Now, the task of stopping LSU tailback Leonard Fournette falls outside the Southeastern Conference and onto Syracuse coach Scott Shafer. It's a tall order against the latest Heisman Trophy top contender who leads the nation in rushing with 193.5 yards per game and has six TDs in two games for the eighth-ranked Tigers (2-0).
''Our primary goal is to stop the run first. I think everybody says that, but we really believe that and we promote it in the way we run our defense,'' said Shafer, the Orange's former defensive coordinator. ''Anytime you have a kid that may be the best running back that I've seen in the last 10 years, we have to focus in on stopping him first and foremost. You've got to gang tackle, get as many folks as you can on him. You've got to control the football on offense so he's not on the field as many snaps.''
That will be tough, too. The Orange (3-0) likely will have fifth-string quarterback - walk-on Zack Mahoney - making his first career start.
Senior starter and captain Terrel Hunt was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon suffered in the first quarter of the season opener against Rhode Island and last week's starter, freshman Eric Dungey, suffered a head injury on a helmet-to-helmet hit and was knocked out of the game against Central Michigan. He's listed as doubtful.
Mahoney has impressed already in a cameo last week against the Chippewas, completing his four pass attempts, including a 13-yarder that set up the winning score in a 30-27 overtime win.
''So many times the cream rises to the top,'' LSU coach Les Miles said. ''The opportunity for a guy to step on the field and do what he did last week gives a lot of people confidence. We'll prepare for the best.''
Mahoney says he's ready.
''I'm just anticipating it. These are the games you sign up to play,'' said the Chicago-born Mahoney, a junior college transfer who enrolled at Syracuse in January. ''Growing up you hear about all these great college coaches. Les Miles is obviously one of them. He's a national powerhouse coach, so for him to be talking about me is obviously a good thing. I hope that continues after the game.''
Some other things to know when LSU visits Syracuse:
While Fournette is grabbing the headlines, the Tigers also have moved the ball on the ground effectively with his three backups and sophomore QB Brandon Harris. LSU's reserve backs are sophomore Darrel Williams and freshmen Derrius Guice and Nick Brossette. They have combined with Harris to average 136.5 yards rushing per game. LSU is averaging 338.5 yards rushing.
SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE
LSU has not committed a turnover this season and the Syracuse defense has four fumble recoveries and five interceptions. The Orange have allowed under 50 yards rushing per game to rank third nationally.
''I just want to make sure my defensive line gets better and better and better,'' Syracuse assistant Tim Daoust said. ''This week will be a good measuring stick for that. We'll see where we are at against an elite opponent.''
LSU has been able to win without passing much, and the Tigers are still waiting to see if Harris, who took over as starter this season, can complete passes consistently to a talented receiving corps led by Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre. Harris has yet to pass for 100 yards in either of LSU's first two games. He is 21 of 31 for 145 yards and one TD.
LSU has eight sacks and Devon Godchaux has three of them. All the pressure forced turnovers last week, when Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson threw an interception and fumbled. Miles said he thought his defense ''played a tremendous game.'' The Tigers also held Mississippi State's Dak Prescott in check - sacking him three times - for much of the previous week's game.
LSU has won 49 straight non-conference games in the regular season. The last loss was to Virginia Tech in 2002.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed.
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