The cover of the game program Friday featured the faces of four LSU offensive linemen who have helped pave the way for the offense’s grind-it out running game.
The Tigers seemingly have as many cogs in the backfield as they do on the line.
While some teams prefer relying on a feature back to churn out yardage, LSU turns to a band of runners who have taken turns starring between the tackles.
Freshman Kenny Hilliard and sophomore Michael Ford took their turns Friday in a 41-17 victory over Arkansas, headlining an LSU rushing attack that rolled up 286 yards on 46 carries and appeared to get stronger - as usual - as the game wore on.
“Our philosophy all season has been to ground and pound,” LSU guard Will Blackwell said. “That’s what we did tonight.”
The Tigers did much of it as a slim 21-17 lead midway through the third quarter ballooned to 31-17 early in the fourth quarter.
After quarterback Jordan Jefferson threw an interception deep in Arkansas territory on LSU’s first drive of the second half, the Tigers scored 10 points on their next two possessions.
Seventeen of the 20 plays on those two drives were runs.
Hilliard had the biggest game of his young career, carrying 19 yards for 102 yards and a touchdown. Ford atoned for an early fumble that resulted in an Arkansas touchdown by finishing with 96 yards on 11 attempts.
“We came out in the second half and just pounded the ball,” Hilliard said.
A year after helping Patterson reach the Class 3A championship game as a high-school senior, Hilliard arrived at LSU as a touted runner with a famous surname, but spent the early part of the season leading the way through holes as a fullback.
He got his first true shot carrying the ball on a steady basis while subbing for Spencer Ware against Auburn last month and has been a factor for the Tigers ever since.
“Wherever they want me to play, man, I’m willing to do it for the team,” Hilliard said. “It really doesn’t matter where I play.”
Ford has starred often for LSU as the speediest player in the stable of backs. He even appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated after the Tigers beat Oregon in their season opener.
But you had to wonder Friday if the early fumble would take him out of the game plan.
LSU coach Les Miles had punished Ford after the Leesville High grad fumbled against Kentucky - giving him only six carries in the two games that followed. This time, he was more forgiving.
“He definitely cut me some slack,” Ford said. “I had to make it up to him.”
Ford had LSU’s longest carry of the day, a 49-yard scamper late in the third quarter to help set up a Drew Alleman field goal.
The 96 yards he compiled by game’s end matched his career high.
“We’ve got a bunch of fighters in that locker room,” Blackwell said.
“It takes a lot to keep a kid like him down.”
The same could be said for LSU’s running game as a whole.