FAYETTEVILLE -- The movable force meets the stoppable object on one side of the ball as Arkansas hosts No. 7 LSU today at 6:30 p.m.
The Razorbacks are coming off perhaps their worst defensive showing of the season in a 45-31 loss to the previously pedestrian offense of Vanderbilt two weeks ago. The Commodores racked up 442 total yards, scored touchdowns on six of their first 12 possessions, converted 5 of 10 third downs and bludgeoned the Razorbacks -- minus senior linebacker Dre Greenlaw -- with a bruising running attack and a devastating screen game through the air.
"It's simple, we didn't play well enough to win," Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis said. "You don't like saying those things, but you've got to be honest that's what happened."
The week after Vanderbilt was getting happy in a battle of the only 0-4 teams in the SEC, the LSU Tigers slammed into the rapidly improving Alabama defense -- and hardly moved the Tide.
LSU ran for 12 yards and managed 196 yards of total offense while being shut out 29-0 by the No. 1 Crimson Tide. Even Cole Tracy, one of the Tigers' top weapons, was off his game, missing a 33-yard field goal that would have avoided the team's second shutout against Alabama in the last two games at Tiger Stadium.
"We're all disappointed, no question," LSU Coach Ed Orgeron said of the shutout, the second for the Tigers since a 10-0 loss at home against Alabama in 2016. "We could have coached better, we could have executed better, line of scrimmage struggled at times. We've got to get them more help.
"Obviously only 12 yards rushing, that's not going to win any football games. And that's been our strength."
Both units will be looking to rebound tonight in what is expected to be a cool setting at kickoff heading toward an overnight freeze dipping below 20 degrees.
"Offensively, there's talent all over the field," Chavis said. "They're playing some younger players than they have in the past, and a lot of times when you think of LSU you think it's going to be juniors and seniors, but they are playing some younger guys."
Junior transfer Joe Burrow, originally an Ohio State signee, won the quarterback job in training camp and has had ups and downs.
The 6-4, 216-pounder is completing 53.5 percent of his passes (138 of 258) to rank 13th among the 14 SEC starters, ahead of only Nick Fitzgerald (50.8 percent) of Mississippi State. Burrow also ranks 13th in SEC passing efficiency (114.33), one spot behind Arkansas junior Ty Storey.
The Tigers rank 10th in the SEC in rushing with 170.8 yards per game, one spot behind the Razorbacks (176.0). LSU is 12th in SEC total offense with 362.8 yards per game, two spots behind Arkansas (378.4).
Burrow has thrown four interceptions, including one Florida returned for a touchdown to clinch a victory, and no touchdown passes in the last four games.
"We need to look at what's going on," Orgeron said. "It has a lot to do with the defenses that we're playing. But again, it all starts with protection first and it all starts with catching the football, and those are the things that we're looking at right now."
Burrow's protection comes from an offensive front that starts sophomores in center Lloyd Cushenberry III and tackles Saahdiq Charles and Austin Deculus, along with senior left guard Garrett Brumfield and junior right guard Damien Lewis.
Burrow ranks seventh in the SEC with 18.7 percent of his dropbacks under pressure resulting in sacks, per CFBFilmRoom. By contrast, Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey ranks second in the same department, behind Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa, with 10.7 percent of his pressured dropbacks resulting in sacks.
The Tigers have an interesting scoring trend which no other team in the SEC can approach offensively. LSU has tried 24 field goals, the same number of successful extra points Tracy has converted. The Tigers' 26 touchdowns are the fewest in the SEC, one behind Arkansas.
The Razorbacks' defense has improved marginally in its first season under Chavis after hitting historic lows the last two years. Arkansas has allowed 38 touchdowns, second-most in the SEC behind the 40 given up by Ole' Miss.
Arkansas ranks 80th among the 130 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, allowing 412.9 yards per game.
After outgaining Auburn 290-225 in total yardage, then holding Texas A&M to 377 yards, the Razorbacks were gouged for 639 yards and 611 yards by Alabama and Ole Miss, respectively.
Arkansas is No. 102 in pass defense efficiency and No. 101 in points allowed at 33.7 per game. The scoring number hasn't been helped by Arkansas allowing five non-offensive touchdowns, including two on interception returns and multiple other touchdowns set up by turnovers.
The Razorbacks are No. 56 in run defense, allowing 153.6 yards per game.
"On defense, obviously they're hit and miss," Orgeron said of the Razorbacks. "But I know they're going to play their best game against us. They have some good rushers, can put some pressure on the quarterback. Chavis likes to blitz. I know the type of athletes they have at Arkansas. I know the type of crowd they're going to have, so we're expecting their best shot."
Sports on 11/10/2018
Print Headline: Tigers look to get offense on track