Offense Player of the Year: Stevan Ridley
Bowl Preview: Ridley pounded out yards, W’s for struggling ‘O’
Editor’s Note: The following appears in Tiger Rag’s annual Bowl Preview Edition, available now. Throughout the month of December, TigerRag.com will run a select group of columns and features from the issue. To purchase the 48-page full-color print edition, CLICK HERE for subscription information.
By BEN LOVE
Tiger Rag Editor
Putting out a 48-page Bowl Preview issue in less than a week comes with an inherent amount of challenges. Selecting an offensive player of the season for LSU is not one of them.
No ‘offense’ meant to the remaining 10 starters and role players on the offensive side of the ball, but the numbers speak for themselves. And they do so decidedly in junior running back Stevan Ridley’s favor.
LSU was even worse passing the ball in 2010 than the year prior, when most purple and gold fans thought the ‘O’ had reached rock bottom in that department.
In 2009, the Tigers threw for 181.8 yards/game, the 97th-ranked passing “attack” in the country and ninth-best in the SEC. This season, LSU - piloted by Jordan Jefferson and the sporadic sprinkling-in of Jarrett Lee - managed only 155.5 yards/game through the air, rendering them the worst passing offense in the SEC and 107th of 120 in the NCAA.
When times are that tough chunking the pigskin, a team has no other recourse than to lean on its ground game. Coming into ‘10, that idea seemed a bit of a stretch.
Charles Scott’s magical 2008 season (1,174 yards, 18 rushing TDs) vanished into thin air come ‘09 (542 yards, four rushing TDs), the by-product of an offensive line which couldn’t consistently open up holes and a passing game outage which routinely invited eight-plus defenders into the box.
Well, as documented above, the ‘10 LSU pass offense didn’t exactly scare those defensive backs out of the box.
The Natchez, Miss., native, who Coach Les Miles has referred to multiple times as the team’s “hammer,” pounded out the hard-fought yards from the season’s opening whistle.
Ridley ran over and occasionally around would-be tacklers en route to 1,042 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. The 6-foot, 223-pounder also flashed some versatility from his tailback position, catching 11 passes for 61 yards.
He finished the season as one of only four players (including Arkansas’ Knile Davis, South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore and some guy named Cam Newton) in the SEC to crack the 1,000-yard plateau rushing.
How he started it was a different story.
Playing ACC foe North Carolina in the Georgia Dome, Ridley did muster 81 yards on 19 carries. The problem was he put the ball on the rug in Atlanta twice - including once on what should’ve been a game-strangling drive late by LSU - and the Tigers lost both fumbles.
A week later, Ridley roamed for 159 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in a 27-3 win at Vanderbilt. The effort prompted a great series of quotes from Miles in the postgame.
“He (Ridley) was miserable the whole week, just so you know. And we were miserable about him. Frankly, he needed to do what he did today,” said a stern Miles inside Vanderbilt Stadium. “If he continues to run like this, then that’s good news. If he doesn’t, then we’re going to find somebody who’s gonna run the football and carry for us. I liked the way he ran today … That’s what it’s supposed to look like.”
Feels almost strange to read that here in December, with the hindsight to know that Ridley took the lead back role by the horns and has bucked the rest of the conference ever since.
He surpassed the 100-yard mark twice more for the Tigers, gaining 116 yards on West Virginia and 123 (including the game-winner from one yard out) on Tennessee in back-to-back games.
While Ridley hasn’t gone over 100 since the Oct. 2 game against the Vols, his presence in picking up the short-yardage first downs has been invaluable. He’s also been a bull near the goal line. In the Tigers’ final three games of the regular season, Ridley reached pay dirt a total of seven times, including a three-touchdown performance against Ole Miss, the flagship university of his home state.
True, the O-Line deserves some credit, but in 2010, Ridley ran the show for LSU’s offense.
RIDLEY BY THE NUMBERS
|Total Carries: 225
Yards Gained: 1,077
Yards Lost: 35
Net Yards: 1,042
Rushing TDs: 14
* Ranked fourth in SEC
in rushing (86.8 ypg)
*Paced team ranked fourth
in SEC in rushing (177.2 ypg)
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