KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — LSU avoided committing any turnovers while playing in a storm.
That discrepancy assured that the 21st-ranked Tigers would win for the fifth time in the last six games while Tennessee remained winless in Southeastern Conference competition. Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams combined to run for 165 yards and three touchdowns Saturday and LSU beat Tennessee 30-10 in a steady downpour.
"I thought the storm fired them up," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. "They were like little kids playing in the backyard. I was proud of them."
Guice ran 24 times for 97 yards and one touchdown. Williams rushed for 68 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries.
LSU (8-3, 5-2 SEC, No. 20 College Football Playoff) scored 10 points after recovering two fumbled punt returns by Tennessee's Marquez Callaway in the red zone. The Tigers also began a touchdown drive after making a fourth-down stop at Tennessee's 21.
"The biggest thing was no turnovers (by LSU) and obviously the turnovers on their part on the punt returns," Orgeron said. "I thought it was the difference in the game."
Tennessee (4-7, 0-7) was playing its first game under interim head coach Brady Hoke after the firing of Butch Jones.
The Volunteers must beat Vanderbilt next week to avoid their first eight-loss season in school history. A loss to Vanderbilt would cause Tennessee to finish a season winless in SEC competition for the first time since the league's formation in 1933.
Tennessee's Jarrett Guarantano went 13 of 23 for 239 yards with a touchdown pass.
Heavy wind surrounding Neyland Stadium caused one goalpost to lean to the side more than an hour before the start of the game, though stadium workers straightened it out. The first half was played in a steady rain that started swirling just before the start of the second half when numerous light fixtures in the upper level briefly went out.
"We could've all cried and moaned about (the weather) or just go out there and keep pushing and fighting," Guice said.
LSU grabbed a 17-3 lead thanks in part to Callaway's two fumbles that set up Connor Culp's 30-yard field goal and Williams' 10-yard touchdown run. Callaway partially redeemed himself by catching a 46-yard touchdown pass to make it 17-10 at halftime.
"If you go to practice and see him work in catching punts and how he worked all week on the JUGS machine because of a left-footed punter and the spin being different, he's one of the hardest workers we have, in my opinion, in this program," Hoke said about Callaway. "I felt badly for him. The good thing is he bounced back."
Then the weather started wreaking more havoc.
Although the game was never delayed, the rain and wind made an immediate impact as Tennessee fumbled the second-half kickoff and recovered at its own 3.
Tennessee had to punt from deep in its own end, allowing LSU to start its next drive in Tennessee territory. That series ended with a Guice 3-yard touchdown run that extended LSU's lead to 23-10.
"I looked up and it seemed like someone had dumped a gallon of water in your face," said Tennessee tight end Ethan Wolf, who was blocking on that second-half kickoff.
LSU: The Tigers rushed for just 9 yards on six carries in the first quarter against a Tennessee run defense that entered the weekend ranked 126th out of 129 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. But LSU ran 37 times for 191 yards the rest of the way.
Tennessee: Tennessee loved rolling the dice in its first game since the coaching change. Tennessee twice went for it on fourth-and-short from its own side of the field. One fourth-down gamble paid off and led to Aaron Medley's 45-yard field goal. The second gamble backfired when Grant Delpit stopped Guarantano at the Tennessee 21, leading to Williams' 6-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
As well as LSU is playing, the Tigers need to solve their kicking issues. Culp has missed three extra-point attempts and has gone 1 of 4 on field-goal attempts over LSU's last two games.
LSU was playing without injured starting linebackers Arden Key and Donnie Alexander, while Tennessee was starting its seventh different combination on the offensive line due to multiple injuries. Tennessee's offensive line included two true freshmen and two redshirt freshmen.
The lone non-freshman on Tennessee's starting offensive line — Jashon Robertson — got hurt in the second half. Robertson's injury forced walk-on Joe Keeler into the game.
LSU hosts Texas A&M
Tennessee hosts Vanderbilt.
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Posted on Sun, November 19, 2017
by By STEVE MEGARGEE, AP Sports Writer