Foot screw and all, LSU DT Christian LaCouture made hurried return for Alabama, ready for Arkansas’ big O-line _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING LSU defensive tackle Christian LaCouture, right, celebrates his sack of Alabama quarterback Jake Coker on Satuday.

About 10 days before LSU played Alabama, Christian LaCouture couldn’t run.

Doctors surgically inserted a screw on the side of his foot on the Thursday before LSU’s game against Western Kentucky, about 16 days before the clash with the Crimson Tide.

He didn’t begin running until about six days later, during the Tigers’ off week.

“They said, ‘Hey, let’s put a screw in and hopefully get you back by Alabama,’” LaCouture said. “I said, ‘Hey, listen, I want to get back for Alabama. It’s a big game.’”

He did, of course.

LaCouture played one of his better games in the 30-16 loss to Alabama. The junior sacked Bama quarterback Jake Coker and then wrapped up receiver Calvin Ridley on a screen pass – a two-play sequence that resulted in negative 15 yards. It all came with him playing on a surgically repaired foot – something that’s completely healed now, he said.

It’s a good thing. No. 9 LSU (7-1, 4-1) hosts Arkansas (5-4, 3-2) on Saturday night. LaCouture and the Tigers’ defensive line meet one of the biggest offensive lines in college football. The Razorbacks’ front five average 6-5, 325 pounds.

“Smashmouth football,” LaCouture said to describe the Razorbacks.

LaCouture hoped to put off surgery on his foot until after the season, but that plan was scrapped when the foot kept swelling as he walked or practiced on it in the days after the game against Florida.

Doctors placed a screw in his fifth metatarsal – along the outside of the foot, along the bone connected to his pinky toe. He watched the win over Western Kentucky on crutches from the sideline.

“I was upset missing the game,” he said. “Really rehabbing hard, trying to get back with my teammates.”

Scoreboard-watching

LSU fans will be rooting harder than usual for Alabama’s opponent Saturday.

Though the Tigers ceded control of the SEC West to the Tide, they can still clinch the division if they win out and Alabama loses one of its remaining two conference games. The Tide travel to No. 17 Mississippi State this weekend and to resurgent rival Auburn on Nov. 28.

The Tiger faithful will eagerly watch the Alabama-MSU clash at 2:30 p.m. before LSU kicks off against Arkansas at 6:15 p.m. But don’t expect coach Les Miles and his players to do the same.

“We’re more focused on what happens in this building than what’s happening in other cities,” redshirt freshman offensive guard Will Clapp said.

Miles said he doesn’t watch any football on Saturdays, focusing instead on preparation for the game at hand. He did claim, however, he would let his players know of “a score that would help my team.”

The one-loss Tigers know they’re still in the hunt for the College Football Playoff with three weeks left in the regular season. But they’re well aware that an Alabama loss won’t matter if they don’t take care of business.

“We’ve got to focus on Arkansas,” senior defensive back Jalen Mills said. “Whatever happens, happens. College football is crazy.”

Just like they drew it up

Miles wants to rip a play right out of Arkansas’ playbook. The only problem is the Razorbacks never had it there in the first place.

Arkansas’ wild overtime win at Ole Miss last Saturday featured a bevy of ups and downs, none more astounding than the Razorbacks’ improbable fourth-and-25 conversion in overtime. Needing a score to force a second overtime, quarterback Brandon Allen fired a 15-yard pass to tight end Hunter Henry.

As a Rebel defender spun him to the ground, Henry blindly flung the ball over his shoulder. Running back Alex Collins scooped up the legal lateral and ran behind a wall of blockers for a 31-yard gain that kept the game alive.

“It’s certainly something we’ll start practicing,” Miles joked.

Allen then tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass and ran in the 2-point conversion to give Arkansas a 53-52 upset win against previously 19th-ranked Ole Miss.

Fightin’ words

Santos Ramirez might be a little bitter.

LSU offered the redshirt freshman safety a scholarship during his recruitment, but only as a fallback option. The Shreveport native chose Arkansas over his home-state university, and he had some choice words for LSU quarterback Brandon Harris ahead of Saturday’s showdown, according to The Arkansas News.

“He is predictable where he wants to go. He has got a good arm on him, but he’s not as accurate,” Ramirez said. “He’s not very good with the ball in terms of decision making but he can really throw the ball and he can get receivers behind us.”

LSU-Arkansas series

LSU and Arkansas have had a long and storied rivalry that began way back in 1901, long before the Razorbacks joined the SEC in 1992. The Tigers lead the all-time series 37-21-2, 14-9 since Arkansas joined the SEC and 6-4 under Les Miles.

In Baton Rouge, the Tigers have lost only twice to the Razorbacks, holding an 11-2-1 lead, Arkansas’ last win coming in 2007. LSU and Arkansas have still played more times in Shreveport than any other site. The teams met there 25 times from 1913-56, with LSU holding a 16-9 edge.

Ross Dellenger, Marcus Rodrigue and Scott Rabalais contributed to this report.