Sincerest apologies, Leonard Fournette. Your Heisman Trophy candidacy in 2015 fell victim to the brand of ADD that runs rampant among college football fans, pundits and assorted other yakkers.
After leading the discussion for the better part of two months in the 2015 season, Fournette became persona non grata by the time the finalists were announced in December. It’s not as if Fournette stopped being a human wrecking ball in LSU’s final month, capable of turning his lightning-quick momentum into devastating force inflicted on would-be tacklers.
That became plainly evident in LSU’s 56-27 Texas Bowl romp of Texas Tech Tuesday. Fournette pounded the Red Raiders for 212 yards rushing and four touchdowns on the ground, with a 44-yard receiving score off a screen pass to make it five trips to the end zone on the night.
Fournette may have fallen from the 2015 Heisman race, but the way in which he closed the season ensures he’ll be right at the forefront of the 2016 conversation.
Leading Heisman discussion initially isn’t necessarily a benefit. On the contrary, as Fournette’s unsuccessful chase for the trophy proved. Had his pedestrian (by his own lofty standard) outings in November been sprinkled throughout September and October, perhaps Fournette would have been in New York City for the presentation earlier this month.
Essentially, he was so good through the first two months, his excellence became too easy to take for granted, as head coach Les Miles alluded to in his post-game press conference.
“This is a night that Leonard Fournette would have again and again and again. I wouldn’t call it routine because he is not a routine runner,” Miles said via LSUSports.net. “He is a special back, but we would expect him to have nights like this.”
Fournette’s so good, his greatness oftentimes looks effortless. Such was the case against Texas Tech, as each explosive play was nothing more than the super sophomore punching the proverbial clock.
“My job is to run the ball. Each and every play, each and every down, those guys [on the offensive line are] going hard for me to open the holes,” he said.
He clearly labored carrying the burden of the LSU offense late in the season. That will again be the most challenging hurdle to clear in his 2016 pursuit of college football’s top individual award.
LSU’s inconsistent passing game gave opposing defenses an easily implemented strategy in conference play. Defensive fronts loaded up against Fournette and forced Brandon Harris to put the ball in the air, a scheme Texas Tech lacked the manpower to continue for more than a half Tuesday.
LSU’s offseason will be dedicated in part to establishing more balance on offense. Fournette will need to do little beyond staying healthy, as he’s already proven the capacity for routine greatness.
Fournette’s remarkable individual performances becoming the norm was born out of necessity, and that’s too cumbersome to place on one player. In that vein, Fournette fading from the Heisman race is a case-study in the idea it’s a “team” award.
It will take a team effort to have Fournette hoisting the trophy next December, but he’ll certainly hold up his own end of the bargain.