HOGS face monumental task at LSU
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas’ beleaguered defense faces the leading Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback and a short running back tall on rushing numbers Saturday night at No. 1 LSU.
The Razorbacks (2-8 overall, 0-6 in the SEC) under interim coach Barry Lunney Jr., and Coach Ed Orgeron’s top-ranked Tigers (10-0, 6-0) clash at 6 p.m. Saturday at Tiger Stadium, also known as Death Valley. ESPN will televise the SEC West game.
Statistically, LSU has been the valley of death for opposing defenses, especially last Saturday. In a 58-37 SEC victory at Ole Miss, quarterback Joe Burrow completed 32 of 42 passes for 489 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions.
Ja’Marr Chase caught eight passes for 227 yards and surpassed 100 yards receiving for a third consecutive game. Justin Jefferson caught nine for 112 yards and two TDs.
And 5-8 running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire surpassed 100 yards rushing for a third consecutive game, running for a career high 172 yards with a 49-yard TD on 23 carries.
LSU amassed 714 yards total offense against an Ole Miss team that beat Arkansas 31-17 in September before the Razorbacks let go of the rope, and the UA let go of Coach Chad Morris. Arkansas fired Morris after a poor second half in a 24-20 loss at Kentucky preceded by 51-10, 48-7, 54-24 and 45-19 shellackings administered by Auburn, Alabama, Mississippi State and Western Kentucky.
From Kentucky on, Arkansas has allowed 418, 491, 459, 640 and 478 yards total offense to teams with far less offensive firepower than LSU. All those teams have some big offensive weapons, but none complementing each other like Burrow, who can also run, in the passing game and Edwards-Helaire in the run game.
Burrow doesn’t just beat you with his arm and his legs but his mind, Lunney said.
“He just reeks of poise,” said Lunney. “You see a guy in control. You see a guy who has a great supporting cast. He knows his coaches are putting him in great situations to succeed. He knows exactly where he's going with the ball. All the characteristics you would want to see in a great quarterback on top of being big, strong and throwing it. He's really good.”
And Burrow makes other good ones, like Edwards-Helaire, even better.
“He presents a lot of problems,” Lunney said of Edwards-Helaire. “He's low, and he's got great pad level, and he's strong as an ox.”
And because of Burrow’s passing game, the numbers tend to be in Edwards-Helaire’s favor running the ball.
“The box is kind of a little bit thinner,” Lunney said. “There's not many guys in there because they've got you spread out. That creates a great challenge as well, and they spread you out and throw the ball around then they hand it to somebody with his talent behind a line that's got that talent, size and stature. That’s makes a great balanced offense. It creates challenges.”
How can an Arkansas defense that hasn’t stopped lesser offenses than LSU’s stop the Tigers?
“Our focus is to play our best game,” Lunney said. “In order to do that, you've got to play your gap, your responsibility, play with grit and toughness, great effort, and do a great job of tackling.”
POOL AT PRACTICE
Arkansas sophomore starting linebacker Bumper Pool, in a yellow no-practice jersey last week because of an injury during the 45-19 loss to Western Kentucky, was at work Tuesday during the media’s early viewing of the practice.