It’s safe to say LSU’s Derrius Guice isn’t a beloved figure in the Texas A&M defensive room. Rather, he haunts the film meetings.
The Aggie defense, in looking at film of its past two games against the Tigers, surely noted that Guice often ran through them so easily it almost was if they weren’t on the field
The LSU tailback did nothing fancy. Rather, it was pure textbook. He took a handoff, picked a hole and made a cut as the LSU offensive line mashed those directly in front of them. Guice either bounced the run outside or bowled over a linebacker at the second level to clear an inside lane. He broke off big gains or he’d settle for a 4-yard plunge.
A&M finishes the regular season Saturday night in Baton Rouge against LSU. If they deal well with Guice, the Aggies may get their eighth win of the season. It likely won’t be enough to save Kevin Sumlin’s job, but it could give the embattled Aggie coach his first ever win against LSU.
Sumlin’s teams never have been consistent at stopping the run. And their efforts against LSU could be a microcosm of what’s gone wrong the past five years.
The best the A&M defense did against the LSU running game was in 2012, when they allowed 219 yards. As a team, the Tigers gained 298 a year ago, which was basically the median of the five games. LSU was its most dominating in 2014, when the Tigers rushed for 384. The next day, Sumlin fired defensive coordinator Mark Snyder.
Sumlin said this week that there was no one reason his teams are 0-5 against the Tigers, although the running statistics suggest otherwise.
“Every game is different,” Sumlin said. “If you gave one reason why, it would be different every game. Bottom line, we haven’t won.”
It’s not going to be any easier having to deal with Guice again this season. He is on track to set the SEC career average for yards per carry. He’s at 6.75, beating Auburn icon Bo Jackson’s 6.62. Guice is second in the SEC in rushing, averaging 103 yards a contest. A week ago, he ran for 97 yards in a rain storm to help the Tigers dominate Tennessee, 30-10.
The Aggies don’t want to relive last year’s nightmarish 54-39 loss when Guice rushed for 285 yards and four touchdowns. Guice was so overwhelming that LSU’s play action passing game couldn’t be thwarted. Quarterback Dany Etling threw for 324 yards. It was the first time in LSU history that an offense produced a 300-yard passer and a 200-yard rusher in the same game.
Guice also had a big-time performance the last time A&M was in Baton Rouge. He rushed for a 50-yard touchdown and also had a 75-yard kick return in LSU’s 19-7 win. He was used as a fill-in for eventual first round draft pick Leonard Fournette.
Guice, a junior, likely will be playing his final home game in Baton Rouge. LSU coach Ed Orgeron said this week that Guice likely will turn pro and declare for the NFL draft. Projections have Guice vying with Penn State’s Saquon Barkley as the top running back in the draft.
A&M defensive tackle Kingsley Keke said this week that the Aggies’ problem with Guice was a simple fix. He and his teammates need to stay disciplined and finish the tackle.
The Aggies are better at defending the run than they were a year ago, whittling 35 yards off their per-game average. But every SEC opponent but South Carolina rushed for more than 200 yards against them.
“Obviously, we’re a better defense now,” Keke said. “We’re a better tackling defense than we were last year. Last year we had the right calls and everything against him; we just didn’t wrap up the running back, Guice. That’s what we have to do this year.”
Texas A&M at No. 18 LSU, 6:30 p.m., SECN, 1370