5 Observations from Arkansas' 33-10 loss at LSU

By: Jimmy Carter
Published: Monday, November 13, 2017
DJ Chark (7), LSU wide receiver, catches a pass as he runs away from Kamren Curl (2), Arkansas cornerback, and Randy Ramsey (10), Arkansas linebacker, for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.
Photo by Ben Goff
DJ Chark (7), LSU wide receiver, catches a pass as he runs away from Kamren Curl (2), Arkansas cornerback, and Randy Ramsey (10), Arkansas linebacker, for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

— Five observations from Arkansas' 33-10 loss at LSU.

Long-bomb woes

Fayetteville is in the heartland of America, but Kamren Curl knows what it's like to be on an island. Ditto for Henre’ Toliver.

Arkansas’ cornerbacks are increasingly locked up in single coverage without safety help as the Razorbacks devote extra defenders to stopping the run. The result: opposing teams are taking advantage of the matchups down the field for big plays.

LSU receiver DJ Chark was the benefactor Saturday, burning the Razorbacks twice for long touchdowns.

Toliver, a senior, was the first victim. Chark ran a post flag, turning Toliver, who safety Santos Ramirez suggested slowed up, for a 45-yard touchdown late in the first quarter.

He beat Curl, a freshman, on another double move on the first play of the fourth quarter, hauling in a 68-yard touchdown from Danny Etling on third-and-9, a back-breaking touchdown for the Hogs as LSU increased its lead to 26-10.

Ramirez was almost beat deep for another score, but was bailed out by a drop. Still, the two bombs were enough to move Arkansas into sole possession of last place in the SEC with 18 completions of 30 or more yards allowed.

Toliver is an experienced senior, while Curl is a promising freshman. Both have made plays for the Razorbacks this year, but both have been beaten downfield a number of times the last few weeks while often in one-on-one coverage.

It’s become a huge issue.

Whose job is it anyway?

Austin Allen was the starting quarterback for the first time in five weeks, back from the shoulder injury that knocked him out of the South Carolina game.

But part of the reason he got the nod was Cole Kelley’s turf toe. The redshirt freshman injured it against Coastal Carolina last week and his whole foot was swollen Sunday, at which point the Hogs began prepping with Allen as the starter.

Kelley couldn’t practice Thursday or Friday but was able to go on game day, so Bret Bielema inserted him into the game with Allen struggling and Arkansas down 26-10 with 7:14 left, saying he was looking for "a spark," hoping for a third straight comeback win led by the Louisiana native.

It didn’t happen. Kelley was stopped short on a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak on his first drive and intercepted in the end zone with the game out of reach on his second.

He finished 3 of 10 for 36 yards. But his insertion into the game was a sign there is open competition for the job with both able to play. The previous week, Allen was in the game plan but the staff stuck with Kelley in a tight game rather than insert Allen for his first game in a month.

Allen was 13 of 23 for 140 yards against LSU, but missed two deep throws on his final two drives. Downfield accuracy has been a bugaboo for him this year. He badly underthrew an open Jordan Jones on the first, a play that likely would’ve been a touchdown with a good pass. The second, intended for Deon Stewart in the end zone, would’ve been a tough catch, but he overshot him.

Neither quarterback was overly sharp against LSU. They were listed co-starters at the beginning of the week with Arkansas opting not to tip its hand. Expect that to continue.

Guice gash after half

Derrius Guice didn’t kill Arkansas in the first half.

The star junior running back had 48 yards on nine carries, but nothing close to the production he put up last year when he ran for 252 yards on 21 carries against the Hogs. Outside of the first long touchdown to Chark, Arkansas’ defense held up well overall in the opening half, running to the football and gang tackling while holding LSU to a single touchdown.

As usual, sophomore linebacker Scoota Harris led the charge. He finished with 12 tackles, including six solo stops. His ability to track the ball, close ground and make plays in space is impressive.

The Hogs’ fortunes changed after halftime. Guice picked up 71 yards on his first six carries as the Tigers scored touchdowns on their first two drives of the third quarter. He had 56 on three totes on the second drive, including a 19-yard burst and 33-yard touchdown jaunt.

In all, he finished with 147 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. LSU ran for 208 yards on 5.3 yards per carry. The Tigers averaged 7.1 per rush in the second half after managing just 3.3 in the first.

Playing four full quarters of good defense has been a problem for Arkansas’ defense. The past two weeks, the second-half defense was much better than the first. Saturday, the old post-halftime woes returned.

Run to build on

Arkansas had amassed exactly four yards on nine attempts prior to sophomore running back Devwah Whaley ripped off a 21-yard run on Arkansas’ final drive of the first half.

Including that run, Arkansas’ final 25 attempts were good for 138 yards, a strong 5.5 average against a good LSU defense. The Hogs did get stuffed on a fourth-and-short quarterback sneak by Cole Kelley late in the fourth quarter, but they imposed their will for a good chunk of the game, starting with the touchdown drive late in the first half.

They opened room for senior David Williams to run for 81 yards on 13 attempts and sophomore Devwah Whaley to pick up 55 on 12. Sophomore T.J. Hammonds only had three unproductive touches and a dropped pass a week after gaining 179 all-purpose yards on eight touches. The staff made the decision to ride with the more experienced backs the second half.

Whether that was the right call is an opinion, but both Williams and Whaley produced. Each made their share of good plays on their own, Williams evading a tackler in the backfield on a third-and-XX to pick up the first down and Whaley running through an LSU defender on this:

But the makeshift line also took a step forward for the third straight week while dealing with even more injuries. Left guard Hjalte Froholdt, the only lineman to start every game at the same position this year, went down with a lower-leg injury and had to be X-rayed several times, only returning for good when freshman replacement Ty Clary injured his knee in the third quarter.

Clary was called for a costly hold, but also contributed to paving the way for some solid runs.

Arkansas’ line has been a major weakness against good teams most of the year and still allowed pressure to the quarterback Saturday (more on that in a second), but its ability to run the ball the way it did later in the game was an encouraging sign.

Blocking Key

LSU outside linebacker Arden Key is a potential top-10 NFL Draft pick.

The 6-foot-6, 265-pound junior’s size and athleticism makes him a tough matchup, especially now that he’s healthy after battling injuries early in the year.

Arkansas had trouble with him Saturday. He didn’t record the Tigers’ only sack, but had three of their six hurries.

Arkansas wasn’t the first team to have trouble with Key. It won’t be the last.

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