No. 20 LSU races past reeling Tennessee
The stadium lights weren’t holding up to the weather and neither were the goal posts.
The football couldn’t sit still in the wind, and fielding punts was anything but routine. Conditions were tough.
So was LSU.
Darrel Williams and Derrius Guice combined for 165 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and No. 20 LSU withstood a mid-game monsoon to hand reeling Tennessee a 30-10 loss on Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.
Williams had two touchdown runs, and Guice and quarterback Danny Etling each had one touchdown run for the Tigers (8-3, 5-2 SEC).
LSU has won five of six games since being stunned at home by Troy in early October.
Tennessee (4-7, 0-7) hurt itself with multiple miscues on special teams and struggled to finish drives in Brady Hoke’s first game as interim head coach.
The Volunteers were held to 38 yards on the ground, and quarterback Jarrett Guarantano completed 13 of 23 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown.
The game was played in dismal conditions, with strong winds throughout and a heavy downpour causing havoc early in the third quarter.
The goal posts at one end of the stadium were crooked before the game, thanks to the wind. Several lights went out in the stadium at halftime, and at one point before a Tennessee snap the wind blew the ball sideways, down the line of scrimmage.
“There is no question that I couldn’t see guys on the field,” Hoke said of the weather. “I’m sure they had a big problem with it.”
The weather didn’t stop the Tigers, though
“I thought the storm fired them up,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “It was like playing in the backyard as kids. It was my first time like that.”
Guice finished with 97 yards on 24 carries, putting him over 1,000 yards for a second straight season. He scored on a 3-yard plunge early in the third quarter that put LSU in front 23-10.
Williams tacked on his second touchdown run of the game later in the third quarter, and Tennessee never seriously threatened a comeback.
The Vols have lost six of seven games, with their only win in that stretch coming against Southern Miss.
Etling attempted just 15 passes, completing 11 for 81 yards. He did most of his damage on the ground, finishing with 42 yards rushing on nine carries, including a touchdown. Orgeron said after the game that Etling suffered a hand injury that, combined with the weather conditions, limited the Tigers’ passing game.
“We didn’t want to take a chance,” Orgeron said. “It was tough to throw the football. That eliminated a lot of our pass plays. The jet sweeps a little bit opened it up. We called the right plays. We finally blocked them. Knew it would be tough sledding up the middle.”
Playing their first game since coach Butch Jones was terminated, the Vols fell behind early on a blustery, wet night.
LSU turned two muffed punts by Tennessee’s Marquez Callaway in the first half into 10 points. After Callaway’s second miscue, Williams took a jet sweep around right end for a 10-yard score that put the Tigers in front 10-3 early in the second quarter.
Etling extended the lead to 17-3 on a 13-yard scramble with two minutes left in the half. Williams had a 36-yard run on the play before Etling’s touchdown.
Tennessee answered, though, with Callaway gaining some redemption on a 46-yard touchdown reception to cut the LSU lead to 17-10 at halftime.
The Vols actually outgained the Tigers 287-281, but couldn’t overcome the early miscues that led to points for LSU.
“We had some early turnovers, which you don’t like to have any,” Hoke said. “Callaway is one of the best kids you’d want to coach and he works harder than anyone at his craft.”
Tennessee needs to beat Vanderbilt next week to avoid becoming the first Vols team ever to go 0-8 in the SEC.
NOTES: U.S. Navy Capt. Stan Jones and Air Force Captain Leigh Smith, both former Tennessee athletes, conducted pregame flyovers as part of the Volunteers’ “Salute to Service” game, honoring U.S. service members, veterans and their families. ... The Vols entered the game ranked last against the run, allowing 256.9 rushing yards per game. ... LSU ends the regular season next week when Texas A&M visits Tiger Stadium. ... Tennessee hosts Vanderbilt next week.