By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
The deep ball was there for LSU against Alabama, but the Tigers’ inability to connect proved costly in defeat a week ago.
The deep ball was there for LSU against Arkansas, too, and this time, the Tigers took it.
Danny Etling found D.J. Chark for two long touchdowns – the first two scoring receptions of the season for the senior wideout – and Derrius Guice added a trio of rushing scores as LSU breezed past Arkansas 33-10 on Saturday afternoon in Tiger Stadium.
“Danny couldn’t have thrown a better ball,’ said Chark. “Both times, he made my job easy.”
Chark finished with four catches for 130 yards, while Etling connected on 11-of-16 passes for 217 yards. Guice carried 21 times for 147 yards, and Devin White surpassed the 100 tackle mark for the season with 14 stops. LSU outgained Arkansas 423 to 318, including 291 to 186 in a second half in which LSU scored 26 points to the Razorbacks’ 3 to break open a tie game at half.
“Nobody blinked,” said head coach Ed Orgeron. “There was no hollering and screaming at halftime. We just stuck to the game plan and took what they gave us.”
The Tigers (7-3, 4-2 SEC) dominated the early exchanges but needed three drives to put up points. A 10-play, 43-yard drive ended in a 32-yard missed field goal by Connor Culp, but Etling struck on the third play of the following series, finding Chark deep in the left corner for a 45-yard touchdown pass, Chark’s first receiving score and Etling’s 10th touchdown pass of the season.
Arkansas (4-6, 1-5 SEC) began slowly, failing to pick up a single rushing yard in the first quarter and going three-and-out three times in its first five possessions, but landed a leveling blow to close the half with a 10-play, 86-yard drive capped off by a game-tying 1-yard touchdown run from Devwah Whaley. The drive was keyed by two big second down pickups: a 21-yard Whaley run followed two plays later by a 27-yard Austin Allen pass to Jeremy Patton on the backside of LSU’s defense.
“We were upset (at halftime),” said senior lineman Christian LaCouture. “That’s not us, miscommunications and things we don’t do a lot.”
The LSU offense, meanwhile, sputtered to end the first half, punting on its final two series of the first half and steering clear of Guice, who didn’t touch the ball for the final 10 minutes. Etling misfired on his last three throws in the second quarter and was sacked on his final drop back.
Orgeron admitted he was tempted to bench Etling, but after the senior connected on six of his first seven second-half passes – good for 120 yards and the score – he was glad he didn’t.
“I wanted to give him a chance,” Orgeron said. “He has bled purple and gold. If he hadn’t performed like he did in the third quarter I would have pulled him. But I wanted to give him a chance.”
“Me and Danny worked very hard this week to try to fix things on the deep passes. We were able to show it today,” added Chark.
“I feel great for him. I tried to be by his side all week. He gets a lot of criticism I feel he doesn’t deserve. He always comes out and works hard.”
The Tiger offense found its footing in the second half, finding the end zone on its first three drives. Guice punched in from six yards out to capitalize on the first, an 8-play, 75-yard drive. LSU ground out 32 yards on the drive after gaining just three rushing yards in the second quarter. Culp missed the ensuing extra point, however, and the Tigers led 13-7 with 11 minutes left in the third.
After a Razorback field goal, Guice added another score on the ground from 33 yards out, pushing the LSU lead to 19-10 after yet another extra point miss by Culp. Jack Gonsoulin would come good on the next extra point attempt, tacking on a point after Etling found Chark for 68 yards on the first play of the fourth quarter, good for a 26-10 lead with 14:52 to play.
Dave Aranda’s defense buckled down to close things out. Frank Herron stuffed Arkansas quarterback Cole Kelley on a 4th and 1 sneak from the Razorback 22, setting up Guice’s third touchdown score, this one from a yard out, for the final margin. Greedy Williams added a late interception on Arkansas’ final snap to put a bow on the win.
It’s LSU’s second straight win over the Razorbacks, after Bret Bielema’s men beat the Tigers in consecutive seasons in 2014 and 2015. Despite the 11 a.m. kickoff, LSU was plenty motivated – in part by a video of ex-Tigers Jamal Adams, Kendell Beckwith, Duke Riley, and others encouraging them, and in part by a rivalry Orgeron admits is “more of a rivalry for them,” but one that still matters to LSU.
“Their whole goal was to come back and take that Boot,” said White. “Our goal was to keep it. Coach did a good job of getting us woke and getting ready to play.”
The post-Alabama let down that LSU suffered, at times, under Les Miles, is long gone. Heading into a trip to Knoxville to take on Tennesse next week, Orgeron has a 9-3 set in his sights.
“I really feel I learned from Pete Carroll, you have to treat every game one game at a time,” he said. “If you make lofty goals, and stuff doesn’t go right, it makes it tough. We haven’t made Alabama win-all-or-nothing. We’re going into every week one game at a time.”