Arkansas at No. 24 LSU:

Hogs pull from past: Victories in ’14, ’15 give Arkansas hope against LSU

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Saturday, November 11, 2017
Arkansas players celebrate with the boot after defeating LSU on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Baton Rouge, La.
Arkansas players celebrate with the boot after defeating LSU on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Baton Rouge, La.

BATON ROUGE -- The Arkansas Razorbacks own a two-game winning streak while No. 24 LSU lost last week.

And yet it feels like the momentum is with the Tigers (6-3, 3-2 SEC), who will host the Razorbacks (4-5, 1-4) today in a rare 11 a.m. kickoff at Tiger Stadium in the annual battle for the Golden Boot trophy.

LSU is coming off a 24-10 loss at No. 2 Alabama in which the Tigers outrushed and outgained the Crimson Tide but could not connect on enough open downfield passes.

The Razorbacks have won two thrillers in a row-- including one on the road at Ole Miss in which the Razorbacks mounted the biggest comeback in school history, rallying from a 24-point deficit for a 38-37 victory on Connor Limpert's field goal in the final seconds.

Arkansas failed to transfer the momentum from Oxford into its home performance last week, needing to rebound from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit to eke out a 39-38 victory over a Coastal Carolina team that had been 1-7.

The seat under fifth-year Coach Bret Bielema seems as hot as ever with the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville entering a finishing stretch against LSU, Mississippi State and Missouri. Bielema understands the pressure of the job.

"Saturday is another opportunity," he said. "You go over there and you play well and have a chance to beat LSU, and if that happens good things will come your way. If you have defeat, naturally negative things come your way.

"That game is always, since I've been here, a knockdown drag out."

The Razorbacks have not announced their starting quarterback, although senior Austin Allen's right shoulder has been medically cleared. He said Tuesday he was close to 100 percent. Freshman Cole Kelley, who is 2-2 as a starter the past four games, has a case of turf toe suffered last Saturday but has practiced this week.

"We'll go through walk-through [Friday] afternoon and that's when we'll put the No. 1 quarterback in there and just kind of go from there," Bielema said Thursday night.

Bielema said LSU's defense, which ranks No. 8 in the country with 3.33 sacks per game, is an issue after Allen's four-week layoff from game action.

"Any time you have a guy who hasn't played to step in, especially at a place as daunting as LSU's stadium is and as good as their defense is, that could be an issue," Bielema said. "I would be very, very comfortable with Austin playing, from one rep to every rep."

Allen called LSU a great football team on par with Alabama and Auburn.

"They've got athletes all over the place," Allen said. "They're good, athletic, big, fast, physical and there's a nastiness to their defense. You've got to come out physical and master physicality and if we do that good things will happen."

The Razorbacks have not been intimidated in trips to LSU under Bielema, who is 1-1 against the Tigers in both Fayetteville and Baton Rouge. The Hogs have outscored LSU 58-45 in their past two games at Death Valley.

Bielema notched his first SEC victory in 2014 in shutout fashion (17-0) against the Tigers on a rainy evening in Fayetteville, and the Razorbacks thumped LSU 31-14 in Baton Rouge the next season. But interim Coach Ed Orgeron and the Tigers drilled the Razorbacks with 390 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns in last year's 38-10 victory at Reynolds Razorback Stadium to reclaim the Golden Boot.

Arkansas safety Santos Ramirez said the Tigers' reaction to that victory resonates.

"The fact they ran over there and took that boot, I still remember that image," Ramirez said. "The fact I saw an article where they said they don't even see us as an SEC opponent, that really bothers me. It kind of angers me just thinking about it right now.

"I told those guys over this week of practice, these guys don't even take us serious out here, man. And it's about that time for us to go get what's ours. You know what I'm saying? Everybody's counting us out, but we believe we can come out here and get this Dub. And that's what we're going to do. We're gonna outmuscle these guys."

The unranked 2014 Razorbacks provided one of the iconic moments of the Bielema era by shutting out the No. 17 Tigers on a cold, wet evening. As the Arkansas players raced to the LSU sideline to claim the Golden Boot, they were joined by thousands of fans storming the field to celebrate the end of the Hogs' 17-game SEC losing streak.

That Arkansas upset led to a bitter memory for LSU linebacker Devin White, a native of Springhill, La., near the Arkansas border, who was a key recruiting target for the Hogs.

"That wasn't a good feeling," White said. "It was real cold up there, raining. LSU was getting blown out. I went inside. I didn't finish watching the game. That will never happen again. The tables are turned now. LSU is back on top of that little series."

Bielema's first Arkansas team led the Tigers 27-24 late in the fourth quarter at Death Valley before succumbing to a 99-yard touchdown drive in a 31-27 loss.

"We played a good game, but we weren't able to close it out," Bielema said. "Then in year 2 and 3, when we were able to get back to get a win, we played a complete four-quarter game.

"We didn't do the things that cause defeat. No matter who you're playing in the SEC, there's a lot of things you do to win a game, but there's a lot of things you can do to lose a game, and we did more good than bad."

Both programs have seen that an off game against a Sun Belt team can be a headache.

LSU fell 24-21 to Troy at Tiger Stadium on Sept. 30, a loss that touched off an uproar in south Louisiana with questions about the wisdom of giving Orgeron the full-time job last winter. The Tigers responded with consecutive victories at Florida, against Auburn and at Ole Miss before losing to Alabama.

Arkansas had all it could handle last week against Coastal Carolina, which had an 0-5 Sun Belt record.

"You've got to get your team up to play every week," said Orgeron, who spent the 1986 and '87 seasons at Arkansas as an assistant strength coach. "You cannot play to your opponent's level. That's one thing I think we've learned this year after the Troy game. We have to play LSU football, and I think for the most part, we've done that."

Bielema's Razorbacks need two victories to ensure bowl eligibility, and they might have to pull an upset to get there. They are a 17-point underdog today, and Mississippi State is 7-2 and ranked No. 16 as one of the surprise teams in the SEC heading into today's game against No. 2 Alabama.

For inspiration, the Razorbacks need to look no further than their last visit to Tiger Stadium. The unranked 2015 Razorbacks thumped No. 9 LSU 31-14 with solid defense and a flurry of big plays.

"We really played fast that game, really executed the game plan," said junior linebacker Dre Greenlaw, whose sack and strip of quarterback Brandon Harris led to Alex Collins' 5-yard touchdown and a 21-0 Arkansas lead late in the second half.

"I feel like everybody was just swarming around the ball -- Leonard Fournette was their running back at the time -- and we did a good job of stopping him from getting over 100 yards. We really started off the game well, and it helped create momentum."

Dominique Reed's 52-yard catch-and-run touchdown opened the scoring, and Collins had an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter for the Razorbacks.

"That was a fun game for us," Allen said. "It just seemed like everything went right for us that game. Dominique Reed catching that little 5-yard hitch and taking it [all the way]. The defense played well that game.

"We were just clicking on all cylinders as a team, and hopefully we'll catch a little of that magic on Saturday."

Today’s game

WHEN 11 a.m. Central WHERE Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge RECORDS Arkansas 4-5, 1-4 SEC; LSU 6-3, 3-2 RANKINGS LSU is No. 25 in the USA Today coaches poll, No. 24 in CFP rankings BETTING LINE LSU by 17 COACHES Bret Bielema (29-31 in fifth year at Arkansas, 97-55 in 12th year overall); Ed Orgeron (12-5 in second year at LSU; 28-32 in 6th year overall) SERIES LSU leads 38-22-2 TELEVISION ESPN RADIO Razorback Sports Network, including KABZ-FM103.7, in Little Rock; KQSM-FM, 92.1, KIGL-FM 93.3, KAKS-FM 99.5 and KUOA-AM 1290 in Fayetteville; KERX-FM 95.3 in Fort Smith, Westwood One, Sirius 108, XM 192

Sports on 11/11/2017

Discussion

Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.