Arkansas at LSU

Sports Xchange

November 08, 2017 at 3:17 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SITE: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La.
TV: ESPN
SERIES: LSU leads 38-22-2. The Tigers won 38-10 in 2016.
RANKINGS: LSU No. 24

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Razorbacks

–QB Austin Allen, who started all 13 games as a junior in 2016 and the first five games of this season before suffering a shoulder injury, has been cleared to play. He has completed 56.4 percent of his 117 pass attempts for 170 yards a game with eight touchdown tosses and four interceptions.

–RB T.J. Hammonds gave Arkansas’ offense a big boost against Coastal Carolina with an 88-yard touchdown run and a 60-yard touchdown reception on a screen pass. He has rushed for 259 yards on 25 carries (a 10.4 average) and caught the one pass for the touchdown.

–LB De’Jon Harris had 13 tackles against Coastal Carolina, including 11 unassisted and one sack. It was Harris’ fifth game of the season with at least 11 tackles. He has a team-high 81 stops (7.0 for losses, 2.5 sacks) for the season.

–NB Kevin Richardson leads the Hogs in interceptions with three for the year. He also has broken up three other passes and has a fumble recovery and 30 tackles for the season.

Tigers

–RB Darrel Williams ran for a team-high 83 yards and the Tigers’ only touchdown against Alabama. Against Ole Miss two weeks earlier he became the first running back in LSU history to have 100 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards in the same game.

–WR D.J. Chark is a big-play kind of receiver. He averages 23.5 yards a catch with 588 yards on 25 receptions, though he is still look for his first touchdown reception of the season.

–DE Rashard Lawrence had just two tackles against Alabama, but his presence was a key element in the Tigers defensive line holding its own against the Tide’s offensive line. Limited by injuries, he has 20 tackles in six games this season.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

LSU coach Ed Orgeron isn’t giving up on quarterback Danny Etling yet, and the senior transfer from Purdue will be the starter when the No. 24 Tigers host Arkansas on Saturday.

Etling was pulled in last week’s 24-10 loss to Alabama in a game the Tigers went toe-to-toe statistically with the Crimson Tide but lacked the explosive plays at quarterback. Orgeron lifted Etling for freshman Myles Brennan in the fourth quarter in an attempt to ignite the offense.

But Orgeron made it clear this week that Etling will start when the 24th-ranked Tigers (6-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) take on the Razorbacks (4-5, 1-4 SEC). Kickoff in Tiger Stadium is at noon ET with ESPN doing the telecast honors.

“Danny is our starting quarterback,” Orgeron said, “and Danny’s done a good job for us. We’re going to finish the season. Myles would have to beat Danny out on a play-by-play basis in practice. He’d have to play better than he would in a game. He hasn’t done that yet.”

LSU has three games remaining — Arkansas, at Tennessee, and Texas A&M — and sweeping those would mean a 9-3 regular season and 6-2 SEC mark, its best conference record since 2012.

Running the table also would give LSU a shot at its first 10-win season since 2013.

Orgeron dismissed the argument that giving Brennan more playing time down the stretch would pay dividends next year.

“I would not give Myles the starting quarterback job just to get ready for next year,” Orgeron said. “We’ve got a lot of things to play for. We’re thinking one game at a time, and we want to have a very good year. For right now, Danny’s our quarterback.”

Etling committed relatively few mistakes against Alabama — he threw one interception and completed 12 of 26 passes for 137 yards — but his undoing was failing to connect on two deep balls to wide receiver D.J. Chark that could have tightened the game.

Etling said that Orgeron’s comments this week shows that the coach still has faith in him.

“I think there’s still a lot to play for this year,” Etling said. “We can still have a pretty successful season and still get a lot of wins, still make a pretty big bowl game and finish high in the SEC rankings. That’s something this team can work toward and have a goal to play for.”

Orgeron didn’t rule out the possibility that Brennan, who has a stronger arm than Etling, could play more down the stretch.

“But he would play more because he is equal or better to Danny — that’s the reason he’d play,” Orgeron said. “If Danny’s in there, and he’s hot and playing well, he’s our quarterback.”

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema also has an issue at quarterback and has not indicated whether freshman Cole Kelley or senior Austin Allen will start against LSU.

Kelley is 2-2 as a starter, but he sustained a turf toe injury last week and played through the pain in the 39-38 come-from-behind win over Coastal Carolina. He has been wearing a medical boot. Allen, the Razorbacks’ captain, suffered a right shoulder injury in a 48-22 loss to South Carolina and has not played in the last four weeks.

“Obviously, who we think is going to be the most healthy and give us the best chance at winning is going to get the majority” of practice reps, offensive coordinator Dan Enos said.

“Whatever they decide on Saturday, I’m going to roll with it,” Allen said. “I’ve come a long way in four weeks. Just being able to go out there and throw again is something I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do four weeks ago.”

LSU is still scrambling with injuries to its offensive line. Both starting tackles — Toby Weathersby and K.J. Malone — missed practice earlier in the week. But the Tigers have gotten a big boost in the last two weeks with the return to form of running back Derrius Guice and pass-rushing defensive end Arden Key. Key has 5.5 tackles for loss (4.0 sacks) in seven games.

LSU has played the vast majority of its home games at night, and his will be just the 12th game played in Tiger Stadium before noon (it’s an 11 a.m. kickoff CT) since 1969. LSU is 8-3 in those games.

 

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