HOUSTON — There were plenty of big plays on both sides, but running back Leonard Fournette and LSU were too much for Texas Tech as the Tigers rolled to a 56-27 win over the Red Raiders in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl on Tuesday at NRG Stadium. Here's a rundown of how it went down:
What the win means for LSU: It’s a positive end to what was a roller coaster of a season, from the highs of being 7-0 and No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings to the depths of uncertainty regarding coach Les Miles’ future in late November. Miles said Monday that things have “dissipated comfortably” and a dominating win in the Texas Bowl is something the Tigers can build on heading into a huge 2016 campaign. A lot of eyes will be on the Tigers -- and specifically, Miles -- next season to see if they can make a run at the SEC title and the College Football Playoff or whether the discussions and speculation that occurred in the final two weeks of the regular season will occur again next November. As it is, the Tigers finish 9-3 overall and figure to enter 2016 as a preseason Top 15 team.
What the loss means for Texas Tech: The Red Raiders (7-6) would have loved to get a win on Tuesday over an SEC team like LSU and were competitive until the fourth quarter, when the Tigers pulled away. There were both reasons for optimism and frustration for the Red Raiders in the loss. Regardless of the result, this season was a step forward for the program after going 4-8 in 2014. Next season will be Kliff Kingsbury’s fourth at the helm and will be one where even further progress needs to happen. With the return of dynamic quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the offense should be in good shape. Improvement has to be made on defense in David Gibbs’ second season as defensive coordinator. Being as poor as they were against the run (125th nationally this season) is a major weakness that must be improved upon. If that can happen and the defense can be respectable, the team has potential with its explosive offense.
How the game was won: LSU did what it does best offensively -- run -- against a team that struggles to defend that aspect of the game. The Tigers finished with 384 rushing yards on 40 attempts, an average of 9.6 yards per tote. While Texas Tech got its fair share of big plays from quarterback Mahomes (370 passing yards, four touchdowns) and receiver Jakeem Grant (10 receptions, 125 yards, three touchdowns), the LSU defensive line consistently harassed Mahomes, sacking him six times and hurrying him at least twice that amount. The pressure was just enough to keep the Red Raiders’ offense from getting into a consistent rhythm.
Player of the game: Fournette. The sophomore running back was expected to have a big game given Tech’s run defense and Fournette’s dominance of college football this season, and he didn’t disappoint. He finished with 212 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries and added a 44-yard touchdown reception for good measure. The 30 points Fournette scored was a Texas Bowl record and he averaged a healthy 7.3 yards per rush. He tied the record for most touchdowns scored in a bowl game, according to ESPN Stats and Information, and was named the game's most valuable player. He also finished the season with 22 rushing touchdowns, most in a single season in LSU history.
Unsung heroes: It goes without saying when you have a rushing performance like this but LSU’s offensive line deserves a ton of credit. Fournette is a great back but there were several large holes to run through (like this one) and at least one of his touchdowns were scored without him being touched by a Texas Tech defender. Vadal Alexander, William Clapp, Jerald Hawkins, Ethan Pocic and Maea Teuhema each deserve a game ball for this performance.
Stat of the game: LSU outrushed Texas Tech 384 yards to 29.