FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — One step forward, one step back.
That’s been No. 25 Arkansas’ modus operandi throughout almost this entire season, and that continued in a 38-10 home defeat Saturday to No. 24 LSU.
The Hogs (6-4 overall, 2-4 SEC) haven’t strung together consecutive victories since September.
The loss Saturday also means The Golden Boot trophy is heading to Baton Rouge, La., for the first time since 2013. As a matter of fact, when LSU jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead Saturday, it was the first time the Tigers have led in this game since 2013.
We’ll have plenty of coverage from the Arkansas-LSU game here on SEC Country, but for now, here’s a quick recap:
Allen was not himself
Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen was an efficient, accurate quarterback through the first 8 games of the season. Saturday marked the second consecutive game where he hasn’t looked nearly as sharp.
Is something lingering from that Auburn loss last month? He suffered a knee injury and had to leave the game, and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said that if the Hogs had played the next week and not been on a bye, Allen probably would have sat out.
But if Allen is banged up, it’s perfectly understandable. This man has been beaten to a pulp this season behind a porous offensive line. Whether it’s the knee or something else, it’s no mystery why he’s struggling to maintain that early-season accuracy.
Offensive line struggles again
The poor play of the Arkansas offensive line has been written about ad nauseum this season.
But after Johnny Gibson entered the starting lineup against Florida, it seemed that maybe — just maybe — the Hogs had figured something out up front.
It’s now clear that the unit still has a long way to go.
Allen was sacked on the second play of the game. The Hogs averaged 3.4 yards per carry as a team.
Arkansas had some success on sweeps and running plays that went to the outside but had a really hard time running up the middle.
Ditto for run defense
After all the changes made by Arkansas’ defensive staff between the Auburn and Florida games, it sure seemed like things had improved drastically. After all, the Hogs went from allowing 543 rushing yards against Auburn to surrendering just 12 against the Gators.
But from the start Saturday, it was apparent that the Florida game was merely a mirage.
LSU rushed for 390 yards against the Hogs. Star Tigers running back Leonard Fournette — who is not 100 percent because of an ankle injury — carried the ball 17 times for 98 yards and 3 touchdowns, and that’s with him sitting out the entire fourth quarter.
Even things like poor tackling seemed to come back. Midway through the third quarter, LSU faced a third-and-2 from its own 27-yard line when Derrius Guice — Fournette’s backup — broke a Josh Liddell tackle, got around the edge and picked up 38 yards. A few plays later, the Tigers scored another touchdown that essentially put the game out of reach for the Hogs.
In each of Arkansas’ four losses this year, the winning team has rushed for at least 250 yards.
Another 1,000-yard rusher
With an 18-yard run early in the third quarter, Arkansas sophomore Rawleigh Williams III surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season. He becomes the latest Bret Bielema running back to accomplish the feat.
Bielema has had at least one 1,000-yard rusher in each of his 11 seasons — at both Wisconsin and Arkansas — as a head coach.
After Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams both left for the NFL, the question of who would rush for 1,000 yards this season was one on a lot of Arkansas fans’ minds during the preseason. And even as true freshman Devwah Whaley has taken on an enhanced role over the past few weeks, Williams remains the Razorbacks’ No. 1 back.
Speaking of Whaley …
The true freshman and former 4-star prospect made a big impression with one early second-quarter play. He took a handoff and swept around the edge, picked up 34 yards and — on his way out of bounds — reached out and shoved star LSU safety Jamal Adams to the ground with his right arm.
Devwah Whaley just THREW future first-rounder Jamal Adams pic.twitter.com/gsCb36p7F1
— Jack McGuire (@TailgateHeisman) November 13, 2016
Whaley has shown more and more over the past couple of weeks that not only does he belong in the SEC, but very well could be a superstar in this league.
Arkansas trailed 7-0 early late in the first quarter when Allen faked a handoff and — despite having plenty of time to assess the defense — threw the ball right into the hands of LSU linebacker Donnie Alexander.
Three plays later, Fournette powered his way into the end zone to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead.
The Arkansas crowd — which was loud and intense early in the game — quieted down considerably, and it never felt like the Hogs had much of a shot after Fournette’s score.
What we learned
Arkansas is not going to be a 10-win team this season. That possibility remained after the Florida win last week, but is done following LSU’s victory Saturday.
The best the Hogs can now hope for is a 9-win finish — including a bowl game — and that still would be an improvement over last year’s 8-5 finish.
Arkansas travels to Mississippi State (4-6, 2-4 SEC) next Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.
That’s the good news after the LSU game: The really, really tough portion of Arkansas’ schedule is in the past. The Hogs wrap up with trips to face the Bulldogs — who have struggled mightily this season without Dak Prescott — and Missouri, which is one of the worst teams in the entire SEC.