BATON ROUGE, La. — Ed Orgeron wasn’t the only LSU Tigers player who was promoted this week.
In LSU’s 42-7 win against Missouri on Saturday night, the first win of the Orgeron era in Baton Rouge, a majority of the team’s season-high 634 total yards came from players who not too long ago would’ve been listed as backups, or even off the depth chart entirely. With star running back Leonard Fournette sidelined once again by his nagging ankle injury, Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams stepped up in a better-than-replacement level sort of way, rushing for 163 and 130 yards, respectively, and scoring 3 touchdowns apiece.
But the success from the former reserves stretched far beyond Guice and Williams. Fourth-string running back Nick Brossette put up 73 yards on just 5 carries. D.J. Chark, who until a month ago had never caught a collegiate pass, led the team in receiving yards with 58, 41 of which came on a falling circus catch. Going even deeper into the list, wide receiver Jazz Ferguson made the first 2 catches of his college career. And that’s not even to mention Danny Etling, who still has only started three games at LSU.
“For a team to go out there like we did tonight and rush for 400 yards without our top rusher, it just shows how much talent we have,” wide receiver Malachi Dupre said. “We have a lot of depth at every position.”
Depth was the key component in nearly every offensive phase of Saturday’s win. For the wide receivers, depth was necessary to keep fresh in new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger’s more spread-out attack. For the offensive line, depth plugged what could’ve been disastrous holes in the unit after guards Will Clapp and Josh Boutte went down with injuries. And for the running backs, well, depth was the story of the day.
“We all executed. We all did our jobs. Everything was just faster for us,” Guice said. “For us all to be one team, it really complemented on the field. We all did what we needed to do.”
Guice said he learned Fournette was inactive the same time the fans did, and didn’t really have a chance to prepare as a starter would. But the change of plans didn’t deter Guice from jumping out to a hot start. The sophomore rushed for 136 yards and 3 touchdowns in the first half before being effectively shut down in the middle of the third quarter.
Orgeron said he knew this was what to expect from both Guice and Williams. He’s been impressed with their performances in practice and consistently told both of them that their “time will come” and they should be ready to show “what they’ve got.”
Until about a month ago, the only people who could’ve possibly seen Etling lead Guice, Williams, Chark and Ferguson down the field were the defensive coaches directing them where to go on scout team. But Saturday, that crew combined for 433 rushing and receiving yards. This elevated level of production didn’t surprise Etling. To him, getting the ball to these guys is just easy.
“I’ve got a nice rapport with those guys, getting to throw to them over the past year or so,” Etling said. It just felt comfortable out there.”