FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — It wasn’t without some drama, but LSU staved off a surging Arkansas squad for a 24-17 victory at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Everything seemed to be under control as the Tigers (8-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) went into the fourth quarter with a 24-3 lead, showing dominance on defense for the first three quarters of the game.
But the Razorbacks (2-8, 0-6) came a touchdown short of erasing the 21-point, fourth-quarter deficit, but the Tigers were able to run the clock out with a sustained drive in the final minutes.
“It feels good to win, but not that way,” said LSU linebacker Devin White. “I don’t feel like we dominated them the whole game. I don’t feel like we finished it.
“I want to make people just quit. We didn’t make them quit. They felt like they were in the game for a long time. That’s not how I wanted to play tonight. I wanted to dominate. That would have made me feel better.”
Despite that, an enthusiastic LSU coach Ed Orgeron could be heard yelling encouraging words to his team after the closer-than-preferred victory.
LSU traveled to Arkansas in search of a win, and that’s what it got Saturday night.
“Good win for our football team,” Orgeron said. “We had 164 yards rushing. We held them to 16. It was a tough week for our football team … There were some points where we could obviously get better. We can look at that, but I’m proud of the win. Our focus was to come and win the football game, and that’s what we did.”
The Tigers took control early as they got on the board first on their second drive of the game which needed only one play as LSU quarterback Joe Burrow hit receiver Justin Jefferson for a 40-yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter.
“We’ve been working on that play all year,” Jefferson said. “We were finally just able to run it. It was a corner up, and the safety bit on the corner. It was wide open.”
The touchdown pass served as Burrow’s first since LSU played Ole Miss on Sept. 29, ending a four game drought.
Burrow completed 15 of 21 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown. He once again spent much of his time trying to buy time as Arkansas’ defense got to him three times and forced him to fumble once.
“It felt like we were sluggish,” Burrow said. “It felt like we got complacent… It just felt sluggish out there. I don’t really know what it was, but I’m excited to get back on the field for practice.”
LSU doubled its lead in the second quarter in the opposite fashion. The Tigers decided to let running backs Nick Brossette and Clyde Edwards-Helaire carry the load as they ran the ball 13 times in a 14-play, 77-yard touchdown drive.
Brossette got the Tigers into the end zone on a 12-yard touchdown rush in which he carried defenders eight yards with the help of some good blocking up front.
Burrow described the drive as “LSU-style,” and Brossette said the sequence gave the Tigers’ offensive line a confidence boost after getting dominated by Alabama a week prior.
“I’m proud of those guys up front,” Brossette said. “We came out with a win, and that’s the only thing that matters right now.”
Brossette finished the game with 23 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown while Edwards-Helaire tallied 56 yards and a score on 17 carries.
In the final minute of the half, it looked as though LSU would extend its lead when linebacker Michael Divinity forced a sack-fumble recovered by LSU at the Arkansas 38.
But on the next play, Burrow suffered a similar fate as he fumbled the ball after a big hit. This time, the ball was picked up by Arkansas linebacker Dre Greenlaw and returned 24 yards to the LSU 33.
Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey hit Jared Cornelius for a 27-yard gain to set up a 24-yard field goal that tied the game as the clock expired to end the half.
LSU extended its lead early in the third quarter with a four-play, 59-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 13-yard touchdown rush by Edwards-Helaire.
The run was set up by three straight plays that went the way of Jefferson, the first being a sweep and the next two being receptions that put the Tigers on the Arkansas 13.
Jefferson caught 117 yards on six catches in a performance that is becoming commonplace as Burrows’ go-to receiver.
“We just have a special connection,” Jefferson said. “We practice our butt off every day, every week. So coming out here and bringing it to the field, it’s just something special.”
LSU drove again on its next drive, getting down to the Arkansas 23 to set up a 40-yard field goal by Cole Tracy that put the Tigers ahead 24-3.
Arkansas continued to hang around as the Razorbacks finally got in the end zone early in the fourth quarter on a jump ball from quarterback Ty Storey to tight end Cheyenne O’Grady that cut LSU’s lead to two touchdowns.
Despite multiple chances to put the game away, Arkansas cut that deficit in half with 5:27 remaining when Storey once again connected with O’Grady for a touchdown, this one from 32 yards out.
The touchdown came after LSU turned the ball over on downs at the Arkansas 25 after electing to go for it fourth down rather than let Tracy attempt to make it a three-possession game.
But LSU’s offense finally put the game away. After receiving the ball with 5:27 left, the Tigers picked up three first downs, including a big third-down conversion on a pass from Burrow to Derrick Dillon up the middle.
Nick Brossette officially put the game away with a 16-yard rush that he could have taken into the end zone but intelligently opted to slide and secure the game.
“It seems kind of odd, but we could run the clock out and win the football game,” Orgeron said. “That’s something we practice. … Get down, and win the game.”