It seemed like a positive development for Missouri when LSU junior running back Leonard Fournette was unable to answer the bell Saturday at Tiger Stadium.
Mizzou wouldn’t have to contend with one of the nation’s elite offensive weapons in Fournette — a combination of power, size and speed so rare he’s essentially the college football equivalent of a unicorn.
Thanks to a porous Mizzou defense, which went with a tackle-optional approach for its first trip to Death Valley, sophomore running back Derrius Guice had the 102,071 on hand muttering “Fournette who?” by the midpoint of the first quarter.
Guice electrified the homecoming crowd, and delivered an early LSU lead with a weaving, juking 42-yard touchdown run, including an impressive closing burst of speed around the corner (and the final few Mizzou defenders).
Guice was just getting warmed up in a star-making turn that paced LSU’s 42-7 win — Mizzou’s worse loss since a 62-21 loss to Oklahoma in the 2008 Big 12 Championship Game — during interim coach Ed Orgeron’s debut as Les Miles’ successor.
“We knew that No. 5 (Guice), he had played enough the first four weeks of the season and he’s a talented kid,” MU coach Barry Odom said. “ … They won the line of scrimmage. I felt like there were times where we were in position to make plays and we didn’t.”
Miles was fired last Sunday in the wake of a loss at Auburn, but everybody at LSU’s job is safe today after the woodshedding laid on Mizzou.
“We knew (Guice) was really good,” MU senior linebacker Michael Scherer said. “He would start at any other college program in this country if it wasn’t for (Fournette) being in front of him.”
Guice jitterbugged his way to 163 yards and three touchdowns, including a 4-yard scamper and 37-yard jaunt untouched up the gut in the second quarter, in only 17 carries.
“We’ve seen him on film and knew he was a tough, physical runner,” said junior free safety Thomas Wilson, who finished with a team- and career-high 14 tackles. “ … (Guice) played well tonight. We thought he was more of a physical runner, but we got to the game and he was cutting well with those cross-field jukes. It’s just missed tackles, though. We’ve got to be better than that.”
LSU’s backup running back, junior Darrel Williams, brought a change of pace. More of a backfield battering ram, Williams added 21 carries for 130 yards with touchdown runs of 1 yard in the third quarter and 2 yards in the fourth quarter.
“Obviously, Leonard’s a great player, but I told the guys, ‘Your time’s going to come,’ ” Orgeron said. “When your time’s going to come, let’s see what you got, and they did tonight.”
Fournette didn’t dress, sitting out for the second time in four weeks because of a nagging ankle injury, but Missouri had no answers for LSU’s ground game, which churned out 418 yards rushing and 634 yards overall.
“Sometimes it gets to rolling downhill and you can’t stop,” said Scherer, who finished with 13 tackles.
Mizzou allowed the most yards and rushing yards since Tre Mason and Auburn carved up former defensive coordinator Dave Steckel’s defense for 677 total yards, including 545 yards rushing, in the 2013 SEC Championship Game.
That also was the last time Mizzou allowed two 100-yard rushers in the same game (Mason, 304, and Nick Marshall, 101).
“Am I upset about this loss?” Odom said. “Absolutely. I thought we were going to have a helluva game tonight and we didn’t. They whipped up on us in every area.”
Interestingly, Fournette’s younger brother, redshirt freshman Lanard Fournette, contributed four carries for 12 yards.
Missouri broke up the shutout with 6:11 remaining on a 21-yard pass from senior Eric Laurent to sophomore quarterback Drew Lock.
Lock, who was sacked for the second and third times this season in the loss, took the snap and handed to sophomore backup quarterback Marvin Zanders, who handed off to Laurent as Lock ran a wheel route.
Laurent, who started his Mizzou career as a walk-on quarterback, caught his first career touchdown last Saturday against and now has thrown his first career touchdown.
Lock finished 17 of 37 for 167 yards with no touchdowns and an interception
Missouri junior defensive end Charles Harris and LSU junior backup offensive lineman Andy Dodd were ejected after picking up offsetting personal fouls in the game’s closing minutes.
It was the second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on both teams, who came together for a shoving match at halftime after Mizzou junior wide receiver J’Mon Moore taunted senior cornerback Tre’Davious White by sticking the ball in his face after a 16-yard catch on the second-quarter’s final play.
During the third quarter, MU sophomore linebacker Brandon Lee, who was selected as a captain for the game, was ejected for targeting. He also will miss the first half Oct. 15 at Florida.
LSU’s Xavier Lewis was ejected in the first half for targeting as well.
Hoping to spark an offense that had managed only three first downs and 62 yards to that point, Zanders made a cameo at quarterback late in the second quarter.
Zanders gained 2 and 4 yards before Lock reentered on third down and moved the chains with an 11-yard completion to redshirt freshman Richaud Floyd.
Lock’s next three passes were incomplete and Fatony punted for the fifth time, but Zanders didn’t see the field again until the final 7 minutes.
LSU 42, Missouri 7
LSU: Guice 42 run (Delahoussaye kick), 6:46
LSU: Guice 4 run (Delahoussaye kick), 8:34
LSU: Guice 37 run (Delahoussaye kick), 4:40
LSU: D.Williams 1 run (Delahoussaye kick), 11:09
LSU: D.Williams 2 run (Delahoussaye kick), 10:00
MIZ: Lock 21 pass from Laurent (McCann kick), 6:11
LSU: D.Williams 9 run (Delahoussaye kick), 4:23
Time of Possession
RUSHING: Missouri, Witter 11-48, Crockett 6-35, Zanders 3-9, Lock 2-(minus 15). LSU, Guice 17-163, D.Williams 21-130, Brossette 5-73, Chark 2-26, Etling 3-18, La.Fournette 3-12, (Team) 1-(minus 4).
PASSING: Missouri, Laurent 1-1-0-21, Lock 17-37-1-167. LSU, Etling 19-30-0-216.
RECEIVING: Missouri, Culkin 4-35, Johnson 3-42, Black 3-24, Lock 1-21, Witter 1-19, J’.Moore 1-16, Scales 1-16, Floyd 1-11, Reese 1-3, Crockett 1-1, E.Hall 1-0. LSU, Dupre 4-37, Dural 4-34, Chark 3-58, Moreau 2-18, J.Ferguson 2-17, Guice 1-21, Jeter 1-18, Joh.Moore 1-9, Mouton 1-4.
MISSED FIELD GOALS: LSU, Delahoussaye 47.