In a cramped room in the bowels of Razorback Stadium, Les Miles wore the face of someone whose team just lost 17-0.
A week earlier, he wore the face of a man frustrated with an overtime loss to a bitter rival.
Did that 20-13 defeat to Alabama have anything to do with the loss to Arkansas?
“It’d be impossible for me to say, ‘No, that didn’t happen,’” Miles said in that post-game news conference Saturday night.
Even its own coach can’t completely rule out a hangover. That stinging loss to the Crimson Tide — LSU led 13-10 in the final minute — clearly had an effect seven days later in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
LSU (7-4, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) gets an extra five days to shrug off the latest performance at Arkansas. The Tigers meet Texas A&M (7-4, 3-4) in College Station, Texas, on Thanksgiving night.
The squad has practiced this week and will take off Friday and Saturday before resuming drills Sunday, normally a day off.
The game pits teams tied for fifth place in the SEC Western Division. The winner assures it won’t finish in the Western Division cellar, gets a nationally televised victory over a chief recruiting rival, avoids a losing record in conference play and, maybe, nabs a more prestigious bowl game.
Is that enough? Maybe.
For LSU, one hangover can’t lead to another.
Players won’t admit that the Alabama loss had something to do with the outing against the Razorbacks.
“No hangover,” defensive tackle Christian LaCouture said. “We moved on. We prepared. We had a great week of practice.”
No one can be quite sure. Miles admitted after the Arkansas game that the loss to the Tide could have had an effect and that he was “looking for answers.”
Brock Huard, the former Washington quarterback who served as the color analyst for LSU’s game at Arkansas, said LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron told the ESPN crew that LSU’s locker room after the loss to Alabama was one of the most emotional he’s been around.
A Miles team doesn’t lose often after a defeat. In fact, LSU entered the game against Arkansas 25-1 under Miles after a loss — and that includes rebounding victories after four losses to Alabama.
The difference: Aside from one year, LSU has followed each game against Alabama since 2007 by playing a nonconference team at home.
LSU’s games against the Tide are physically exhausting matches between two of the biggest and strongest teams in college football. The Tigers came out beat up.
Vadal Alexander missed the game against Arkansas with a hand injury suffered against Bama, and defensive Jermauria Rasco didn’t appear fully healthy.
LSU wasn’t meeting Louisiana Tech or Troy — opponents it’s normally played after Bama. Miles’ crew, this time, took to the road against a hungry squad in frigid conditions.
The weather Thanksgiving night in College Station is expected to be much warmer — the low forecast at 44 — but everything else is the same.
“One thing we know how to do around here is we know how to bounce back from a loss,” running back Terrence Magee said. “We lose two in a row. We’re going to come out and we’re going to prepare on this bye week going into the game, and we’re going to get better and see if we can’t correct this thing.”