When you heard 11 a.m. kickoff, the idea of LSU being slow to wake up for another body-blow game with Arkansas was no surprise. And sure enough, there was LSU, tied with an Arkansas team that barely looked like it wanted to be there itself, at halftime.
But the Tigers were able to kick things into gear and finish the second half strong for a 23-point win. Ugly? Sure. But that’s definitely a relative term when we’re talking about a 20-point division win.
So let’s look through the good, the bad and the ugly.
- If you want to look at some of LSU’s struggles on defense here, Devin White’s stat line of one solo tackle is a good place to start. Yeah, he finished with 14 total with assists, leading the team, but he missed a number of plays that we’ll detail here. Probably his worst game of the season. And it still earned him SEC Defensive Player of the Week.
- MVP on defense for this one was definitely Donte Jackson: seven tackles, two tackles for loss, including a sack, and three pass break-ups, and he easily could have added a pair of interceptions.
- For their fits and starts, LSU finished with a season-high 7.5 yards per play on offense.
- One way the Tigers inverted a problem from the previous week with Bama — the Tigers finished with an average starting field position of its own 35-yard line, compared to the 17-yard line for Arkansas. The Razorbacks average starting point was the 12 in the first half. Of course, that made the struggle to turn that advantage into points all the more frustrating.
- With his 148-yard performance, Derrius Guice is up to 929 on the season. He’s a safe bet to clear the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight year. And at just 100 or so yards behind Kerryon Johnson and Kentucky’s Benny Snell, it’s not crazy to suggest that Guice could win another conference rushing title, if he can really go off in these final two games.
- For the third time in the last five games, LSU held an opponent scoreless in the fourth quarter.
- Honestly, right out of the shoot it looked to me like Arkansas just had no life. They sluggishly muff the opening kick and just go nowhere, including a batted ball that looked like a prime interception opportunity, but just didn’t find a Tiger.
- Dave Aranda continued working Jackson at safety in the base defense, which has really provided some flexibility against one-back sets. Jackson can roll down and provide another cover man against athletic tight ends or slot receivers, which in turn frees up the front seven to worry about the run. He can also help over the top for somebody like Kevin Toliver, who can be vulnerable if a receiver gets a free release on him. And on that first third down he makes a great break on a crossing route and nearly grabs the interception.
- Here we see how this look works against a three-wide set:
- Jackson can align over the slot receiver, and he has help inside if it’s a quick inside release from Corey Thompson. Meanwhile, LSU has the luxury of its base 3-4 front for run defense.
- The offensive line got off to a slow start in the first half, mostly with Arkansas’ T.J. Smith. He gets underneath Garrett Brumfield and pushes through to draw a hold early on, and then he executes a fantastic looping stunt from the offensive left to the right, catching the offensive line by surprise. Toby Weathersby takes the end on his side inside, and Ed Ingram has no chance to get outside and pick him up. It’s not the easiest move to execute, so kudos to Smith, but Weathersby has to know where his help is and pass somebody off to stay on the edge.
- Arkansas’ Dan Enos did a great job of calling this game, using motions, shifts and different personnel to create space and leverage for a pretty basic style. But Aranda out-foxes him here:
- Jackson’s at the nickel, and he’s probably set to cover, but the outside receiver motions into a stack, and he makes a bee-line to the quarterback. The motion inside draws a safety over so LSU still has numbers over the top of the two receivers, plus a linebacker over the tight ends. It’s probably an auto-check put in if those two receivers make that move. Jackson’s speed also allows him to disguise the blitz well. Just standing like he’s about to bail out into coverage.
- For a guy that’s spent a big chunk of this season suspended and/or in the coaches’ doghouse, Dee Anderson has been putting in some yeoman’s work over the last month or so. And that continued this week with a tremendous job of pulling in a third-down catch on a comeback that Danny Etling had thrown too low and inside. He’s a young man that clearly has some talent, if he can just put something together. This offseason could be that opportunity if he takes advantage.
- LSU marches right down the field and looks ready to get this thing going. But Etling just straight duffs a pretty easy bootleg throw to Foster Moreau that, at minimum, gives them first-and-goal inside the five, and then a substitution foul puts the offense in third-and-long. Etling appeared to convert on a nice scramble drill to Darrel Williams, but he was ruled to have stepped out of bounds — and the offsides jump from Arkansas’ defensive line was missed — so the offense has to settle for a field goal, and Connor Culp appears to push it just outside the left upright.
- At least, that’s what the referees thought. To my eyes, it’s pretty damn close, especially given that a kick that passes over the upright is good if any portion of the ball is inside. Even the smallest bit. I’m sure some would give the men standing under those uprights some benefit of the doubt. I am not in that number.
- Etling does at least make up for his earlier struggle to hit D.J. Chark for a 45-yard touchdown. LSU runs play-action with a pulling guard, with Chark and Stephen Sullivan releasing deep to clear out for the single receiver underneath.
- It’s not necessarily how the play is supposed to work — most of the time, Etling is throwing the pivot route underneath. But he had the matchup, Sullivan held the safety in the middle and Chark separated when he broke to the corner. Easy pitch and catch.
- As Etling’s bomb to Derrick Dillon should’ve been similarly easy on the next possession. Vertical release, Etling leads him to open space away from the safety, and while Dillon does a nice job of tracking a high pass, he can’t quite bring it in.
- Here, we see the big play that keys Arkansas’ touchdown right before the half:
- Greg Gilmore gets overwhelmed and the left guard can get up to White. The right guard pulls around to Donnie Alexander and it creates a nice big alley. Gilmore did at least come back and blow up a run on the very next play, though.
- This drive was pretty tough on White — he loses track of a tight end on a play-action crossing route, rolling with the quarterback to the play-side while his man kept running and turning up the sideline. And then he attacks the wrong gap and gives up a nice run on a cut-block. Later, he gets shaken by
BrandonAustin Allen on a scramble to give Arky the first and goal. The visitors tied the game on the next play.
- You have to love LSU responding though, with an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to get back on top. Nice, simple play-calling by Canada, mixing some first-down play-action passes with a few basic run plays. Etling ab-libs a nice completion to Moreau while evading pressure, and then Gage beats Arkansas to the edge on a jet-sweep.
- Canada’s big adjustment was going away from the power/counter and other pulling-guard plays, which Arkansas was disrupting with the tite front, to more basic zone plays. LSU’s interior started winning up front, particularly Will Clapp on Guice’s go-head touchdown, driving his man a good five yards, peeling off and then getting to the linebacker to help Guice plow into the endzone.
- Credit Enos for coming right back with a clever misdirection screen to the tight end. Just deked the entire front seven. It seems like White and Donnie Alexander didn’t think Allen would be able to throw back over their heads.
- White struggled with missed tackles and maintaining gap leverage, but it’s a testament to his ability to erase those mistakes that he can still come up with so many assists. He and Alexander also both over-run Arkansas’ third-and-one pitch play — the one Jackson missed on a safety blitz. The linebackers still should’ve been in position to make the play.
- They did recover to snuff out a scramble attempt from Allen to hold Arkansas to their final points of the game. Something seemed to click against the misdirection passing game somewhere around the middle of the third quarter. After the big completion to WIll Gragg, Allen would complete just five of his next nine passes for 25 yards before giving way to Cole Kelley, who completed just 3-of-10 passes himself.
- Ensuing drive, LSU combines the jet-sweep look into something of a veer-option, with Etling handing it off to Guice for a nice gain as the Razorback linebackers overflowed with the sweep option.
- It’s not a huge crease, but Guice hits it like the wrath of God. It also looks like Etling had the option to keep it on a backside run as well.
- And on the next play, Guice strikes again:
- Little bit of everything here. LSU shifts Saahdiq Charles from left tackle to the right side, with Moreau and J.D. Moore to the weak side. The back-forth jet motion creates a slight bit of hesitation from one linebacker, and a pull from Clapp kicks out the other. Guice has a good 10 yards of space and kicks it into gear.
- On his second missed extra point, it does at least appear as though Connor Culp got a bad snap/hold. Still though.
- Next offensive drive, Etling and Chark put things away with, probably, their best hookup of the year. Vertical concept out of three-wide, LSU keeps in a max protection with a back and tight end. Arkansas plays off of Chark, but the safety stays in the middle of the field and the corner gets caught flat-footed on a small stutter. Easy go-route for six, and, for all intents and purposes, the game-ender.
- I would be remiss if I didn’t address this:
- This is a catch. This is a catch by any honest, sensible context of the word. Sullivan takes the ball in, cradles it, takes two steps and then does eventually lose it after hitting the ground. Any convoluted, Roger Goodell-esque “act of the catch” continuation bullshit is just that. If I sit down to eat a steak, finish, and get up, I am no longer in continuation of the act of eating a steak. That doesn’t meant I never had steak for dinner. The fact that this was held up on review is a direct indictment of SEC officiating. LSU should be issued an apology and the parties involved should be disciplined.