BATON ROUGE, La. — Derrius Guice’s approach to running the football is entirely based around patience.
On 9 carries out of 10, he can get stopped. But on the 10th, he knows he’ll break free.
“Well, the small plays set up the big plays,” the sophomore running back said. “So you just being patient and letting the blocks set up, it’s going to end up popping up eventually.”
That’s exactly what happened for Guice in LSU’s 45-10 win against Southern Miss on Saturday. Between the beginning of the second quarter and the start of the third, Guice’s carries read like a series of fullback dives. Two yards. Six yards. Three yards. Two yards. Six yards. Three yards. Five yards. Two yards. Two yards.
Then he broke one.
On that 10th carry, Guice said the only thing he saw was the fans behind the end zone. His offensive line blocked perfectly. There was no safety in sight. And 61 yards later, Guice had himself a touchdown.
That run was the first of Guice’s 2 touchdowns in what turned out to be another solid day for No. 5, who gained 162 yards on 16 carries, and also caught one pass for 7 yards. In all, the LSU offense rushed for 183 yards and 3 touchdowns. But to LSU coach Ed Orgeron, that wasn’t good enough.
“We ran it better in the second half,” Orgeron said, “but that’s an area of improvement we know we have to make.”
Guice agreed with that assessment, calling LSU’s 56 first-half rushing yards “unacceptable.” But there are a couple of valid excuses as to why that was the case, at least in Guice’s mind.
First, Southern Miss came out in a defensive alignment that LSU hadn’t prepared for, and that threw a wrench in the team’s play calling and blocking schemes. And second, LSU was working with a patchwork offensive line that had three starters who were either lined up at positions they didn’t play against Missouri or were starting for the first time.
But Guice didn’t want to harp on that one. He thought the offensive line played well once the team was able to game plan for the new-look Southern Miss defense. So did Orgeron, who said it seemed like the offensive line played well as a unit despite the shifting that occurred during the week.
Ethan Pocic, who lined up at right tackle Saturday after starting all of LSU’s other games this season at center, said the changes on the offensive front had very little to do with LSU’s first-half struggles. Rather, he thought that the problem was LSU’s low third-down conversion rate, which led to LSU getting out-possessed 18:35 to 11:25 in the first half.
Pocic said he felt he was prepared to play tackle Saturday because of the looks he gets in practice from defensive ends like Lewis Neal and Sci Martin. When asked about those looks after the game, Neal described his bouts against Pocic as “competing and getting after it.” The two work to get each other better.
That principle isn’t confined exclusively to players who match up against one another. Pocic described his relationship with Andy Dodd, his replacement at center, in similar terms.
“Me and Andy are always talking,” Pocic said. “Every week, even during the games, I come off to the sideline and say ‘Hey, what’d you see on this? What do you think I could’ve done here?’ Andy is a great player. I know he did a great job tonight.”
Up to this point, it’s unclear what the LSU rushing attack will look like next week when the Tigers (4-2, 2-1 SEC) take the field against Ole Miss. Orgeron said he expects running back Leonard Fournette to be back in the lineup, but said nothing of the sort for injured offensive linemen Will Clapp and Toby Weathersby.
One of Ole Miss’s strengths is its defensive line. But to Guice, that’s no reason to be afraid. In fact, there is no reason to be afraid in the first place.
“I ain’t worried about that,” Guice said. “We’re going to be ready.”