There was a time Saturday when it looked more like some sort of Veterans Day parade in Tiger Stadium than a football game.
It was a class with honors on the field at each timeout. Former LSU baseball players Alex Bregman and Will Harris from the world champion Houston Astros. The College World Series runner-up LSU baseball team. The LSU Women’s College World Series team. Former LSU women’s basketball great Sylvia Fowles, whose jersey is being retired Sunday. Heck, even the two pilots who creased the wild blue yonder with their precision flyover just before kickoff. Thank you for your service and for running such straight routes, airmen.
As for football, everyone seemed to be having trouble getting into the right frame of mind with Saturday’s 11 a.m. kickoff, the earliest for an LSU home game in nine years. Or even just the right frame. Big blank blocks appeared on the north end zone video board during the first half.
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LSU started its first two drives in primo position at its 49- and 42-yard lines. The Tigers wound up with zero points, first with a punt, then with a red-zone meltdown as poor Connor Culp, previously rock solid, blew a circuit and missed a chippy 32-yard field goal.
LSU managed a touchdown on its third drive as Danny Etling dialed deep for DJ Chark on a 45-yard touchdown strike.
John Battle noticed.
What Alabama hangover?
That was it, though, at least for the first half. LSU’s offense spun and sputtered while Arkansas worked deep into its playbook and came up with an impressive 86-yard drive to tie the score 7-7 just before halftime.
The Tigers might have arrived for this one on a flat tire, but after the halftime deadlock they pumped up their collective performance enough to pull away for what will go down as a convincing 33-10 win. The defense only allowed a field goal. Etling went long for Chark again on a 68-yard bomb, and Derrius Guice was at his slippery, whirling-dervish best with 147 yards and a season-high three touchdowns. Were it not for Culp’s kicking issues, missing the field goal and two subsequent second-half extra points, LSU would likely have matched its 38-10 winning score from last year at Fayetteville.
You can still ask how productive Ed Orgeron will be long-term at LSU. So far, though, he’s proven that getting a team back up to give a winning effort after a tough loss is his forte. The Tigers are 13-5 since he took over from Les Miles and have come back for victory after each of the five losses.
“Coach O and the strength staff and the coaches having us ready,” tight end Foster Moreau said. “It was a great game plan and we made great adjustments at halftime. Credit to the coaches. Credit to Coach O for not giving us that post-Alabama lull we’ve seen in previous years.”
History won’t record this as one of LSU’s great teams, but it does have resilience and tenacity, backbone and bone-jarring heavy hitters (see White, Devin).
LSU could have been toast after a disastrous September with a 30-point loss to Mississippi State and that debacle against Troy. At the time, it was hard to make an argument for three more victories to even make the Tigers bowl eligible. Since then, LSU hasn’t been College Football Playoff timber, but the Tigers are 4-1, and even their 24-10 loss last week at Alabama had a commendable they-gave-it-all-they-had quality.
Playing the first five drives about as well as it could play, the LSU defense was likely one stop away from pitching a first-half shutout agai…
A trend has emerged with DJ Chark.
There was a sound argument to be made last week that after losing to Alabama, it was time for LSU to focus on the future, ditching fifth-year senior Etling for freshman Myles Brennan. Unrealistic, though, to think that Orgeron or any coach in his position would go in that direction.
LSU has a chance to win out, and you can also make the argument that winning, even against teams you clearly should beat, carries its own weight, that every win moves the Tigers closer to returning to national relevance. A loss like this would have definitely pushed the program further away. That didn’t happen, as LSU pushed away the morning blahs and the Razorbacks in equal measure.