FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Derrius Guice saw his LSU teammates race across the field to grab an awkward-looking, 4-foot-high, 175-pound gold trophy in the shape of Louisiana and Arkansas.
He wasn’t about to follow.
“I was tired,” the LSU running back said with a smile.
There are 96 reasons why.
Guice had a 96-yard touchdown run — the longest play from scrimmage in program history — and the No. 19 Tigers walloped the Razorbacks 38-10 on Saturday night in Razorback Stadium, reclaiming that Golden Boot they’ve missed so dearly.
“Our guys wanted to get the boot,” interim coach Ed Orgeron said, “and bring it back to Louisiana.”
LSU found a cure for its Alabama hangover: Orgeron’s fiery energy and a bruising running game. The result: the Tigers' largest win against the Hogs since 2004.
Leonard Fournette and Guice ran for a combined 350 yards, and LSU’s salty defense stuffed the Razorbacks (6-4, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) in another rousing defensive performance by one of the nation’s best units. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s crew gobbled up three turnovers, had a pair of goal-line stands and forced six three-and-outs.
The unit has allowed 10 touchdowns in nine games, leading the country in that category.
They had motivation, too, defensive lineman Davon Godchaux said.
“Everybody was ticked off because a statement came out from (the Arkansas) head coach, saying they’re more physical than us,” Godchaux said. “We took that personal.”
Orgeron’s team bounced back from that 10-0 loss to the top-ranked Crimson Tide last week — something the Tigers failed to do under Les Miles the past two seasons. LSU has followed a physically and emotionally exhausting loss to Alabama by falling to the Hogs, losing 31-14 in Baton Rouge last year and 17-0 in freezing temperatures in Fayetteville in 2014.
What was difference this week?
“Resolve. Fight. We heard all the stuff. Heard all the stuff (about) the past,” Orgeron said. “It’s a new team, new mindset. We act different. We think different. You saw tonight.”
“Arkansas sees us as an easy victory every time we lose to Bama because we always play them right after,” Guice said. “They felt like it was a tradition for them to beat us every time we play Alabama and lose. Just happy we got to bring the Boot back home. I know it means a lot to the seniors and older guys.”
They staved off coach Bret Bielema’s team, scoring the first 21 points to win a critical game for the candidacy of Orgeron as full-time leader of the program.
Temperatures dipped into the 30s by game's end — around the same time the Tigers (6-3, 4-2) made history with Guice’s 96-yard jaunt. The slippery sophomore finished with 252 yards — the second-most in school history — on just 21 carries.
“Play before that, I purposely got a run for loss to get that run,” he said, laughing, of his 1-yard loss on the previous play. “I set it up.”
They have much more to celebrate than just reclaiming that odd, bulky trophy.
LSU became bowl eligible for the 17th straight season in front of representatives from the Liberty, Independence and Citrus bowls, all of them watching from the press box. Auburn’s loss at Georgia on Saturday sets up the Tigers to land a potential spot in the Sugar Bowl if they win their final two games.
Safety Jamal Adams and his teammates are well aware of that, he said. But the final two game won’t be easy; both are against ranked foes.
Florida visits Baton Rouge next Saturday for a noon kickoff in a game relocated from Gainesville, and the Tigers finish the season at Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night. The Gators (7-2, 5-2) are playing with the SEC East championship on the line. With a win, coach Jim McElwain’s team will play SEC West champ Alabama in the title game Dec. 3 in Atlanta.
“We’ve got two tough tasks ahead of us,” Orgeron said, “but we’re going to enjoy tonight.”
Orgeron and players preached all week that they would avoid the Bama hangover, with their fiery new leader re-energizing the program. They proved that, scoring on three of their first four drives and rolling up 222 yards by halftime, nearly 100 yards more than LSU had in four quarters against Alabama.
They redeemed themselves, in a way. No unit did it more than an offensive line that was stormed by the Tide a week ago. That same group created massive holes Saturday.
“We’re tired of hearing that. I know the O-linemen got fed up with that. Alabama always stacks 10 people in the box to stop us. They’re scared as well,” Guice said. “It’s always good to do our bread and butter and run down teams' throats and be physical. They’re tired of hearing that they’re poo and that they can’t block and we’re also tired of hearing that we can’t run (after) Alabama and that we can’t run after we play them.”
Not everything is rosy. There's worry against the Gators and their salty defense, as well as Fournette’s status.
He reinjured that bruised and sprained high left ankle in the second quarter and returned to run for 50 more yards. He missed the final quarter and a half of the game but finished with 98 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries.
Arkansas defensive lineman Bijhon Johnson dropped Fournette for a 5-yard loss and then tumbled onto his left leg in the second quarter. Fournette limped off the field, got retaped during halftime and returned to shake off that 35-yard performance in four quarters against the Tide.
“I think we all had a chip, something we wanted to prove,” Orgeron said. “Those guys take a lot of pride in what we do. Everybody was disappointed in our performance.”