By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Rashard Lawrence hasn’t been his regular energetic self these past few weeks.
LSU’s sophomore defensive end admits he’s been a bit down in the dumps after suffering an ankle injury in the season opener against BYU. His patience waned as a seemingly minor injury kept him out for two weeks.
His mood hit an all-time low last Saturday night in Starkville as the standout was confined to spectator status on the sidelines as his thinning defensive line got mauled in a 37-7 drubbing at the hands of Mississippi State.
“Depressed, to be honest,” Lawrence said of his mood. “Missing two games was depressing.”
Lawrence returned to the lineup and contributed to LSU’s 35-26 victory over Syracuse in Tiger Stadium on Saturday. He made five tackles — two for loss, including one sack — as the defense held a lightning-paced offense to a field goal on 149 yards of offense in the first half.
Like most of the defense, Lawrence appeared to wear down a bit in the second half, fatigued by a hot, humid night in Baton Rouge and an opposing offense that ran 82 plays without so much as stopping for a breather. Four of his five stops came before halftime.
Still, playing with a brace on his heavily-taped ankle, Lawrence managed to make his presence felt. His sack derailed a Syracuse drive in LSU territory and helped force a punt while a stagnant Tiger offense searched for its footing.
“I think it’s huge when I’m out there,” Lawrence said. “I think I can help the team. Not only play, but as a leader. I see myself as a leader. When guys see you out there making plays, that’s big; so I try to make plays and have them feed off my energy.”
“He’s a good player man,” nose tackle Greg Gilmore added. “He’s another body that we need. Instead of having youth right there or me right there, we have somebody who really knows the position and plays with a lot of energy on the field.”
So nothing but smooth sailing ahead for LSU’s dominant defensive end from this point on?
Not so fast.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron relayed after the game that Lawrence has injured his other ankle later on in the course of the game.
“We’re different with Rashard Lawrence in there, I think you guys can see that,” the coach said. “He’s the leader. He’s our bell cow. He played on a hurt ankle tonight but played the whole game. He got hurt, but hopefully it doesn’t keep him out for long because he makes a difference.”
Lawrence wasn’t sporting a walking boot or brace at post-game interviews and said the pain wasn’t nearly as severe as when he suffered the original injury.
He downplayed the latest ailment to afflict the constantly thinning defense but understands that ankle injuries are all the more tricky when it comes to someone who pushed the scale at more than 300 pounds.
“You see how big I am; that’s a lot of weight on your ankle,” Lawrence laughed. “I’m fine. I’m fine. I tweaked it a little bit, but I’ll be fine. I’ll know how I feel tomorrow morning. That’s how ankles are.”
Don’t blame Orgeron and the Tigers for holding their breath in the meantime.