As the clock wound down and fans stormed the field on that frigid night last season, the entire Arkansas football team sprinted toward LSU’s sideline to claim its prize.
The Razorbacks had just held the 20th-ranked Tigers to 123 total yards and zero points, snapping a 17-game Southeastern Conference losing streak on their home field. On top of that, second-year coach Bret Bielema had finally earned a signature win in a season rife with close losses.
But the only thing that seemed to matter to Arkansas’ players was The Golden Boot, which they hoisted in celebration before the Tigers had even entered their locker room.
“We’re looking forward to playing for that trophy and bringing that trophy back to Baton Rouge,” junior linebacker Kendell Beckwith said. “Get it back on our side.”
LSU’s 17-0 loss to the Razorbacks last year is still a painful memory for the Tigers, who surrendered the Boot for the first time in four years. After a 30-16 loss to Alabama last weekend, they’re eager to snatch the 175-pound, 24-karat gold trophy back when they host Arkansas at 6:15 p.m. Saturday.
“Certainly it’s a very important piece,” LSU coach Les Miles said of the trophy Wednesday. “We recognize we don’t have it. We recognize we’re playing for it. It’s certainly an important rival and one that befits a trophy of the magnitude of the Boot.”
Last year’s game against Arkansas (5-4, 3-2 SEC) came on the heels of a loss to the Tide as well. LSU failed to knock off No. 4 Alabama, which escaped Tiger Stadium in an overtime thriller, then fell out of SEC and College Football Playoff contention with its third loss.
Senior defensive back Jalen Mills said he doesn’t think the Tigers experienced a hangover from the Alabama game, but they appeared lifeless and out of sync in Razorback Stadium.
The case is different this season. With only one loss and a No. 9 ranking in the latest CFP standings, LSU (7-1, 4-1 SEC) can still win the conference or even sneak into the top four at the end of the year.
The Tigers need help in the form of an Alabama loss against one of its two remaining SEC foes, but LSU must take care of its own business first — starting with avoiding a repeat of last year’s Arkansas game.
“You can’t lay down after one mishap,” Beckwith said. “You have to keep pushing and working. We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
Miles said he knows “very little” about LSU’s investigation into whether sophomore running back Leonard Fournette’s family committed an NCAA violation by creating a website to sell “BUGA Nation” merchandise.
“What I do know is positive,” he said Wednesday at his post-practice news conference. “That’s all I can say.”
The website launched a few days before Fournette’s college debut in 2014 and was shut down one day later. Fournette and his family coined the “Being United Generates Attitude” acronym while he was still at St. Augustine High School.
Miles said he doesn’t think the investigation has affected Fournette.
“I spoke to him about the perimeter, not about it specifically,” the coach said. “I think he gets it.”
Hawthorne still sidelined
Long-time LSU radio announcer Jim Hawthorne will sit out the Arkansas game after undergoing an undisclosed medical procedure two weeks ago.
Patrick Wright will again handle the call, as he did for last week’s game at Alabama. Wright will also fill in for Hawthorne for Friday’s men’s basketball opener against McNeese State.
LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette said Hawthorne is recuperating nicely and hopes to call the men’s basketball game Nov. 19 against South Alabama. He will likely not be allowed to travel to Ole Miss next week but hopes to be back in Tiger Stadium for Texas A&M on Nov. 28.
Hawthorne, 71, announced his plans to retire earlier this year following basketball season. Last week’s game ended a string of 387 straight LSU football games he called dating to 1984.
Halftime show canceled
LSU is 0-for-2 on halftime concerts.
Hip hop artist Aloe Blacc will not perform at halftime of Saturday’s LSU-Arkansas game as previously planned, the school’s athletic department announced Wednesday. He was scheduled to take the Tiger Stadium field with LSU’s Golden Band from Tigerland, but Blacc’s promoter declined an offer from Halftime Live, LSU’s new halftime show partner.
LSU’s band will perform its annual “Salutes Show” on Saturday to honor the university’s military history.
Rock band OneRepublic was slated for a similar performance at halftime of the LSU-Florida game Oct. 17, but the show was also canceled after LSU claimed the show’s promoter was “unable to abide by the contractual terms.”
Advocate sportswriter Scott Rabalais contributed to this report.