By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
D.J. Chark called it.
LSU, leading Arkansas 19-10, faced a third-and-9 to open up the fourth quarter. Instead of running the ball and punting, LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada elected to trust his quarterback and go for the jugular.
Quarterback Danny Etling relayed the play call, and just before he broke the huddle, Chark left his teammates with a parting thought.
“We’re not really in key to what the receivers are doing on a given play,” LSU center Will Clapp said, “but Chark told us in the huddle, ‘Y’all block on this and it’s a touchdown.’”
LSU picked up an Arkansas blitz and Etling hit a streaking Chark in stride down the right sideline for a 68-yard touchdown that essentially put the game on ice. The duo also hooked up for a 45-yard scoring strike off a double move in the first half as LSU routed Arkansas 33-10 at Tiger Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“I told them that to just make sure they block and do their job, and we’re going to get off the field pretty quick,” Chark smiled afterword.
“Chark called it,” Clapp added. “Good call on him.”
Etling’s ability to throw the deep ball — and, to a lesser extent, Chark’s ability to go catch it — were the main topic of consternation in Baton Rouge this week after several deep shots fell incomplete in a 24-10 loss at Alabama last Saturday night.
Many called for the senior quarterback’s job in light of that loss to the Crimson Tide. Many more were ready to jump on the Myles Brennan bandwagon after Etling piloted a sluggish offense to a 7-7 halftime draw against a woeful Arkansas team.
LSU let two would-be touchdowns go by the wayside in the first half — one overthrown, another through the hands of Derrick Dillon — but LSU coach Ed Orgeron decided to stick with him in the second half.
“We stayed with him,” Orgeron said. “I wanted Danny to know we’ve got confidence in him. It would’ve been easy to pull him. I didn’t want to do that. Danny has bled purple and gold. I was not going to do that to him. I wanted to give him a chance. Now, in the third quarter, if he wouldn’t have performed like he did, we would’ve pulled him. But we wanted to give him a chance.”
That decision paid off as Etling finished 11-of-16 for 217 yards with those two touchdowns and no turnovers. He did most of his damage to Chark, who hauled in four passes for 130 yards on five targets after muffing a punt in the first quarter.
The performance stands as a testament to Etling’s resiliency. He’d taken the brunt of the blame for the missed deep shots against Alabama and spent a week talking about it. Then he misfired on a few throws in the first half, drawing groans from the sparse crowd on hand for an early kick.
His first touchdown was a touch underthrown, but it didn’t matter. Chark had completely shook his defender with a double move. But the second one was a dime dropped right into the bread basket.
Foster Moreau, his tight end, knew the pass was good the second the ball left his roommate’s right hand.
“Danny threw that ball in the pocket and I kind of draped my arm over him and tapped him on the chest as it went into D.J.’s hands,” Moreau said. “You can kind of tell. It was a great throw and I grabbed him and told him ‘Hey, congrats man!’ It’s kind of funny how you know.”
After last week, nobody was happier than No. 16 to see the ball land safely in the hands of his trusted wideout.