BATON ROUGE, La. -- In 123 years of its football history, LSU has never had two players rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. If they stay healthy over the final three games, Leonard Fournette and his “little sister” might become the first.
Big brother Fournette playfully handed teammate Derrius Guice that nickname on Tuesday when asked to describe their relationship. But while LSU’s superstar tailback might like to poke at his sophomore teammate, he has total respect for Guice’s running ability.
“I love dealing with Derrius, man,” Fournette said. “We’re two different people, but when we come on the football field, we’re the same.”
That could easily be misconstrued as an empty compliment considering how good Fournette has been in three seasons at LSU, but his and Guice’s production is more similar than you might expect. Guice rushed for at least 155 yards in all three games Fournette missed this season while nursing an ankle injury and just threatened Fournette’s school record of 284 rushing yards in one game this past Saturday, going for 254 yards in the Tigers’ win over Arkansas.
The sophomore’s performance included a 96-yard touchdown run that bested LSU’s school record by two yards and Fournette’s longest run by seven.
“I was tired,” Guice said of his condition on the chilly night in Fayetteville, Arkansas, after the long touchdown run. “Then it was cold, so my body was stiff. So the play before that, I purposely got a run for loss to get that run.”
Obviously, Guice has a talkative, gregarious side that entertains teammates and media members alike. Every interview session ends with a new set of Guice gems making the rounds in stories, video clips and on social media.
Guice on performing well against Arkansas after Alabama held LSU to 33 rushing yards two weeks ago: “We’re tired of hearing that. I know the O-linemen got fed up with that and Alabama always stacked 10 people in the box to stop us. They scared as well.”
Guice on Saturday’s rescheduled game against Florida, whose athletic director pushed to postpone the teams’ originally scheduled game in October before Hurricane Matthew pummeled the state: “They can’t run no more.”
Guice on the mental state of LSU’s offensive line after the Arkansas game: “It’s just always good to do our bread and butter and run down teams’ throat and be physical, and that’s what the O-line did. They’re tired of hearing they’re poo and they can’t block.”
Tired of hearing they’re poo?
“I don’t really think we were called poo,” left tackle K.J. Malone laughed. “I mean, that’s just Derrius. Derrius is a crazy guy.”
However, stopping him is no laughing matter.
Fournette is unquestionably LSU’s starter when he’s healthy, but the ankle injury he suffered in an August scrimmage has lingered throughout the season. Fournette ran for 98 yards and three touchdowns against Arkansas, but limped off the field several times. LSU’s running game didn’t miss a beat when Guice stepped in for his veteran teammate, though.
“Derrius is a freak of nature, too,” senior tight end Colin Jeter said. “Just like Leonard, he’s strong, he’s fast and he can do it all. I think Derrius is one of the best backs in college football, he’s just behind Leonard. I mean that’s the biggest thing. We have the best running back tandem in the nation, I think. Both of them are studs and obviously when Leonard’s time here comes to an end, then I think people are going to see what the Derrius show is all about.”
We’ve seen it in spurts this season when Fournette missed time. Guice went for 155 yards in his first career start against Jacksonville State and later rushed for 163 and 162 yards in consecutive starts against Missouri and Southern Miss while Fournette was out.
With three games left to play, Guice leads the Tigers with 887 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, and Fournette is just behind with 803 yards and eight scores. If they hit their per-game rushing averages the rest of the way, they’ll both surpass the 1,000-yard mark.
If Guice keeps running next year at anything near his current pace, the LSU career record for yards per carry that Fournette is about to set (he’s averaging 6.25 ypc now, well ahead of Charles Scott’s record of 5.46) won’t last long. Guice’s career average of 8.7 ypc would easily surpass Fournette’s mark.
As for surpassing him in an actual head-to-head competition, however, Fournette refuses to concede anything.
“He thinks he’s faster than me,” Fournette said. “Like I told him before, I have never gotten caught by anybody on the football field and he has.”
Maybe so, but it says enough about Guice’s capabilities that there is even a debate.
So does this: Fournette will go down as the greatest running back talent to ever come through LSU and yet nobody expects the Tigers’ rushing attack to slip next season should Fournette skip his final college season and enter the NFL draft. As long as Guice is around, LSU’s running game will be just fine.