FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — In search of its third straight win over rival LSU, Arkansas was routed by the Tigers 38-10 Saturday night.
Arkansas (6-4, 2-4 SEC) was coming off one of its most impressive wins of the season, 31-10 a week earlier against Florida.
Here’s SEC Country’s film session breakdown of how the Hogs were outdone in the Battle for the Golden Boot.
Run defense shredded once again
After holding Florida to 12 rushing yards a week ago, there was some belief Arkansas may have solved its issues stopping the run. LSU quickly proved that theory wrong.
The Tigers rushed for 390 yards and had the longest play in program history on a 96-yard score by backup running back Derrius Guice. LSU was the third SEC West opponent this season to rush for at least 360 yards against the Hogs.
The issue isn’t so much Arkansas getting dominated on every play. It’s more about the Hogs’ inability to prevent huge runs. On a handful of occasions, Arkansas limited LSU only to give up big gains on a following play. The Tigers had 12 runs of at least 10 yards.
Here’s a look at what went wrong on Guice’s record-breaking score. The play is blocked decently well, and Guice does a tremendous job of finding the hole and making a cut. Still, this should not have gone for more than a moderate gain. Safety Santos Ramirez (No. 9) did not have a good game in run support and he fails here. He’s unblocked and should be able to get to Guice once he’s gained around 6 yards. Instead, he takes a bad angle and gets off balance as Guice leaves him in the dust.
GUICE IS RIDICULOUSLY FAST pic.twitter.com/3BFYl2vnPV
— The LSU Logo (@LSU_Logo) November 13, 2016
The edge of the defense, or lack thereof, was a major issue when Arkansas allowed Auburn to rush for 543 earlier this season. The Hogs have been better at preventing huge gains around the edge since then, but still struggled with it in some key situations against LSU.
On this play, LSU running back Leonard Fournette takes a stretch handoff and uses his superb speed to get to the corner and gain 17 yards. This came on a second-and-19 with LSU backed up deep in its own territory, the score 21-10 and the momentum turning toward Arkansas. The Tigers picked up the first down on the next play, scored on the drive and were in firm control the rest of the way. Linebacker Brooks Ellis (No. 51), defensive end JaMichael Winston (No. 6) and Ramirez all could be viewed as responsible for not making Fournette turn back inside. All three played the run too far upfield and inside.
Look at this hole on a 3-yard touchdown run by Guice. That is way too easy.
In just his fifth game as LSU’s offensive coordinator, Steve Ensminger devised a game plan that clearly overwhelmed Arkansas. The most telling evidence was a third-and-4 on the Tigers’ first drive of the game. According to coach Ed Orgeron, Ensminger called in this play once he realized the Hogs had no one to account for Fournette on a swing pass.
The call worked to perfection. The three receivers on the left side of the formation run across the field to clear out space, both linebackers blitz, the defensive end shoots upfield and no one is around to stop Fournette from gaining 38 yards. The drive concludes with a Fournette rushing touchdown, the first time all season LSU has scored on its opening drive.
What’s wrong with Allen?
Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen had by far his worst game of the season. It was so uncharacteristic that some wondered if he is fully healthy from the sprained knee he suffered against Auburn, but both he and coach Bret Bielema insisted his health is fine.
So what exactly was wrong? There’s no way to say for sure, but it’s pretty clear how vital his play has been to this point. The offense is going nowhere without him on top of his game.
Allen completed 15 of his 31 pass attempts, the first time this season he’s completed under 50 percent of his passes in a game. He finished with 210 yards, but 131 of those came in the fourth quarter with the Hogs trailing by at least 3 touchdowns and the outcome hardly in doubt. His footwork and timing were off, and his decision-making was poor.
On his first of 2 interceptions, he made a bad decision to try and throw to receiver Keon Hatcher rather than Drew Morgan. What it looks like happened here is Allen thought he was getting man-to-man coverage, but instead it was zone. LSU linebacker Donnie Alexander looks to Allen as if he’s going to stick with Morgan on a crossing route before sinking back into his zone and underneath the pass to Hatcher. Even if it had been man coverage, it’s clear to see throwing to Morgan was still the better option. The Tigers rarely ever play zone, but used it effectively against Arkansas. That may have been the biggest reason for some of Allen’s struggles.
This play almost resulted in an interception, but it should’ve been a touchdown. If Allen throws the ball at the time of the screenshot, he has a great chance to connect with Hatcher coming open in the end zone. Instead, he holds on the ball too long and the pass is batted down with Hatcher running out of room. Again, for whatever reason, Allen just seemed off.
Not enough consistency up front
Arkansas’ offensive line wasn’t quite as bad in this game as past losses, and actually showed at times the solid performance against Florida may not be a total fluke. The unit’s biggest issue against LSU was consistency. It wasn’t there at all, often taking one step forward only to take two backwards on the plays that followed.
Here was the good. The line opens a huge hole for running back Rawleigh Williams III, who gains 18 yards and sets up a first-and-goal.
But two plays later, you see the bad as the line gets no push, Williams is stuffed for no gain and the drive stalls with Arkansas settling for a field goal to make it 21-10. That was a critical sequence. The Hogs must be able to score touchdowns to beat good teams.
The pass blocking from the offensive line was solid. At least one of the 3 sacks was clearly a mistake in protection by a running back — that will be discussed later. On several occasions, Allen had time and just didn’t deliver a good pass or make the right decision.
Whaley is a beast
The more comfortable freshman running back Devwah Whaley becomes at this level, the more he continues to impress. He rushed for a team-high 52 yards on 7 carries and caught a screen pass for 23 yards.
Whaley’s most-impressive highlight of the night came when he ruthlessly shoved LSU safety Jamal Adams, a junior and projected first-round NFL draft pick, to the ground to finish a 34-yard run.
However, he is still a freshman, and that also showed in this game. He’s improved drastically in pass protection throughout the season, yet still has a lot of room to grow in that department. On this play, he made the wrong decision by stepping up too early to help right tackle Brian Wallace, which allows a linebacker to come unblocked and sack Allen.