SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Leonard Fournette ran for a career-high 244 yards and two touchdowns, Tre'Davious White returned a punt 69 yards for another score, and No. 8 LSU held off fired-up Syracuse 34-24 on Saturday.
LSU (3-0), which beat Southeastern Conference rivals Mississippi State and Auburn to start the season, used big plays to hand Syracuse (3-1) its first loss despite being called for 14 penalties for 120 yards.
No play was bigger than Travin Dural's 51-yard catch on a third-and-5 play in the fourth quarter after the Orange moved within a touchdown. Brandon Harris hit Malachi Dupre with an 11-yard TD with 9:14 left to seal it.
Fournette gained 48 yards to set up his first-quarter score, White found a seam up the middle and raced untouched into the end zone to give LSU a 17-3 lead in the third, and Fournette tacked on a 62-yard scoring run later in the period for a 24-10 lead.
It was the fifth straight 100-yard game for Fournette, eighth of his career, and a fitting place for him to shine again. Syracuse's tradition is based on its stellar running backs from the past, the great Jim Brown, Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis and Floyd Little. The Carrier Dome field is named in honor of Davis, the first black player to win the coveted trophy (1961), and Little, now an administrator at Syracuse, watched from the chancellor's box.
Junior college transfer Zack Mahoney, the fifth-string quarterback in preseason, made his first start for the Orange and came on late. He brought Syracuse to 17-10 with a play-action 40-yard TD pass over the middle to Brisly Estime at 6:02 of the third and hit Ben Lewis on a 2-yard toss early in the fourth.
That score came after an 87-yard touchdown run by Fournette was nullified by a false start, and Syracuse took advantage of facemask and pass-interference penalties against the Tigers on the 56-yard drive.
Mahoney got the start after keying last week's 30-27 overtime victory over Central Michigan with a timely third-down completion in extra time. He finished 16 of 38 for 154 yards and three touchdowns against LSU in a game that did not have a turnover until Mahoney's pass was deflected and intercepted by linebacker Deion Jones midway through the fourth.
Mahoney hit Dontae Strickland for a 5-yard TD strike with 1:53 left, but LSU recovered the onside kick.
Fournette made defenders pay on most of his 26 carries against Syracuse's gang-tackling defense. He ran over 308-pound defensive lineman John Raymon early in the third quarter two plays before Harris completed a perfectly thrown 42-yard pass down the right side to Malachi Dupre. LSU settled for Trent Domingue's 21-yard field goal after the Orange defense stiffened.
LSU still has not committed a turnover and the Syracuse defense had forced nine in the first three games.
Fournette entered the game with six touchdowns, three in each of the Tigers' season-opening victories, and was averaging 193.5 yards rushing per game. He boosted his season total to 621 yards after his second straight 200-yard game.
The home crowd came out for a change after three games under 30,000 as 43,101 showed up to watch one of the best teams in the SEC. And they weren't disappointed. The Orange gambled three times on fourth down in the first half, even using a fake field goal in the final minute, and converted twice.
Syracuse punter Riley Dixon pinned the Tigers at their own 9-yard line the first two times they had the ball and the speedy Estime repeatedly gave the Orange great field position with 106 return yards they were not able to capitalize on in the first half.
The Orange started three drives from near midfield and only managed a 43-yard field goal by Cole Murphy in the second quarter. Murphy had a chance to move Syracuse within a point but missed a 31-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter, just his second miss in seven tries.
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Posted on Sat, September 26, 2015
by JOHN KEKIS, AP Sports Writer