LSU needs another big rushing performance Saturday at Auburn

Tyrion Davis-Price scores a 1-yard run touchdown during the second half of a game between LSU and Missouri at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Missouri on Oct. 10.

LSU running back Tyrion Davis-Price figured out the best way to make large people to do nice things for him and backfield mate John Emery is get them free food.

The Tigers ran for a season-high 276 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 52-24 win over South Carolina behind an offensive line that played like it was hungry.

Davis-Price said he and Emery plan to take the big boys out for a meal to show their appreciation and stoke another dominant effort in Saturday’s road SEC game against Auburn (3-2 overall and in SEC West) at 2:30 p.m.

“Hat’s off to my O-line,” Davis-Price said for bulldozing South Carolina’s defensive line. “They came to play.”

LSU’s improved ground game proved to be the perfect ingredient for an offense debuting true freshman quarterback T.J. Finley, who took over for an injured Myles Brennan. The offense produced 541 yards in 75 plays.

The Tigers’ rushing attack, which ranked 13th in the SEC prior the South Carolina game at 96.7 yards per game, averaged 7.2 yards per carry and was the catalyst in an offense that converted 8 of 10 third-down conversions and held onto the ball for more than 37 minutes.

LSU now ranks 10th in the league with 141.5 rushing yards per game. The Tigers (2-2 overall, and in SEC West) improved to 11-0 under head coach Ed Orgeron when rushing for 250-plus yards in a game.

“We knew in the two weeks leading up to the game that we needed to step up, we needed to take control and try and take charge of the game and really set the tone for the team,” LSU senior center Liam Shanahan said. “It was going to be a challenge. We had a lot of respect for South Carolina’s defense, especially their line. We rose to the challenge and we had our best game so far. That’s something we have to keep building on and take the next step going forward this week.”

LSU turned almost exclusively in the second half to its running game after building a 31-10 halftime advantage that also included a 51-yard interception return from true freshman cornerback Eli Ricks.

Davis-Price registered career highs in attempts (22) and yards (135) in his team’s biggest triumph of the season and was at the heart of LSU’s concerted second-half ground effort with 15 carries for 120 yards and a score.

“It started at Competition Tuesday,” Davis-Price said of the previous weeks practice. “We worked on a lot of different situations – goal line, first-and-10, short yardage. That really played a big part in Saturday’s game. Those guys worked really hard throughout the week and it showed. They busted their behinds.”

In his previous three games this season, Davis-Price had a rather pedestrian 28 attempts for 110 yards and a touchdown. Last year as primary backup to Clyde Edwards-Helaire, he ran for 295 yards and 6 TDs in 64 attempts and caught 10 passes for 74 yards,

His big night last Saturday boosted Davis-Price’s season rushing totals to a team-high 245 yards (4.90 yards per carry) and 2 TDs on 50 attempts.

After Trey Palmer’s 93-yard kickoff return increased LSU’s lead to 38-17 at the 11-minute mark of the third quarter Davis-Price turned in a career-high 35-yard run in the fourth quarter, setting up his 4-yard score on the very next play for a 45-17 advantage.

“We knew going into the game that’s what we had to do,” Shanahan said “That’s what we wanted the game plan to be. We want to be one of the key units on the team where we can sort of be like the backbone of the offense. Everyone knows when you’re running the football well, it opens up the passing game that much more, especially with a freshman quarterback makes it much easier for him.”

Finley, who wasn’t sacked, made his college debut a successful one passing for 265 yards – the most in a debut for a true freshman – and a pair of first-half touchdown passes to Terrace Marshall Jr. He also added 24 rushing yards and a 1-yard TD on a first-quarter sneak.

Emery, who sparkled in LSU’s 45-41 setback at Missouri on Oct 10 with 103 yards on the ground and a TD, had a career-high 18 carries and gained 76 of his 88 yards during the first half. His 3-yard plunge with 9:44 remaining capped a span of 21 unanswered points and a commanding 52-17 lead.

“We already have a pass game,” said Emery, whose season totals include 39 carries for 225 yards and 2 TDs to go along with eight catches for 51 yards. “We just wanted to come out and show that we have a run game. Me and Ty always motivate each other. All the running backs do. We know we have the abilities we just have to go on the field and show what we have. It was great. I’m happy for him and he’s happy for me. We just have to take it one game at a time.”

Davis-Price is hopeful of an encore performance against Auburn.

“John is like my brother,” he said. “We pretty much do everything together. We talk about everything. We’re real tight. Since I came here, we’ve developed a great relationship with each other, on and off the field. I can say we’re really close. We’re a great dynamic duo and I feel we complement each other real well, and we’re ready to keep it rolling.”

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