Citrus Bowl grades: LSU RB Derrius Guice shines in Leonard Fournette’s absence

Highest-graded players and top takeaways from LSU's 29-9 bowl win over Louisville.

| 5 months ago
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Citrus Bowl grades: LSU RB Derrius Guice shines in Leonard Fournette’s absence

LSU Tigers 29, Louisville Cardinals 9

Highest-graded players and top takeaways from LSU’s Citrus Bowl victory over Louisville.

Louisville Cardinals

Quarterback grade: Lamar Jackson, 45.1

A season to remember but a bowl game to forget

Having been crowned the Heisman Trophy winner at the start of December, Lamar Jackson couldn’t cap off his scintillating season with a performance to match the start of the year he produced. In the Citrus Bowl, Jackson produced by far the worst game of his season against an LSU defense that would give him nothing through the air after the first drive of the game. 53 of Jackson’s 153 passing yards came on Louisville’s fifth play of the game on a deep strike to James Quick. Jackson was not helped by a porous offensive line that has been subpar in pass protection all season, but he struggled desperately under pressure today with LSU’s coverage locking down his receivers at the same time, leading to Jackson not completing a pass under pressure and being sacked seven times. Things went as comprehensively wrong for Jackson in Orlando as they went right for him at the start of the season.

Lamar Jackson vs pressure

Top offensive grades:

C Tobijah Hughley, 74.6

WR James Quick, 74.5

HB Jeremy Smith, 64.4

HB Brandon Radcliff, 62.5

WR Traveon Samuel, 61.3

Cardinals fail to show up to cap off their season

You might be surprised to see an offensive lineman with the top grade on the Louisville offense, but Hughley was the only Cardinals offensive lineman to earn a game grade above 60.0, and one of only two to grade above 50.0, out of 99.9. WR James quick caught all three passes in his direction, though none had the gravitas, or even potential gravitas, of his 53-yard gain in the first quarter. RB Brandon Radcliff was solid, but on only six carries.

Top defensive grades:

DT Chris Williams, 84.0

DT Drew Bailey, 79.1

OLB Jonathan Greenard, 77.6

ILB Stacy Thomas, 76.2

OLB Devonte Fields, 75.3

Solid up front but missed tackles let the LSU ground game get away

86 percent of LSU’s rushing yards came after contact in this game, and that tells you something of how the Louisville defense played the run. Up front, the likes of Chris Williams, Drew Bailey, and DeAngelo Brown put up strong showings against one of the best offensive lines in the nation, but LSU, and in particular, running back Derrius Guice, found the weaker spots in the defensive front and the glaring weaknesses in the secondary. Louisville’s defensive backs combined to miss seven tackles on the day, with Guice able to break through two of those on his 70-yard TD run that broke the back of the game early in the third quarter.

LSU Tigers

Quarterback grade: Danny Etling, 57.1

Etling struggles, but gets bailed out by his receivers

After a solid end to the season Danny Etling struggled in LSU’s win over Louisville, but his receivers picked him up, making some spectacular plays on some erratic downfield passing to comfortably put away the Cardinals. Etling tried his best to out-do Jackson on occasion, with his interception immediately after Jackson’s safety in the second quarter up there with his worst plays of the season. From there, Etling did nothing to undermine the Tigers’ stroll to victory, but he did little to contribute positively to it, either.

Danny Etling vs pressure

Top offensive grades:

HB Derrius Guice, 86.7

WR Malachi Dupre, 84.8

WR D.J. Chark, 72.1

C Ethan Pocic, 71.4

HB Darrel Williams, 59.3

Guice and company push LSU to ninth win of the season

The talk entering the game was more about who wasn’t playing than who was playing, but Derrius Guice and Malachi Dupre proved that Leonard Fournette was far from the only quality ball carrier on the Tigers’ offense. Dupre made some outstanding catches on errant passes by Danny Etling, including a stunning one-handed catch, but it was Guice who stole the show, as he did against Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night. Guice broke off the game-breaking 70-yard score in the third quarter to finish with just shy of 90 perecent of his yards coming after contact, breaking six tackles to raise his season total to 48. The LSU ground game is in safe hands with Guice as we look ahead to 2017.

Top defensive grades:

DE Davon Godchaux, 86.3

CB Tre’Davious White, 86.2

S Jamal Adams, 85.0

OLB Arden Key, 83.7

S John Battle, 81.0

Tigers’ defense crashes the Heisman party

The LSU defense was one of the best units in the nation this year, and all their big names rose to the occasion to shutdown Lamar Jackson in his first game since picking up the Heisman Trophy. Up front, DE Davon Godchaux and OLB Arden Key picked up four pressures and four stops apiece, each of them dominating their matchups against the Louisville offensive line. ILB Duke Riley had three pressures of his own, and in the secondary, all four of LSU’s starting defensive backs had the Louisville receiving corps on lockdown. S Jamal Adams chased down Jackson in the open field for one of his two stops, while he combined with fellow starters Tre’Davious White, John Battle, and Donte Jackson to allow only six completions while breaking up five passes. This was as close to a complete defensive performance against a dual-threat quarterback as you could hope to see.

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. 

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

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