Not Bad For a Backup

In a span of five minutes, Keiland Williams took reporters through the steps of his 67-yard touchdown run four times.

The explanations hardly varied, and the main difference in the versions was the smiles and chuckles that continued to grow exponentially each time Williams recounted the pitch, the leap, and making the diagonal cut from the east sideline to the west sideline as he dashed toward the student section in the north end zone.

 

"It was an option play," Williams said. "So Matt (Flynn) had the option of keeping or not, and he kind of beat one defender. I thought he was going to continue to run, so I closed down on him and, at the last second, he pitched to me. It was real unexpected. So I was like, ‘Oh,' and I was kind of surprised with it. I just started running with it after that, jumped in the air, and made a cut or whatever, and I was fortunate enough to get in the end zone."

 

That was Williams' first touchdown scamper of the night, one that took all of 15 seconds. The score was the entirety of LSU's fifth possession, helped put the Tigers ahead 24-0, and came after Virginia Tech's fourth failure of a possession.

 

By the time the final whistle had sounded, Williams had torched the Hokies' revered defense for 127 yards on just seven carries (one of his carries was for a loss of a yard), an average of 18 yards per touch. His yardage total was a career high, as was his 67-yard run. Additionally, he's now averaging two touchdowns per game thus far this season.

 

Not bad for a "backup" running back.

 

"I enjoyed seeing the tailbacks," LSU head coach Les Miles said. "(Jacob) Hester was a tough, hardnosed runner early in the game. With a break from Keiland Williams and a couple of great runs out of him, we put some rushing yardage on a very talented defense."

 

LSU's running-back-by-committee approach may have its detractors, but it's very difficult to argue with a team average of 7.2 yards per carry and 297 yards total on the ground against the No. 9 ranked team in the nation. Those are the numbers the Tigers put up against the Hokies last Saturday night with their 41 rushing attempts.

 

While some may be crying for Williams to get more touches, it's also very difficult to argue with the results when two of the backs have career nights – Hester rushed for a career-high against Virginia Tech as did Williams – and when Williams himself feels like the Tigers are going to be successful regardless of who has the ball in their hands.

 

"Charles (Scott), myself, and Hester are kind of similar," Williams said. "(Richard) Murphy's kind of more the ‘get in the open field and make you miss,' but he can also run between the tackles. It's just an excellent experience to be around these guys. It's great."          

All together, it's a mix that Miles said, "gives us a freshness and a strength in the running game that we're going to need."

 

So, frankly, Williams isn't concerned that he isn't carrying the ball 20-plus times a game.

 

"We have a great group of guys back there," Williams said. "Hester, he did a great job as everyone can see, and Charles (Scott) can do the same, and also Murphy. So I'm not really complaining about the number of carries I get. I just want to make the most of what I get."

 

Certainly Williams did that. If anything, he apparently wants to make sure he isn't showing off when he does get carries.

 

"I thought about it on the sideline," Williams said of leaping over one of his own linemen on his first touchdown run. "I don't know why I did it but, I mean, it worked. But it was actually just to get out there in open space and run for a long touchdown."

 

Williams actually consulted Hester about the leap he took, asking the senior if it was warranted, somewhat seeking the approval of someone he obviously holds in high regard. He was reassured that his hurdling was most definitely necessary, and that bolstering of confidence allowed Williams to trust his instincts for the rest of the game. Those instincts would come in handy when, on LSU's 10th possession of the night, Williams bounced outside to the right on a handoff and rushed in from 32 yards out for his second touchdown. 

 

With every stride he took, Williams seemed to be telling Virginia Tech he remembers losing to its junior varsity team while a student and player at Hardgrave Military Academy; that he recalls vividly the 51-yard field goal that resulted in a loss for him and his teammates.

 

After his performance against the Hokies, Williams can forget the past. Two weeks into the 2007 season, he already has LSU fans looking toward what the future holds in store.


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