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Behind the Box Score: Arkansas

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NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Arkansas
Well, he’s awesome.
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Another week, another win. Gee, I wonder what we’re gonna talk about this week?

LSU had a chance to post an impressive if boring win over an outmatched foe, leading 24-3 entering the final frame. Unfortunately, the team got distracted by something shiny, Arkansas converted some fourth downs and desperation throws, and they made it a game towards the end. LSU won by just a touchdown over, let’s be honest, a pretty bad team, giving more fuel to the freak out fire.

But this was a pretty thorough ass-kicking in the stat sheet. LSU dominated everywhere in the box score, only to have a poor fourth quarter fail to close out the blowout, and instead turn it into a close game. I appreciate O giving us Hot Take Operators more gristle for the mill, but how about we just close out the vastly inferior opponent next time? Maybe see a few backups get some playing time?

16. Arkansas rushing yards. The Hogs gained 19 yards on 16 carries. That is… well, it obviously sucks. Even removing Ty Storey from the numbers doesn’t help much. Rakeem Boyd rushed for 30 yards on 10 carries, and he had 0 carries in the fourth quarter. The Hogs all but abandoned the running game.

15-21-195. Joe Burrow’s passing line. He added one touchdown and no interceptions, though he did have a costly fumble. It was a far more efficient game than the ones he has had recently, but it seems the staff has all but given up on a pass-heavy offense. 21 attempts is a pretty low number, as the Tigers ran the ball 48 times in an effort to burn clock.

6-117-1. Justin Jefferson’s receiving line. He’s emerged as a legit #1 receiver. Jefferson accounted for 40% of the team’s catches and well over half of its receiving yards. He also broke a 40-yard deep route for a touchdown. A lot of things on the offense are not working right now, but there’s one thing that is: Justin Jefferson is a star.

3.4. LSU’s rushing average. You would think that a team that decided to go to nearly two to one run/pass ratio was just gobbling up yards, but not really. Nick Brossette averaged 3.9 yards per carry and Clyde Edwards-Helaire averaged 3.3. The longest run either of them had was 16 yards. It was a long, slow slog. Part of this was protecting a big lead, but it seems the staff has lost a lot of trust in Burrow, even as he was completing around 70% of his passes on the night.

3. LSU’s sacks allowed. Look, it’s one thing to give up 3 or 4 sacks to some of the front sevens this offensive line has faced. But giving up 3 sacks on just 21 pass attempts against Arkansas is a simply dismal performance by the offensive line in pass blocking. That’s a 12.5% sack rate allowed against a defense that is not exactly the ’85 Bears.

11:03. LSU’s time of possession in the fourth quarter. LSU had 19:20 of TOP in the second half. Normally, a team with that much possession while nursing a three touchdown lead will effectively deflate the football and strangle the life out of the game. Not so much on Saturday. Arkansas was able to manage two quick-strike drives, but simply never got a third possession because of the way LSU milked the clock. I would have rather LSU extended the lead, but the strategy of simply strangling the game to death did work, even with the fourth quarter going as poorly as possible.

151. Arkansas yards gained in the fourth quarter. They had just 216 yards of total offense in the entire game. I’m not sure what happened to the defense in the fourth quarter (probably the loss of three defensive backs had its cumulative effect), but talk about letting a team up off the mat. LSU’s strategy this year has been to get up big in the first and smother the game in the second half. It’s been largely effective due to the offense’s ability to hold onto the ball and the defense’s ability to be, well, the LSU defense, but this was watching the strategy nearly backfire. But it’s not even like the offense totally let the team down in the fourth quarter. It posted drives of 5-30, 6-25, and 9-58. All three of those drives ended in Arkansas territory. It’s statistically impressive in a bad way that LSU managed to not score in the fourth quarter. It’s boring as hell, but I think LSU would be foolish to abandon the formula which has served them well all season: get up early, then drain the clock for the entire second half. That’s what this team is.