BATON ROUGE, La. -- The lasting memory from Leonard Fournette's performance last weekend against Auburn will be his tackle-breaking runs, but LSU's star running back was quick to point out that his offensive line played a big part in that success.
In fact, Fournette averaged 5.11 before contact against Auburn, meaning he was already halfway to a typical first down before first encountering an opposing defender. Fournette did plenty of damage once he butted heads with Auburn players, but the line's blocking helped him build a head of steam before he reached them.
"I feel like that's our stat right there. That's the kind of stats we like," said LSU right tackle Vadal Alexander, who won SEC offensive lineman of the week honors after the game. "If he has [run that far] before contact, that's exactly what we want because he has no contact until he gets to like the safety or something like that. That's what we're counting for because one-on-one with the safety, Leonard's going to win every time."
That before-contact average was nearly three yards greater. Fournette broke a 71-yard run through a gigantic hole on the first play of the game, although a flailing Auburn defender barely got a hand on him a few yards past the line of scrimmage. That run helped Fournette pick up about half of his 131 yards after contact (an average of 6.89 ypc) against Auburn.
Nonetheless, it was a dominant performance by LSU's offensive line, which Tigers coach Les Miles acknowledged following his staff's film-review session.
"We didn't have a lost yard in the day," Miles said. "I don't know that I've been around one of those."
Alexander, who had 13 knockdown blocks and did not allow a sack against Auburn, was the second straight LSU player to be named SEC offensive lineman of the week. Center Ethan Pocic won the award the previous week after totaling 16 knockdown blocks and not surrendering a sack against Mississippi State.
"That's definitely an honor as a whole," left tackle Jerald Hawkins said. "That's pretty great. We feel proud of ourselves for that. As long as we get one each week, we're pretty well off."
Clapp, Alexander said, "played phenomenal the whole day. He played like a vet, really, honestly. Watching the film and even on the field, I felt it."
And teammates continue to marvel at Teuhema's ability to jump into the starting lineup in just his second college game and hold his own.
"I expect that from him now since from the summer and from camp," Hawkins said. "He showed that from summer camp and I'm like, 'You've got to show me every time now. Ain't no fall-offs, ain't no setbacks. You've got to keep that up every time we play.' "
Hawkins and Alexander, who respectively have started 28 and 27 games over the past two-plus seasons, both agreed with Miles' assessment that the Auburn game ranks among the line's best performances in their careers. They'll need to keep it up this week as No. 8 LSU (2-0) visits Syracuse (3-0), which ranks third in the nation against the run by allowing 46.7 yards per game.
Nobody will mistake the Orange for a defensive juggernaut, however. They have surrendered 287.7 passing yards per game and have been outgained in their two games against FBS opponents, Wake Forest and Central Michigan. Nonetheless, Central Michigan's total of 90 rushing yards in last week's overtime game is the best for any Syracuse opponent thus far.
Perhaps that means quarterback Brandon Harris will take a few more downfield shots on Saturday, but make no mistake, the power run will be LSU's first option as long as Fournette is in the backfield.
That seems to suit the Tigers' offensive linemen just fine.
"It's always our goal to impose our will, to be able to line up and run the ball and do it effectively over and over again," Clapp said. "It has that certain feeling to it that makes you smile."