LSU Defense Struggled vs. Arkansas but Came Up Big When It Mattered Most

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LSU Defense Struggled vs. Arkansas but Came Up Big When It Mattered Most
Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor
LSU gang tackles Arkansas freshman running back Alex Collins.

The LSU defense finally did something it had not done all season. 

LSU faced Arkansas last Friday for the last Thanksgiving weekend installment of "The Battle of the Boot." The Razorbacks were one of the worst offenses in the SEC. Quarterback Brandon Allen had been feasted on by most SEC defenses. 

But LSU made Allen look like Johnny Football a week after making Johnny Football look like Allen. 

Allen finished with 178 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He had plenty of help with his running game, which set up the play-action pass.  

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen and the Razorbacks offense could not get anything going in the fourth quarter.

Led by center Travis Swanson, Arkansas controlled the line of scrimmage. The Hogs finished with 182 yards rushing on 34 carries.

LSU gave up 10 points in the third quarter, giving Arkansas a 27-21 lead heading into the fourth. The Tigers offense was uncharacteristically stagnant thanks partially to Odell Beckham Jr. being sidelined with hip and back injuries.

But the LSU defense stood its ground in the fourth quarter. 

Arkansas' first drive in the third quarter ended with a three-and-out. The Hogs only needed a yard on third down, but running back Jonathan Williams was stood up at the line of scrimmage. Defensive tackle Ego Ferguson stalemated Swanson to help stuff the play. 

LSU got the ball back, eventually kicking a field goal to cut the score to 27-24.

Arkansas got the football back at its own 25. LSU forced another three-and-out to force a Sam Irwin-Hill punt deep into Tigers territory.

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Because Zach Mettenberger suffered a leg injury the previous drive, true freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings had to take over the rest of the way. Jennings delivered a 99-yard game-winning touchdown drive to give LSU a 31-27 lead. 

But it would not have been a game-winning march down the field if the defense did not stop the Hogs its next drive. 

The LSU defense had been anything but clutch this season. The Tigers had been in two other situations where its final defensive drive was in a one-possession game. Both times, against Georgia and Ole Miss, the defense crumbled and lost the game late.  

LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis' biggest criticism has been his inability to close games. Chavis came up big last Friday. 

Allen completed his first pass on the drive to tight end Hunter Henry for a first down. On the next play, Allen would rush for seven yards. But he would then meet his fate on second down. 

Chavis lined his defense up in his "Mustang" formation. He sent a blitz with linebacker Lamin Barrow and defensive back Dwayne Thomas. Thomas was left unblocked and made the Razorbacks pay. 

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
After Dwayne Thomas (left) sacked and stripped Brandon Allen (center), Jermauria Rasco (right) stretches to recover a fumble that sealed the deal for LSU.

Allen held on to the ball too long as he rolled out to his right. Thomas eventually caught him, stripping the football in the process. Defensive end Jermauria Rasco would jump on the football to end the game.

Sure, LSU was in advantageous position. Allen, an average quarterback at best, had to drive 79 yards with slightly over a minute remaining. 

But the focus should be on the LSU defense. A unit that struggled all day finally stepped up and made a big play, something it could not do against the Bulldogs and Rebels.  

LSU did not play well on either side of the ball. The Hogs outplayed the Tigers. But thanks to some good fortune, Jarvis Landry and a timely defense, LSU avoided what would have been its most embarrassing conference loss in the Les Miles era. 

Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower. 

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