Fournette off to big lead in 1st USA Today Heisman vote

LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) celebrates a touchdown against the Auburn Tigers during the second quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. (Photo: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)

LSU tailback Leonard Fournette’s foray into the Heisman Trophy hunt scored another touchdown Monday as USA Today’s first Heisman survey of the season gained him 23 of a possible 26 first place votes.

Georgia tailback Nick Chubb was second with the other three first place votes from Heisman voters who work for Gannett newspapers and television stations. Texas Christian University quarterback Trvone Boykin received nine second place votes and 11 for third place.

Fournette, a sophomore from New Orleans who leads the nation with 193.5 yards a game after two games, received two second place votes.

“It’s not about the Heisman,” Fournette said after gaining a career-high 228 yards and setting the LSU record with 12 yards a carry in the Tigers 45-21 win over Auburn Saturday. “I put team before that. That other stuff will come.”

Billy Cannon, who won LSU’s only Heisman Trophy in 1959, said Fournette is the first LSU player since him to have a legitimate shot at the trophy that has gone to college football’s best player since 1935. And Fournette should get his hands ready now for the Dec. 12 ceremony in New York City.

“If Leonard Fournette doesn’t get the Heisman Trophy, they ought to quit giving it,” Cannon, the head of dentistry at the Angola State Prison, said Monday night. “That’s not my quote, but I believe that about Leonard Fournette.”

The late Bear Bryant made that comment about John David Crow before the Texas A&M halfback from Springhill won the Heisman in 1957. Crow passed away last June.

“That was the Leonard Fournette show Saturday night,” Cannon said. “He is an amazing runner and a very talented individual. Wait until they start throwing it to him. He’s got the whole South talking about him.”

That could extend to the Northeast Saturday as No. 8 LSU (2-0 overall, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) plays Syracuse (3-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) at 11 a.m. on ESPN in Syracuse, N.Y.

“He’s a terrific back,” Cannon said. “Now, we might finally have another Heisman Trophy winner.”

Fournette, who did catch a 9-yard pass against Auburn, has 387 yards through two games, which is the most in LSU history through the first two games of a season.

Film reviews show Fournette broke 14 tackles on 19 carries against Auburn, including his over the shoulders toss of leaping Auburn safety Tray Matthews on his way to a 29-yard touchdown run and a 31-7 lead in the third quarter.

“You know why he tried that,” Cannon said of Matthews. “Because he was tired of getting run over.”

Fournette ran under and over Auburn defenders throughout the day, though he played only slightly more than one half. He put his head down and knocked cornerback Jonathan Jones on his rear on a 9-yard run in the second quarter. He  torpedoed head first into the helmet of Auburn linebacker Kris Frost on a 7-yard gain on the same drive, but targeting is only called against defensive players.

On his 40-yard touchdown run for a 24-0 lead later in the second quarter, Fournette put his head down and knocked ready and set cornerback Blake Countess on his rear in vintage Herschel Walker style.

“Leonard just wears people down,” LSU right guard William Clapp said.

“There are a couple guys on Auburn who turned the tackle down,” CBS analyst Gary Danielson said after the play.

“He’s hitting tacklers as he’s on the rise, not as he’s going down,” said Cannon, who often did the same at LSU and later in the AFL for the Houston Oilers. “Then he runs away from them. He’s something else.”

Fournette was named the national offensive player of the week by the Walter Camp Foundation and the SEC offensive player of the week on Monday.

LSU coach Les Miles is not shunning Heisman talk about Fournette.

“I’m for national awards to our players, and I think Leonard is a good person and somebody who could easily be considered for a number of national awards,” he said. “That’s not my focus. I think our team recognizes that if we have success and continue to do the things that we’re capable of doing, there’ll be a lot of national awards really sprinkled throughout the team. And Leonard would certainly be, if not the first consideration, maybe the strongest consideration.”

Miles does not plan on any special focus to get Fournette the ball – no more than usual anyway. Fournette set a career high with 28 carries against Mississippi State in LSU’s opener on Sept. 12 when he gained 159 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 21-19 win.

“The player seems to exceed the spot that the school has for him,” said Miles, who was the offensive line coach at Michigan when wide receiver/return specialist Desmond Howard won the Heisman. “I think that happens in a number of ways. I think we absolutely have one (a Heisman candidate). The player so much determines how you use him.”

LSU’s talented offensive line will continue to help determine how well Fournette does as well.

“Yeah, they wanted to play, and they wanted to play in a way that this conference could see there was something going on at LSU,” Miles said of his line. “You heard it come out of their mouths. It’s what they wanted to have happen. They were satisfied at the end of the day, and at the end of the day only.”

Fournette is also very quick about choosing the hole, even if he misses on the first try, which happened on his 71-yard run on the first play of the Auburn game.

“On that play, the first hole he tried closed up,” Cannon said. “Then another part of the line opened up a big one. He made a cut back, and in two steps he was full speed again. Unbelievable. He’s the one.”

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