BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU running back Leonard Fournette has some unfortunate news to share with the rest of the Southeastern Conference.
“I’m out of shape,” Fournette said after bulldozing through and tiptoeing around Ole Miss for an LSU single-game record 284 yards on just 16 carries.
“Oh, dear,” is the phrase you’re now hearing from the remaining defensive coordinators on LSU’s schedule. Or at least some combination of four letters that convey the same feeling.
Fournette isn’t lying. Because of the nature of his injury — a high-ankle sprain and bone bruise — his running has been limited in the three weeks he sat out following LSU’s 18-13 loss at Auburn on Sept. 24. An upper-body injury would not have affected his ability to condition during his weeks off, but this did.
“I hope to use the next two weeks to get back into shape,” Fournette said of LSU’s bye before it hosts Alabama on Nov. 5.
The evidence of Fournette’s relative lack of conditioning was pretty difficult to find Saturday night, but it was there as Ole Miss defenders nearly caught up to him as he approached the goal line on his touchdown runs of 59 and 76 yards.
“The two runs, I was done with,” Fournette said. “I was telling Darrel (Williams) to get into the game.”
He went on to add a third touchdown from even longer distance — 78 yards — and cruised home safely on that one with the help of a downfield block by tight end Colin Jeter. But as jaw-dropping as all three runs were, Fournette only had one thing in the back of his mind the whole time.
“I didn’t have a favorite. I was just tired,” Fournette said. “And if I got caught, (running backs) coach (Jabbar) Juluke was gonna raise hell.”
There was no need to raise hell as Fournette razed the Rebels. But having never dealt with an injury of this magnitude, he was not sure what to expect following his prolonged layoff.
“It was hard,” Fournette said. “Throughout my entire career playing football since I was young, I had never dealt with injury. And especially with this bone bruise and my ankle, it’s aggravating.”
In retrospect, Fournette probably should have sat out the opener at Wisconsin to allow his injury to fully heal. But that’s not how he operates, which is something that anyone who thought Fournette was faking it with an eye on his NFL future ought to know.
“When I tell you it was one of the hardest things in my life — everybody wanting me to sit out, I could have,” Fournette said. “But when you really love football, there’s no sitting out. I love competing. I love going out there with Jamal Adams every day. I feed off them.
“When I was sitting out in practice, I was like ‘I’ve got to get better.’ From the time I got out of class to when practice ended, I was working out.”
One player who surely wishes Fournette was still sitting out? Ole Miss safety Deontay Anderson, who is now dealing with the impossible task of living this moment down:
Fournette buried him. ?https://t.co/twLcyQcF1Z
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 23, 2016
Even with his majestic touchdown runs, that play was the one to draw the biggest reaction from the home crowd.
“At the end of the day, those licks hurt,” Fournette said. “So I’d rather I hit him than he hit me.”
Not bad for a guy who is out of shape. And terrifying for the four teams left who are tasked with stopping him.