LSU football looks to be one of the teams around the nation far exceeding the expectations placed on them during the offseason. A lot of changes went on behind the scenes and in the public eye in Baton Rouge. Not only did Ed Orgeron and his staff get replaced with Brian Kelly and Co., but a large section of the team was gutted, as well.
Despite a plethora of changes, the new regime has done an excellent job of accelerating a rebuild. The Tigers are now 4-1 overall (2-0 in Southeastern Conference play) after a come-from-behind win on the Plains. LSU put itself in a 17-0 hole before flipping the game on its head and beating Auburn 21-17 on Saturday. It was a performance that left a lot to be desired from the visitors. Nevertheless, the Bayou Bengals returned home with another victory.
LSU football: Which players earned their stripes at Auburn on Saturday?
Performances such as these take a lot of grit and determination, as Kelly noted immediately following the conclusion of the 2022 Tiger Bowl. Many individuals deserve to have their names on this list, though Death Valley Voice is only naming three to this week’s piece. Honorable mentions go out to Micah Baskerville, Greg Brooks, John Emery, BJ Ojulari and Mekhi Wingo for their valiant efforts in the victory over Auburn.
Here are three players who earned their stripes against Auburn:
1. Josh Williams
Josh Williams has one helluva story. The former walk-on often gets lost in the shuffle of an already crowded running back room. He doesn’t only compete with the likes of Noah Cain, Armoni Goodwin and Emery for carries but also recognition. Sometimes the two go hand-in-hand, as they have many times early throughout this season
Williams was expected to play a minimal part in the running game with Cain coming over from Penn State and Emery returning from a season-long academic suspension. The emergence of Goodwin into the picture against Southern didn’t help Williams either. When the latter went down with an injury before a trip to Auburn, Williams’ path forward looked a lot more promising.
Kelly turned to the junior to shoulder the load at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday. The Houston native didn’t disappoint his head coach either. Williams went on to lead LSU in rushing with 17 carries for 68 yards. The running back who usually gets a majority of his touches in the red zone was let loose against a Tigers defense with its back against the wall.
In addition to leading the team in many rushing metrics, it was Williams who was on the field during the final drive. He was given back-to-back-to-back carries by Offensive Coordinator Mike Denbrock, who trusted him to close out the game by getting a first down. Williams dove forward on 3rd-and-3 as time continued to tick off the clock and picked up the game-clinching first down.
Williams played a big part in the offense as the ground game picked up the slack as Jayden Daniels struggled through the air. He’s earned himself a bigger role going forward, especially with Goodwin out for a couple of weeks. It’s hard not to root for the junior who plays with a tremendous amount of passion and pride every time he touches the ball.