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No. 24 LSU pulls away from Arkansas
BATON ROUGE, La. — As votes of confidence go, the one LSU senior quarterback Danny Etling got from coach Ed Orgeron after the No. 24 Tigers’ 33-10 victory over Arkansas on Saturday at Tiger Stadium was a little more akin to a back-handed compliment.
But it’ll do.
Etling misfired on several potentially big throws in a 7-7 first half but rallied in the second half to lead LSU to touchdowns on four of its first five possessions after intermission to power the Tigers (7-3, 4-2 SEC) to a 26-3 turnaround in the final 30 minutes.
Etling threw touchdown passes of 45 and 68 yards to wide receiver D.J. Chark and finished 11 of 16 for 217 yards. Running back Derrius Guice added 147 yards and three second-half scores on 21 carries.
Orgeron didn’t exactly say he was getting ready to pull the plug on Etling, who threw for just 76 yards in the first half and missed wide-open tight end Foster Moreau on a simple pass in the flat that would have gone for a touchdown.
But the coach candidly admitted he was thinking of it.
“I thought (Danny) was good, and we stayed with him,” Orgeron said.
“I want Danny to know we got confidence in him. Danny has bled purple and gold. I wanted to give him a chance. Now, if in the third quarter if he wouldn’t have performed like he did, we would’ve pulled him. But we wanted to give him chance.”
Etling was unavailable after the game because he was receiving treatment for a minor injury, but he took the challenge, as did the rest of the LSU team. The Tigers rebounded from a bruising but promising 24-10 loss at No. 2 Alabama last week in which they outgained the Crimson Tide but failed to make enough big plays to challenge.
Orgeron said he was proud of his team’s ability to come back from the physical and emotional game last week.
“I learned from Pete Carroll (at USC) that you have to treat every game one game at a time,” Orgeron said. “We haven’t made Alabama a win-all-or-nothing, although it’s important. We know it is. But we’re going into every week and taking it one game at a time, and I think the guys are catching on to it.”
Guice recorded his fourth 100-yard game of the season — and 11th of his career — and he scored on runs of 6, 33 and 1 yards. LSU is 10-0 when Guice rushes for at least 100 yards.
Chark entered the game leading the SEC with a 23.5 yards average on 25 catches, but he had not scored this season. On both of his touchdown receptions, Chark beat the Arkansas secondary by 5 yards and scored with ease. Chark finished with four catches for 130 yards.
“Probably the easiest TDs I ever scored with Danny throwing the ball like that,” Chark said.
Chark considered going into the NFL Draft after last season.
“I’m so glad he stayed,” Orgeron said. “I’ve got to give credit to (receivers coach) Mickey Joseph. His route-running is better, his footwork is a lot better. He’s maturing. He sticks with it and he believes in himself. He has confidence.”
LSU scored touchdowns on its first three possessions of the second half to break open a 7-7 game to take a 26-10 lead. Guice got the first two scores, cutting back for a 6-yard touchdown and then hitting a big hole on the left side for a 33-yard score.
Arkansas (4-6, 1-5) scored on its first series of the second half with Connor Limpert’s 38-yard field goal, but that was it for the game. In its last five games, LSU has allowed only a combined 11 points in the fourth quarter.
LSU controlled most of the first half defensively, not allowing Arkansas to run a play beyond midfield, until the final two minutes of the second quarter. But Arkansas made it 7-7 on a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Devwah Whaley 12 seconds before halftime.
That was it. Quarterback Austin Allen made his first start in five weeks after injuring his right shoulder and finished 13 of 23 for 140 yards.
“It was obviously a tough second half,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. “We knew it was going to be a four-quarter game, and they were able to survive and advance. Austin played well in the first half, but maybe the strength of his arm started to break down.”
NOTES: Arkansas coach Bret Bielema fell to 11-27 in the SEC in his five seasons with the Razorbacks. ... Arkansas has to win its last two games against Mississippi State and Missouri to be bowl-eligible. ... Arkansas QB Austin Allen made his first start since injuring his right shoulder against South Carolina five weeks ago. He had thrown a TD pass in 17 of his previous 18 starts but was shut out by LSU. ... LSU honored two former Tiger baseball players: third baseman Alex Bregman and pitcher Will Harris, who each played big roles on the Houston Astros’ World Series championship. In the World Series, Bregman had two homers, seven hits and five RBIs, including a game-winning, walk-off single in Houston’s 13-12 Game 5 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.