BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU running back Leonard Fournette broke something all right — and it wasn't the left ankle that had sidelined him for nearly a month.
Fournette rewrote LSU's single-game rushing record on just his first eight carries — scoring three touchdowns of 59 yards or more — and the 25th-ranked Tigers beat No. 23 Mississippi 38-21 on Saturday night.
"I've never been (associated with) a player like Leonard," LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron said. "He's dynamic. I believe he's the best player in the country."
Fournette finished with 284 yards rushing in his first action since aggravating a bone bruise in his ankle on Sept. 24. His touchdowns went for 78, 76 and 59 yards. He averaged 17.8 yards on 16 carries. Fournette broke Alley Broussard's LSU record of 250 yards rushing (on 26 carries) in 2004, also against Ole Miss.
He ran the ball with speed and force, at one point leveling Mississippi defensive back Deontay Anderson while turning a screen pass into a 22-yard gain.
"This has been one of the hardest seasons for me. Especially dealing with this injury. I'm still dealing with it," Fournette said, adding that he heeded a pre-game text message from his mother, Lory, advising him to "keep the faith." ''Everybody thinks I'm healthy, but I'm out of shape, too."
The victory puts LSU (5-2, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) at 3-0 under interim coach Ed Orgeron, who replaced Les Miles four games into the season.
Since Orgeron took over and promoted Steve Ensminger to offensive coordinator, the Tigers have demonstrated a penchant for big plays . They had four TDs of 40 or more yards against the Rebels, including Danny Etling's 40-yard pass to D.J. Chark.
LSU finished with 515 total yards against Ole Miss (3-4, 1-3), which saw its chances of getting back into the SEC West race take a huge hit.
"We've got to really, really look at ourselves hard — coaches and players — and figure out why we're not putting together complete games," said Rebels coach High Freeze, who served as an assistant under Orgeron at Ole Miss nearly a decade ago. "Youth is no longer an answer in certain places, and neither are injuries. It's time to grow and be able to play a complete game in this difficult conference.
LSU "really dominated this game in the second half," Freeze added. "When things didn't go well for us, we didn't respond."
Fournette's 78-yarder, which gave him 249 yards on his first seven carries, put the Tigers up for good in the third quarter. Derrius Guice iced it with a 6-yard TD.
Mississippi: The Rebels' defense is sprinkled with big-play talent, but the unit as a whole doesn't consistently play together and gives up too many big plays and too many points. In all of their losses, they've allowed 34 or more points.
LSU: Fournette certainly made up for lost time. His performance puts him right back in Heisman Trophy consideration. To stay there, he'll have to keep it up against Alabama, which held him to 31 yards on 19 carries last season in Tuscaloosa.
Chad Kelly, who came in averaging an SEC-best 308.2 yards passing, was intercepted twice and sacked twice. He finished 19 of 32 for 209 yards and one touchdown, and the Rebels failed to scored 30 points for the first time this season.
Kelly capped Ole Miss' opening drive with a 15-yard scoring pass to Van Jefferson, and the Rebels briefly led 10-0 before Fournette came rumbling through the right side of LSU's offensive line for his 59-yard score. Fournette's 76-yard run put the Tigers up 21-13, but Marquis Haynes' sack and strip of Etling gave Ole Miss the ball on the LSU nine. Three plays later, the Rebels tied it at 21 when Akeem Judd scored from 2 yards out and Ole Miss added a 2-point conversion on Kelly's keeper.
Haynes, who leads Mississippi with five sacks, left the game in the second half, unable to put weight on his right leg.
Orgeron called the play of his offensive line "tremendous." Fournette said his record is an honor he shares with Tigers linemen. Fournette had big holes on all three of his scoring runs. Twice, he cut inside stout blocks on the right edge by Maea Teuhema.
LSU, which just got back into the AP Top 25 poll last week, should continue to move up. Ole Miss, which was the only three-loss team in the poll, is unlikely to remain ranked.
Mississippi: The Rebels hosts surging Auburn next Saturday.
LSU: The Tigers get next weekend off before hosting the top-ranked Crimson Tide in what could be a pivotal game in both teams' seasons.
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Posted on Tue, October 25, 2016
by BRETT MARTEL AP Sports Writer