The hot hand

After managing only 80 yards on the ground the week prior, the LSU running game fared much better against South Carolina last week, posting 164 yards on the evening. Instead of Charles Scott being the team's leading rusher, as he had been for every game up to that point, the Tigers got a standout performance from someone who had made little to no noise in 2008.

After rushing for 436 yards and five touchdowns on 76 carries as a freshman, Keiland Williams topped those marks during his sophomore season with 478 yards and six scores, despite carrying the ball six fewer times.


Heading into the 2008 campaign, many expected Williams to emerge from fall camp as the No. 1 back, but instead it was Scott who got the keys to the car. And as the season got under way, Scott showed no signs of relinquishing them.


While Scott was getting the bulk of the carries in the first five games, Williams was limited to only 17 rushes, and he gained only 65 yards, which came out to only 3.8 yards a carry.  


Last Saturday, Williams finally got his carries in bulk, and he responded with 72 yards on 15 rushes, 59 of those yards coming in the fourth quarter as the Tigers marched the ball down the field to take the lead, running valuable minutes off the clock in the process.


The Lafayette-native says he didn't feel any different Saturday than in any other game this season, and his performance was simply the result of getting more opportunities.


"I didn't really feel any different out there, I just got a few more touches," said Williams, who is now the team's second leading rusher with 137 yards on 32 carries.


"I was able to get in a comfort zone and get in a groove. In the previous games the most carries I had was three I think. This game I was just more comfortable out there. I had confidence out there. I felt like I was making the right cuts, and I felt like I was helping and contributing to the team."


The performance by Williams, which was his best outing since he rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns against Virginia Tech last season, was long overdue. Getting into a rhythm and showing the coaching staff that he had hot hand was all it took for the standout back to get his chance to tote the rock.


"He came in there and we ran a bunch of zone plays and reads and he went in there and was running like his feet were on fire," said offensive guard Herman Johnson.


While Williams was certainly pleased with his performance Saturday night, he realizes there is still plenty of room for improvement.


"I think any time a player that goes back and looks at themselves, it's always worse than you originally thought it was," he said. "There were a few things I could've done better. A few cuts I could've seen sooner that maybe would've resulted in a bigger gain. But I just have to continue to improve and get better."


Leading the way for Williams on several of his carries was his fellow running mate and the team's leading rusher Charles Scott. The Tigers had used this formation a few times in previous games, but never featured it as a consistent formation until the second half in Columbia.


Williams doesn't notice a difference whether it's Scott or Quinn Johnson blocking for him, which he says is a real testament to Scott's abilities.


"Really there is no difference running behind Charles or Quinn," said Williams. "Both those guys are going to go out there and play their hardest. They both go out and give it their all for the guy they're blocking for.


"I definitely think the formation is something we'll go back to," he added. "Charles played a lot of fullback during camp, so he definitely knows what he's doing. He's comfortable there, and we're comfortable having him in front of us."


While Williams seems content with having Scott as his lead blocker, he was quick to point out that he has not yet taken Scott's place as the starting tailback.


"It's pretty obvious Charles is the guy right now," Williams said. "He's had four consecutive 100-yard games. Charles is having an outstanding season, and I wish him the best of luck."


Williams is the first to admit that he has not necessarily had the season he and many others were expecting him to have up to this point. However, he does expect his strong performance against South Carolina to be a step in the right direction.


"The game was definitely a positive for me," he said. "It was something myself and my teammates have been looking for. I sat down and talked with a few guys, and we just kind of talked about how I seemed like my old self after the game. It's something I'm looking to build on."


Along with his own success on the ground, Williams and the LSU offense in general seemed to enjoy more success in the second half last Saturday.


"The type of offense we have, we try to control the line of scrimmage and control up front," Williams said. "At halftime that was something the coaches put a lot of emphasis on. We just said we were going to come out and pound them, and I think we were successful doing that."


Now the offense is looking to carry over and build on that success this week against Georgia. While he admits the Tigers have yet to put together a string of successful series on offense, Williams feels they are getting very close.


"Consistency is the biggest thing we need right now," he said. "I was talking to a few other players and I made the comment that if we were playing our best football and winning 24-17 week in and week out, then we would have something to be afraid of.  But we haven't really even put together a whole half, much less a whole game. I definitely think our best football is ahead of us."

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