OXFORD, Miss. — This is what a fully formed LSU team built around running back Derrius Guice and outside linebacker Arden Key is supposed to look like.
It looks like history, with Guice becoming the first running back in SEC history with three career games over 250 yards rushing.
It looks like pressure, with Key taking the teeth out of the SEC’s most potent passer on a pair of sacks and a hurry that put Shea Patterson into the arms of Christian LaCouture for another.
And it looks like energy, with the natural enthusiasm of LSU’s top playmakers spilling over to the other 10 players on the field.
Does all that look good enough to beat Alabama in two weeks?
Well, let’s not rain on the parade before it even hits the street. But the Tigers have to feel better about their chances in the annual monumental showdown than they did when Guice and Key were unable to produce in the manner everyone knew them to be capable of.
“Big plays fuel emotion,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “When you start running the football and getting sacks, playing LSU football, it gives everyone a lot of confidence. When the other team makes big plays, you get a little nervous.”
There weren’t many moments where LSU needed to bite its fingernails against the Rebels. As long as Guice was back there — and Darrel Williams too, for that matter — there wasn’t much to worry about.
Guice was the first to admit that his 22-carry, 276-yard performance was a long time coming. He hadn’t eclipsed the 100-yard barrier since LSU’s Week 2 game against Troy, and won’t allow his once-sprained knee to be used as an excuse for falling short.
“There ain’t no ‘Old Derrius,'” Guice said. “The way I’ve played this year, that’s me. Injured or not. There aren’t any excuses. It is what it is. … I’m not 100 percent. But I’m going to give my all for my team no matter how I’m feeling.”
If this still isn’t Guice at 100 percent, one can only grin at what might lie ahead after a bye week.
The same can be said of Key, who by far had his most productive game since his return from a spring semester leave of absence from the program and offseason shoulder surgery that kept him out of LSU’s first two games.
“I’d say Arden is at 1,000 percent,” said defensive tackle Greg Gilmore.
Cornerback Donte Jackson said Key’s impact cannot be understated. It’s not just the sacks. His presence also forces quarterbacks to make hurried decisions, and that means Patterson might not be the only quarterback who runs the risk of throwing 3 interceptions against the LSU defense.
“Arden’s a beast,” Jackson said. “We always knew he’d be back to his old self and that is what he’s doing. He’s getting back to himself and that’s what we need. We need quarterbacks and offensive linemen to fear that edge rusher. As a defensive back, that really is a great key.”
Really a great Key, and really a great Guice. LSU had both against Ole Miss. In two weeks, the same combination can give the Tigers a glimmer of hope.