HOUSTON — No. 22 LSU has one of the best running backs in the country and Texas Tech’s run defense is among the nation’s worst.
Expect to see a heavy dose of Leonard Fournette when the Tigers (8-3) and Red Raiders meet in the Texas Bowl on Tuesday night.
Fournette, the All-America running back, is third in the nation with a school-record 1,741 yards rushing this season. He’s the leader of a ground attack that is averaging 245.9 yards a game.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete, one of those once-in-a-generation-type backs,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “We’ll have our hands full trying to slow him down.”
The Red Raiders have had trouble slowing down a lot of running backs this season and rank 125th in the country in allowing 271.8 yards rushing a game. Dealing with Fournette will likely be their biggest test to date. The sophomore had three 200-yard games this season and ran for at least 100 yards in nine of LSU’s 11 games.
His 18 rushing touchdowns rank second in school history and he’s one score shy of tying LSU’s record.
“He runs with a good combination of size and speed,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “I think he is pretty special, considering he is the LSU leading rusher for a season and that record he got in his last game. We are also a game shy, we didn’t get to play (because) of lightning in a game. I think he is very talented and I think he will have the opportunity to do a lot of things before he leaves here.”
While Texas Tech is known for its passing game, the Red Raiders (7-5) also have a good running back in DeAndre Washington. The senior leads the Big 12 and is 12th in the nation with 1,455 yards rushing and his 14 rushing touchdowns lead the Red Raiders. He’s the fifth player in school history to have two 1,000-yard rushing seasons after he ran for 1,103 yards last year.
“We ran the ball pretty well this year, not to the extent they have, but we are very proud of our running back as well in DeAndre (Washington) and what he’s accomplished this year,” Kingsbury said.
Some other things to know about the Texas Bowl:
AIR IT OUT
While most of the focus will be on Fournette, the Red Raiders will counter with the most prolific passing game in the country led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Texas Tech leads the nation with 389.7 yards passing per game and Mahomes ranks seventh with 4,283 yards passing this season. Mahomes, who has thrown for 32 touchdowns, has added 484 yards rushing and his 10 touchdown runs are a school record for a quarterback. He’s the sixth quarterback in FBS history to have thrown for 4,000 yards and ran for 450 yards in a single season and his rushing yards are the fourth-most by a quarterback in Texas Tech history and the most since 1972.
BACK IN THE DAY
Miles and Kingsbury have faced off before, but it was under much different circumstances and was more than a decade ago. The first two times these men met came when Kingsbury was quarterback at Texas Tech and Miles coached Oklahoma State in 2001 and 2002. Kingsbury came out on top in both of those games: The Red Raiders won 49-30 behind 440 yards and four touchdowns from Kingsbury in 2001, and 49-24 victory the next season when he had 425 yards passing with four more scores.
“I remember him taking over and them having immediate success there and really helping take Oklahoma State to the next level,” Kingsbury said of Miles’ work with the Cowboys. “I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for him and what he’s done in coaching and still do.”
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
Since the Red Raiders are playing in their home state one would think that they’d have the home-field advantage in this game. But that might not be the case since Lubbock, Texas, is almost twice as far from Houston as Baton Rouge is. The Tigers’ campus is about 270 miles from Houston and Texas Tech is more than 520 miles away. There also could be some travel problems from Red Raider fans coming from Lubbock after a storm dumped almost a foot of snow in the area on Sunday and Monday.
“We have a ton of people that come down the road from Houston to watch us play in Tiger Stadium, so we will certainly have a large number of alumni at the game and we look forward to it,” Miles said.