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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — For much of the first half Saturday, LSU sophomore running back Derrius Guice found little room to work as Louisville's defensive front filled the gaps and swarmed to the ball.
But the second half of the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl was a different story.
The game slowed down and Guice took the time to let the blocks develop before hitting the holes. Finally he popped a 12-yard run off left tackle and then the big one came the next play when he burst up the middle, broke a tackle and then was off to the races for a 70-yard touchdown early in the third quarter that all but closed the door on the 15th-ranked Cardinals and sealed the 19th-ranked Tigers 29-9 victory at Camping World Stadium.
"As a running back you just have to be patient, you can't get upset, you can't get mad when things don't always go your way," said Guice, who earned the Citrus Bowl MVP after finishing his day with 138 yards and a rushing touchdown while also catching a 1-yard touchdown pass. "You just got to work and grind, go on the sidelines with the coaches and get everything fixed."
The spotlight has been on Guice since star running back Leonard Fournette announced earlier this month that he would not play in the Tigers' bowl game so that he can focus on getting his injured ankle healthy to begin his path toward an NFL career. Guice had filled in nicely for Fournette during the season and Saturday was no different as his clock-draining runs and the Tigers' (8-4) suffocating defense limited Louisville's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson.
"We had probably one of the best players in college football in Leonard Fournette get hurt, and he stepped in and didn't blink an eye," said LSU coach Ed Orgeron, who won his first official game as head coach since being relieved of the interim title last month. "He is one of the best players in America and I totally expect him to be the best player in America next year and we're fortunate to have him."
Guice made explosive plays running the ball and catching it, but his most memorable play may have come on special teams in the fourth quarter when he took a kickoff return 50 yards, steamrolling Cardinals kicker Blanton Creque near the sideline in the process. It was the perfect capper on a breakout season while delivering a glimpse of is in store for next season.
"LSU is Army U so when one man goes down you've got to step up," Guice said. "I feel like I've done a great job of stepping up this year."
The Tigers sacked Jackson eight times and linebacker Arden Key was responsible for two of the sacks.
Key sacked Jackson for a safety late in the second quarter and then on the opening play of third quarter, he sacked Jackson again to establish a school record for sacks with 12.
LSU: The Tigers defensive front was too fast and too dominant for Jackson and the Cardinals offense. Louisville was 0 for 13 on third-down conversions well into the fourth quarter before converting its first.
LOUISVILLE: Clearly the Cardinals' offense had not seen the type of speed on defense in the ACC they encountered against the SEC's LSU. The Tigers got to Jackson early and often from their base defense and with a variety of blitzes. Defensively, the Cardinals (9-4) struggled without starting secondary members Josh Harvey-Clemons (safety) and Trumaine Washington (cornerback) along with sack leader James Hearns (linebacker) all missing due to injuries.
LSU: The Tigers looked overpowering on both sides of the football and will certainly see their stock sore from No. 19 in the AP poll after a convincing win over Louisville.
LOUISVILLE: The Cardinals suffered their third straight loss to conclude the season, which certainly makes it appear their No. 15 ranking was inflated. Louisville may remain in the Top 25 but it will be just barely.
LSU: Now that the bowl season is over, the Ed Orgeron era begins in earnest. Matt Canada has been hired as the new offensive coordinator and can begin to install his system. His biggest decision will be at quarterback where Etling is returning with experience but the Tigers have two recruits coming in in pro-style quarterback Myles Brennan and dual-threat quarterback Lowell Narcisse.
LOUISVILLE: Led by the tremendous talent of Jackson, the Cardinals could contend for the ACC title and College Football Playoffs next season. But coach Bobby Petrino will definitely have more playmakers to help Jackson. The offensive line also has to get better in its protection of Jackson. The Cardinals lose a couple of talented seniors off the defense but the core returns, giving Petrino a chance to have his best team since returning.
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