Les Miles didn’t even wait for the inevitable question.
Seven days after Alabama dominated LSU in all phases of the game, the Tigers trudged to a similar outcome against four-loss Arkansas on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. It felt a bit like déjà vu: For the second year in a row, LSU followed a crushing loss to the Tide with an uninspired performance against the underdog Razorbacks.
But less than a minute into the opening statement of his postgame news conference, LSU’s coach dispelled any correlation between the games.
“Anyone who would think this is a hangover from the Alabama game, that is absolutely untrue,” Miles said. “I thought (the players) fought. I thought they made mistakes. They wanted this game.”
LSU surrendered big plays and struggled to maintain offensive continuity as surging Arkansas scored a 31-14 victory.
Saturday’s result wasn’t quite the 17-0 shutout the host Razorbacks (6-4, 4-2 Southeastern) posted last season. But Miles couldn’t explain how the pair of losses to Arkansas and the circumstances surrounding them played out in eerily similar fashions.
“The quality team happens to show up at a time we are mistake-ridden, as opposed to another spot on our schedule,” he said. “It just happens.”
LSU (7-2, 4-2) allowed three touchdowns of 52 yards or more, and sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris fumbled inside the Tigers’ 20-yard line and finished his night with an interception in the end zone.
Players were just as baffled as Miles when asked about their back-to-back letdowns against Arkansas. They also insisted they didn’t experience a hangover from the Alabama loss.
“We came into this game prepared to the best of our ability. I felt like we had a great week of practice,” receiver Malachi Dupre said. “I feel like the Alabama loss didn’t affect us at all.”
Despite the preparation, the Tigers found themselves in a 21-0 hole with about four minutes remaining in the first half. Though LSU showed signs of life by sandwiching a pair of touchdown drives around halftime, it couldn’t muster much more, prompting fans to head for the exits early in the fourth quarter.
Defensive tackle Christian LaCouture acknowledged how some could claim lingering effects of the Alabama loss manifested themselves Saturday, but he also maintained that wasn’t the case.
“You can connect the dots, but we knew coming in here there was no hangover. None,” he said. “We move on. We have a 24-hour rule on this football team. We move forward. It was another SEC West opponent, a very physical football team. I thought we had a great week of practice — very physical. We knew how it was coming in here; we just didn’t come out on top.”
One step closer
Though he had his second quiet outing in as many weeks, running back Leonard Fournette crept closer to an LSU program record.
Fournette rushed for 91 yards on 19 carries — another blow to his Heisman Trophy campaign — but passed Jeremy Hill (1,401 yards in 2013) for second place on the school’s single-season rushing list. Fournette, now at 1,474 yards, needs 213 more to surpass Charles Alexander, who rushed for 1,686 yards in 1977.
After averaging 193 yards in the first seven games, Fournette has totaled 122 yards in losses to Alabama and Arkansas.
“Defenses come to stop the run,” Fournette said Saturday. “Nine or 10 people in the box, they’re ready for the run.”
Miles-coached LSU teams don’t lose consecutive games often. But Arkansas has been the culprit in all three instances.
Saturday night’s defeat dropped LSU to 27-3 following a loss under Miles. Arkansas also beat the Tigers after they lost to Alabama last year and eked out a one-point win in 2008 the week after Ole Miss beat LSU.