The last time LSU played a live football game was three weeks ago on Halloween. On The Plains against Auburn, a hot start defensively turned into one of the worst performances in the program’s history in the blink of an eye.
Unlike its last outing against Auburn, LSU was able to sustain a hot start defensively, helping it edge Arkansas for the fifth consecutive year, 27-24.
The Tigers’ defense came into Fayetteville depleted as it was without two of its top safeties —Maurice Hampton and Jordan Toles—but that did not stop the Tiger defense from containing Arkansas’ offense and making plays with the game on the line.
Much of the defensive success can be credited to the Tigers’ offense. With a combination of all three backs, LSU was able to establish a strong ground game which helped juice the clock. The success in the ground game played a vital role in the Tigers’ dominance over the Razorbacks in the time of possession battle.
Tyrion Davis-Price led the way for the trio of backs, rushing for 104 yards on 24 carries, averaging 4.3 yards per carry.
The time of possession kept the Tigers’ defense fresh, and the Arkansas offense off the field, which limited the amount of offensive opportunities for the Razorbacks.
“We wanted to run the football, have manageable third downs, [and[ put the ball in our playmakers’ hands. The key was time of possession,” Coach Ed Orgeron said following the game.
In the time it did possess the ball, Arkansas failed to do much with it. In 13 possessions, LSU forced six three-and-outs and held Arkansas to 0-of-10 on third down.
When Arkansas did find success, it did by exploiting the Tigers’ depleted secondary.
Already down two safeties, the Tigers’ defensive losses just kept coming. Freshman Elias Ricks was ejected in the second quarter following a targeting call and sophomore sensation Derek Stingley Jr. was sidelined due to an apparent knee injury. With this, Arkansas targeted the young LSU secondary. While it found some success with this scheme early on, the game was ultimately put to rest by sophomore cornerback Jay Ward.
Ward found himself on the guilty end of a few large plays downfield by the Arkansas offense, but in the final two snaps of the game, he was able to solidify himself as the unsung hero for LSU.
Down three with just under two minutes remaining, Arkansas drove down the field, making its way into Tiger territory.
Third-and-three from the LSU 27-yard line, the Tigers needed to find one more third down stop. Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks swung a pass out wide to receiver Trelon Smith, but Ward was there to deliver the blow, forcing an incompletion and an Arkansas potential game-tying field goal attempt.
Rushing off the edge, Ward extended his body to get a piece of the 44-yard field goal attempt.
The tipped football hung in the air but found itself lying in the Tigers’ end zone, sending the Tigers back to Baton Rouge with a victory.
“It came down to making a play at the end, and we did it,” Orgeron said following the win.