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First Impressions: LSU 33, Arkansas 10

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It was ugly, but also beautiful

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Louisiana State
Finally.
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start the review of this game with a statement of truth: Arkansas is a bad football team. Every SEC team they have played has scored at least 37 points against them, and even some of the non-conference teams, like Coastal Carolina last week.

Arkansas dragged LSU down to its level, but the Tigers would eventually fight through an earn the victory. The Tigers didn’t play badly, they were just a half beat off, and failed to take advantage of their performances. It’s like they kept throwing punches, but stopped just short of knocking their opponent down.

Sure, it was frustrating, but I’m hesitant to say they played badly. They played like it was an 11 AM kick in front of a tepid crowd against a bad team. They were clearly the better team, but it was an uneven effort.

This game started on an encouraging note. Arkansas muffed the kickoff, had to take the ball out of the end zone, and then ended up starting their first drive inside the five yard line. One three-and-out later, the Hogs lined up to punt from their own end zone.

Then, in a moment symbolic of the entire game to follow, DJ Chark muffed the punt. LSU recovered the fumble, so no real damage done, but it summed up the kind of game LSU would play. Sloppy, and almost willfully refusing to take advantage of each and every chance the Hogs handed them.

Almost the entire first half was played on the Hogs’ side of the field. Arkansas continually had lousy field position, and then did nothing with it. Until their final drive of the half, Arkansas had 46 yards of offense and failed to convert a single third down.

Unable to move the ball, Arkansas kept giving the ball to LSU in fantastic field position. Blessed with an average starting field position of the 40 yard line in the first half, LSU proceeded to do almost nothing with it. Outside of a 45-yard bomb to a wide open DJ Chark, LSU could not find the end zone. Each drive stalled out, and LSU could not turn its wide advantage into points.

So, naturally, Arkansas closed out the first half with a 10-play 86-yard drive which ate up over five minutes of clock. Twenty-five minutes of total territorial dominance resulted in a tie game at the half. Instead of a comfortable blowout in which LSU could empty the bench in the second half, we now had ourselves a genuine close ballgame.

To give the team credit, they responded well. The Tigers’ first two drives of the second half went a combined 140 yards, both resulting in Derrius Guice touchdowns. That’s exactly what the offense had to do, pick the defense up, after they hung them out to dry for most of the first half.

The defense, which had been so outstanding to open the game, then started to wear down. After an 86-yard TD drive to close the first half, they allowed a 53-yard drive resulting in a field goal to start the second half. They finally stiffened up and forced a punt on a 21-yard drive, resulting in a punt.

It wasn’t an epic stop, but it was enough. That was the breathing room the Tigers needed. But LSU couldn’t really rest easy until the first play of the fourth quarter, when DJ Chark broke free on 3rd and long, and pulled down a 68-yard bomb from Danny Etling for his second touchdown of the day.

LSU wasn’t playing lights out, but scoring 16 points in a quarter while holding LSU scoreless is beyond a bad team like Arkansas. But that doesn’t mean the Tigers didn’t try to make this one a game. Arkansas got the ball close to the edge of field goal range, but a personal foul sent them sprawling backwards and forced a punt from inside their own 50.

That would prove to be Arkansas’ last best chance. The LSU offense flipped the field, despite an awful incompletion call against Stephen Sullivan. The defense responded by stopping the Hogs on short yardage on both 3rd and 4th downs, deep in their own end.

It was the kind of game in which good performances didn’t seem all that good. Devin White, again, had double digit tackles, but he missed a few key chances. Donte Jackson had 2 TFL’s on the game, but he’ll remember the one he missed on 3rd and 1, allowing a conversion.

Danny Etling was 11/16 for 217 yards and 2 TD and 0 picks, but he looked off in the pocket. He missed one easy touchdown pass, and had another drop. It was a good statistical night, yet it could have been great. Derrius Guice ran for 147 yards on 21 carries, but somehow only had one of those carries in the 2nd quarter, when LSU failed to open up the lead when they had great the opportunity.

We won’t even talk about Connor Culp.

In the end, this was the classic Bill Parcells win. The team got the win, but the coach had tons of stuff to yell about in practice. Exactly the way you want it. It may have been ugly, but the win was sort of perfect.