LSU's Chase has put offense in another gear; Lawrence re-injured, Thornton suspended

Glenn Guilbeau
The Daily Advertiser
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LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) races past Vanderbilt defensive back Allan George (28) for a touchdown in the second quarter during their game at Vanderbilt Stadium Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019 in Nashville , Tenn. .

BATON ROUGE — Call it his game day gear, and it has nothing to do with wardrobe.

Suddenly during LSU's 66-38 win at Vanderbilt on Sept. 21, wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase down shifted to a gear he did not realize he had. The results were a 64- and 51-yard touchdown receptions with him running about 50 yards on each, outracing or alluding tacklers on the way.

"I didn't realize I was that fast," Chase said after setting career highs with 10 catches and 229 yards, and setting the LSU record for most touchdown catches in a Southeastern Conference game with four as he added 25- and 16-yard scores.

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"Yeah, he's found this new gear that I never saw last year," said LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who threw a school-record six touchdown passes at Vanderbilt and is No. 2 in the nation in passing yards a game at 380. "He's found this new gear that none of us had ever seen before. He's playing lights out."


Chase is unsure where on his floorboard that the new gear originated.

"Shoot, that came out of nowhere," he said this week. "Somebody told me I looked slow today at practice, so I don't know. I guess some days I feel good. Some days, I don't."

A sophomore from Rummel High in Metairie, Chase was feeling it at Vanderbilt as he became the first LSU wide receiver to have 200 or more yards receiving in a SEC game that day since Devery Henderson caught five for 201 yards in the "Blugrass Miracle," 33-30 win at Kentucky in 2002.

The 229 yards were the fourth most receiving yards in a game in LSU history and the most by an LSU receiver since Josh Reed caught 14 for 239 yards in the 47-34 win over Illinois in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2002.

"That is kind of crazy," Chase said of his numbers at Vanderbilt. "I mean, shoot, that's like you're in high school getting stats like that. You bring it to college, that's something you should be proud of. That's not something you see literally every day. It's hard to get that kind of stats."

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Chase leads the SEC and is third nationally in receiving yards per game with 132.3 on 20 catches on the season for a team-high 397 yards and five touchdowns going into Saturday's game between No. 6 LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC) and Utah State (3-1, 2-1 Mountain West) at 11 a.m. on the SEC Network in Tiger Stadium.

Chase is one of the reasons Burrow is No. 2 in the nation in efficiency at 225.6 on 100-of-124 passing for 1,520 yards and 17 touchdowns with only two interceptions.

Sep 14, 2019; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow (9) warms up prior to kickoff against the Northwestern State Demons at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

"He's much improved from last year, and he was a real good player last year," Burrow said.

Chase, who was the No. 12 wide receiver in the nation out of high school in 2018 and No. 4 prospect in Louisiana, is only three receptions away from equaling his total in his freshman season, which was 23 catches for 313 yards and three touchdowns.

"He's obviously one of the best receivers in the country, and he's going to make a lot of money playing this game," Burrow said.

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Chase likely found that extra gear because he is in better condition this season, and strength coach Tommy Moffitt's speed drills are paying off.

"Ja'Marr is finally in good shape," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. "His first year, he didn't go through a fourth quarter. He was just getting in shape. This year, his individual drills are structured as he's getting a lot of reps (repetitions). He had a great summer. He's big (6-foot-1, 205 pounds), strong, fast, and physical. He's able to play at full speed the whole game." 

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And down shift on occasion, which helps pad Burrow's statistics.

"I throw it two yards across the line of scrimmage, and he runs for 80. I love that," Burrow laughed.

"That's what we're trying to do," Chase said. "That's what I'm here for."

DE Rashard Lawrence suffers setback, doubtful for Saturday

Starting senior defensive end Rashard Lawrence of Neville High in Monroe was improving after suffering an ankle and foot injury at Texas on Sept. 7, but he suffered another injury at practice Wednesday. He had a slight chance of playing Saturday before the latest unspecified injury to "another part of his body," Orgeron said Thursday.

"He looked promising, but I'd be surprised if he plays," Orgeron said. "It's a slight injury, but it's hampered him."

Lawrence started the first two games of the season but has not played since. He has two tackles with a sack, a forced fumble and two passes defended.

Offensive line juggling

Ed Ingram, who was reinstated to the team two weeks ago, will start at left guard Saturday against Utah State.

Ingram, a sophomore from DeSoto High in DeSoto, Texas, near Dallas, started 12 games at right guard as a true freshman in 2017. He was suspended for all of 2018 by LSU according to school policy regarding felony arrests after an arrest on two felony counts of aggravated sexual assault of a minor in DeSoto surfaced. The charges were recently dismissed with details of the case sealed by authorities.

Senior Adrian Magee, who started the first four games of this season at left guard, will start at left tackle for junior Saahdiq Charles, who did not play in the Georgia Southern and Northwestern State game for disciplinary reasons. Senior Damien Lewis will remain the starter at right guard.

Linebacker Ray Thornton suspended for rules violation

LSU junior linebacker Ray Thornton of Killeen, Texas, has been suspended indefinitely for team rules violatons, Orgeron said.

"Ray is suspended from the team now," Orgeron said and did not say how long he would be suspended.

Thornton has played in all four of LSU's games as a backup and has made three tackles on the season. He was considered the No. 36 outside linebacker in the nation out of Shoemaker High in 2017 and the No. 74 prospect in Texas.

Reserve safety to try to transfer

Reserve sophomore defensive back Kenan Jones of Berwick High School in Berwick said on his Twitter that he will try to transfer.

"I have officially entered my name into the NCAA transfer portal," Jones tweeted just after 3 p.m. Wednesday. "I want to thank Louisiana State University, and most importantly my teammates for allowing me to be part of such a program. My recruitment is now officially open!"

Jones played in two of LSU's four games this season and did not make a tackle. He has not been listed on the depth chart. Jones played in 13 games last season, mainly on special teams, and made one tackle. He converted from wide receiver to safety this year. Jones competed on the LSU track team as a long jumper.

He was the No. 50 wide receiver in the nation and No. 15 prospect in Louisiana in 2018. Among the schools who offered him scholarships were Auburn, Arkansas, Louisville, Ole Miss, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas San Antonio and Louisiana-Lafayette.

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