In the four games prior to Georgia, the biggest question mark for the LSU offense was the ground game – or lack thereof.
2008 was not a year for LSU fans to remember. The passing game woes have been well chronicled, and the defense was among the worst in the conference.
The silver lining was that the ground attack was always there. LSU finished fourth in the SEC with 2,168 yards – an average of 166.8 yards per game – and 27 touchdowns.
Scott, who finished the year with 1,174 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, was the workhorse.
“No matter the tempo offensively, we felt like we could run the football on any team,” he said. “I felt strong the whole way, and the offensive line was always doing their part. That is something that we hoped would carry over to this season.”
With three returning starters to the line, and Scott and Keiland Williams in the backfield, most felt that the Bayou Bengals would pick up where they left off. Miles continued to praise the performance of the line throughout the preseason, and the 6-foot, 234-pound Scott said that he felt that he was in the best shape of his life.
All signs pointed to success.
Then came the reality. Through four games, the Tigers could not run the football between the tackles.
In the opener at Washington, Scott rushed 12 times for 52 yards, while Williams recorded seven carries for 51 yards. Against Vanderbilt the following weekend, Scott went down in production with 49 yards on 13 carries. Williams finished with 72 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns.
While it was a positive showing for Williams, Scott still had not gone over 100 yards or scored a touchdown – something he accomplished in each of the Tigers’ four opening games of 2008.
When Williams finished with 41 yards on 10 attempts and Scott with 63 yards on 12 attempts in week three against ULL, worry began to set in.
Why could the Tigers not pound a team out with their rushing attack, let alone against less formidable defenses than they would face later in the season?
“I started to wonder why things were not happening sooner,” Williams said. “It was kind of surprising. With all the guys back to that side of the football, you would hope to be able to run the ball pretty effectively. After three weeks, we were not doing that.”
As the team prepared for Mississippi State, their first conference road game, Miles called the offensive line into a Monday meeting and challenged the unit to step up and get the ground game going.
Scott and Williams put a similar responsibility on themselves, and as the week progressed the players showered the media with talk of improvement and desire to be the best.
For a moment, it seemed that LSU just might come out and have the 100-yard rusher or 200-yard ground game that they had been waiting on.
Instead, in a game that came down to a fourth-and-goal stop from the LSU side, the MSU defense bottled the Tiger ground game up for 30 yards on 31 carries – the worst performance to date.
Back in Baton Rouge the following week, the Tigers were hit left and right with questions about the ground game. Where had it gone, and would it ever be back?
In Athens last Saturday, Scott helped answer that question.
On 19 carries, the senior running back rushed for 95 yards and two scores, highlighted by a 33-yard scamper for the win with under a minute to play.
“To come out and have a good game like that, it lets the team know they can rely on me,” Scott said. “It was more of an attitude. We said to ourselves this week that we were going to come out and run the ball, no matter what they line up in.
“And I told myself, it is time for me to make a play. I played all out relentless. My mom said it looked like I played mad, and I did. We weren’t going to leave Athens without a win.”
Impressive to note that quarterback Jordan Jefferson checked out of the play called from offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, instead opting to run the ball with Scott despite the time left on the clock.
“He had been running well all game, so why not keep feeding him,” Jefferson said. “I called the play for him, he executed and scored the touchdown.”
What was different about the afternoon between the hedges?
“This game we were on the same page, they were blocking perfectly and I ran well,” Scott said. “If we are grinding it out and getting five scrappy yards, it tells them we are effective and to keep pounding. It was close, and we had to dig deep and find a way to win.”
For left tackle Ciron Black, keeping the momentum going into this weekend is paramount.
“The offense was waiting on something big to happen the whole season, and we took it upon ourselves and made that a point to run the ball,” he said. “There are still some mistakes that we need to get corrected, and we are going to get out this week and correct them and build off that.
“It is going to be a huge game, and that is why you come to LSU, to play games like this,” he added. “We are going to have to bring our A-game to beat them.”