When LSU’s junior running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire isn’t making defenders miss tackles or picking up key blocks in pass protection on the football field, he spends his time hunting in Louisiana’s marshes.
Edwards-Helaire wasn’t able to go dove hunting, the season of which lasts from Sept. 7 to Sept. 15 before reopening in October, so there was no way he was going to miss the opening weekend of teal season – duck hunting for those who don’t know.
The only problem – teal season opened on Sept. 14, the same day as LSU’s 65-14 win over Northwestern State.
The solution: Drive to Venice, Louisiana, aptly named “The End of the World,” immediately after the game.
Edwards-Helaire said he went home, changed and grabbed his already packed bags before hitting the road to Venice, which sits on the west bank of the Mississippi River where the river meets the Gulf of Mexico.
“We drove to Venice, two-and-a-half-hours,” said Edwards-Helaire, who was fresh off rushing for 50 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. “[I] Slept 30 minutes and was right back hunting, and I stayed up the whole day. I was good, but that’s something I’m always ready for especially growing up hunting and what not. It’s just second nature.”
The Baton Rouge native said his group hit the seven-man limit of 42 ducks before heading home.
But while Edwards-Helaire was isolated in Venice, people 150 miles northwest in Baton Rouge were trying to figure what was wrong with LSU’s running game. The passing game excelled and shattered records, but the run game as a whole failed to crack four yards per carry in LSU’s first three games.
Even though Edwards-Helaire was having individual success, rushing for 87 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries against Texas and averaging 4.9 yards per carry through LSU’s first three games, he didn’t crack 100 yards in any of LSU’s first three games.
It was the first time since 2009 LSU went without a 100-yard rusher in its first three games.
Then came Vanderbilt.
Edwards-Helaire rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown, and LSU totaled 181 yards on 36 carries, a 5.0 average per carry.
“We need a 100-yard rusher – this is LSU,” said LSU head coach Ed Orgeron, calling the win over Vanderbilt a jumping off point for the rushing attack. “We need to run the football, we need to be more balanced. There are going to be a couple times where we are going to have to run the football, and we need to make improvement in that area.”
For Edwards-Helaire the focus had been on winning games, not rushing for 100 yards. He said the achievement was “pretty cool,” but it wasn’t groundbreaking for LSU. It’s something he knew they could accomplish.
“Everybody can have their opinions on it,” Edwards-Helaire said. “People who always like seeing LSU run up and down the field as far running the ball – they probably got a little excited as far as a 100-yard game. Everybody’s goal now, especially on this team, is to win.”
One for LSU’s lower numbers rushing the ball was the switch in the offense. Edwards-Helaire said pretty much everything LSU runs is a run-pass option, and the Tigers weren’t sure what the results would be until they began playing live games.
The win against Vanderbilt and the addition of sophomore offensive lineman Ed Ingram returning to the team has given LSU even more confidence. After the offensive line struggled in 2018, senior quarterback Joe Burrow called the group the most improved on the team this summer, and Edwards-Helaire feels they’re the best offensive line in the Southeastern Conference.
“If those guys feel that way, and know they are, then everybody else around us feels that way,” Edwards-Helaire said. “It’s a great group of guys to be around. They always help me up off the ground, help Joe up off the ground. In any situation they’re always there. My goal is to make them look good if everybody else is doing their job.”
And if the offensive line keeps making Edwards-Helaire look good, maybe he’ll take them on the two-and-a-half-hour trip to the end of the world to hunt some ducks.