the second most total yards ever for an LSU road team. The Tigers gained 630 in a win over Ole Miss in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1987. And all 622 came against former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis, who is still embroiled in a lawsuit over his contract buyout with LSU.
"We couldn't get off the field on defense in the second half," said Sumlin, who watched Chavis' defense allow 34 points and 346 yards in the second half. "It wasn't third down. It was getting off the field. There were issues. It was first and second down."
It was just about every down.
The Tigers took a 7-0 lead with 13:16 to go in the first quarter on Guice's first touchdown - a 45-yard scamper. He added another 45-yard touchdown early in the third quarter for a 27-10 lead, then scored on a 6-yard run for a 34-10 lead with 7:45 to play. He scored his last touchdown on a 1-yard run for a 54-33 lead with 4:59 to go.
Fournette had set the game rushing record on Oct. 22 against Ole Miss when he shook off his season-long ankle injury after missing the previous game, gaining 284 yards on 16 carries with three touchdowns against the Rebels.
Guice, who suffered two critical fumbles inside the 10-yard line in the 16-10 loss to Florida last week and ran the wrong way on the ill-fated last play of the game from the Gators' 1, held onto the ball on this night. He had 77 yards on six carries in the first quarter alone and was over 100 at 117 on 13 carries by halftime. He entered the fourth quarter with 219 yards on 23 carries.
"He was resilient," said LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron, who showed a lot of that himself as he fielded questions about his slipping audition for the permanent job with Houston coach Tom Herman currently reportedly close to accepting the LSU head coaching job.
"I don't know what's going to happen," Orgeron said. "I appreciate the way people have supported me. I've never been treated like an interim coach. I couldn't be more appreciative."
The Tigers appeared to be running away with the game midway through the third quarter after Guice's third touchdown for a 34-10 lead. But the Aggies (8-4, 4-4 SEC) came right back to cut it to 34-17 with 5:04 to play in the period on a 33-yard touchdown run by tailback Trayveon Williams, and they kept coming back. Quarterback Trevor Knight, who was said to be out for the season with a shoulder injury three weeks ago, returned to the starting lineup and threw two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to get the Aggies within 41-25 and 47-33 before LSU pulled away. He finished 14 of 30 for 211 yards and three touchdowns.
Etling completed 12 of 18 passes in the first half for 156 yards with a perfectly thrown fly pattern to wide receiver Malachi Dupre for a 20-yard touchdown and 20-7 lead with 32 seconds to go before halftime. LSU could have been up by more, but it had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Colby Delahoussaye late in the second quarter for a 10-7 lead after driving 69 yards in nine plays. Delahoussaye added a 32-yard field goal early in the second quarter for a 13-7 lead after a another 69-yard drive in 10 plays that could not be finished in the end zone.
Etling added a 9-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Russell Gage with 10:03 to play for a 47-25 lead. Wide receiver D.J. Chark ran for a 7-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter for a 41-17 lead.
LSU took a 7-0 lead on its first possession of the game and needed only four plays, as Guice sprinted 45 yards for the score. Texas A&M answered immediately, though, as Knight shook off a shoulder injury that was said to have ended his season three weeks ago. He returned to action as the starter and hit wide receiver Christian Kirk for a 36-yard touchdown and 7-7 tie with 6:05 to go in the period.
In addition to Fournette missing the game with an ankle injury that has bothered him all season, the Tigers were also without starting middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith (knee), defensive end and sack leader Arden Key (disciplinary suspension) and wide receiver Travin Dural (shoulder).
"We've been through some stuff, and we've been resilient," Orgeron said. "I just wish we would've beat Florida."
The Tigers will now await their bowl destination and the identity of their next coach. The bowl will be announced a week from Sunday. The coaching announcement could come sooner than that or later.
Orgeron would not confirm if he still has a meeting with LSU athletic director Joe Alleva on Friday to discuss his future.
"I'm just going to take it one day at a time," he said. "We're going to celebrate the win tonight. I know that. I may have some oyster dressing when I get home."
Coverage of LSU and commentary by Glenn Guilbeau supported by Hebert’s Town & Country Automobile Dealer in Shreveport located at 1155 East Bert Kouns Loop. Research your next Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep or Ram at http://hebertstandc.com/.)