STARKVILLE, Miss. — LSU coach Les Miles was asked after his team's 21-19 victory against Mississippi State why he didn't throw the ball more.
He looked down at the stat sheet provided to him before starting the press conference and he rattled off Leonard Fournette's stat line. That's maybe not the answer anyone was looking for, but it perfectly explains LSU's offensive game plan.
Feed No. 7 the ball, and he'll reward you.
Fournette carried the ball 28 times Saturday, racking up 159 yards. He also had all three of LSU's touchdowns, and the Tigers needed every one to escape Davis Wade Stadium with a season-opening victory.
"He is a dominant back, a kind of guy that can make you miss and bring power," Miles said. "He can be a difference in the game."
That's an understatement.
Fournette was the difference in a game that LSU nearly lost on a last-second field goal. Without him, the Tigers would be heading back to Baton Rouge with an 0-1 record.
Instead, Fournette is once again the hero, surpassing the incredible expectations that have followed him for years.
And he didn't wait long to prove that.
He had 9 yards on three carries after LSU's first possession of the game. His first of the next series lost a yard, but he'd get back on track after that. A long pass by Brandon Harris and a couple solid runs by Darrel Williams would eventually set up the Tigers one yard from the end zone.
LSU sent Fournette back on the field in a new position — quarterback. He took the wildcat snap and launched over the line of scrimmage, tumbling upon the mass of bodies and into the end zone.
We'll call that play the "Wild Buga" from here on out.
"Coach Frank always tells me 'over and up,'" Fournette said. "That's all I did, just jumped over the pile."
His next touchdown was a bit more spectacular.
With LSU at the MSU 26, Fournette took a toss to his left. He followed a lead block from his fullback and launched through the hole. He juked a Bulldog defender so hard the poor kid was left crumbled on the ground. He then barreled over another MSU player and hurled himself from about five yards out.
Fournette did his best Superman impression and hovered a few inches above the dirt to just barely cross the goal line. Just how close was he to being down though?
Fournette would find pay dirt once more after that.
On LSU's second series of the second half, he took the first play 20 yards. He picked up three on the next one and went to the sideline for a brief rest. He came back five plays later, 18 yards from the end zone. Harris pitched it to the right, Fournette caught the edge and left everyone in his dust, reaching the end zone untouched.
Those three scores marked a career high for the sophomore. He finished the game with 159 yards rushing, also a career high. He now has three straight 100-yard games dating back to last season.
If there's a Heisman Trophy in Fournette's future, he did a pretty good job of launching that campaign Saturday. He literally carried LSU to a victory, with the entire hopes of a fan base resting on his shoulders.
Those expectations never seem to weigh him down though.
"I don't feel any pressure at all," Fournette said. "We have a lot of outstanding athletes on this team that can do the same thing I can do with the ball."
That's nice of Fournette to say, but you'd have a hard time finding anyone that actually believes that's true.