Jeff Long talked about winning with defense when the Arkansas athletic director introduced Bret Bielema as coach almost two years ago. And, that's what it was finally all about as the Razorbacks handed their coach his first SEC football victory.
It was a great plan from Robb Smith, the first-year defensive coordinator that keeps holding foes to season-low rushing totals. The Tigers made just 123 total yards, only a net of 36 yards on 32 rushing attempts.
“Coach Smith kept putting us in the right calls,” said Trey Flowers, the senior captain. “We believe in him and we know how to tackle. We knew LSU had good backs and good receivers and that we'd have to tackle them. We did.”
The rushing numbers tell the tale. LSU star freshman Leonard Fournette never got out of the blocks. He had just 9 yards on five carries. Terrence Magee led the way with just 24 yards.
The Tigers were beat up in the offensive line, losing fine center Elliott Porter. They left a star guard injured at home and finished the game with a makeshift interior.
“We did some different things up front to confuse them,” said Flowers, who sometimes lined up at tackle to get extra pressure in the front that helped the Hogs to four sacks.
And, the Hogs kept the heat off of quarterback Brandon Allen. Coordinator Jim Chaney moved the pocket, often rolling to the left with some change-of-direction drops. It befuddled the two quick LSU ends, Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco. The timing of the protection on the rolls were perfect, allowing tackles Brey Cook and Dan Skipper to pin Hunter and Rasco inside.
“Some people probably don't think of BA as so mobile, but Jim and our coaches had a nice plan for him this week,” Bielema said. “We designed things to get him outside of the pocket and it came up big with some critical third down. Give credit to Jim.”
Chaney, criticized during the losing streak, was in tears, as were many, as he hugged players coming off the field after zooming down from the press box. Allen spoke about his own critics.
“Yeah, you deserve it because you haven't won,” he said. “I'd like to have a lot of plays back this year.
“Tonight, we executed the offense and didn't make a lot of critical mistakes. There are still things to correct, but we got a great game from the defense, a shutout. That zero looks great.
“We had worked on moving the pocket because of their two great defensive ends. We did a great job with protection. We hit some plays with that and that was big for us.”
Tight ends Hunter Henry and AJ Derby each had four catches to lead the passing game.
"We thought we had good matchups against their linebackers and safeties with our tight ends," Allen said, noting the Tigers play man-to-man for the most part.
The Hogs were so good with the tight ends that LSU benched middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith after he lost the tight end on three straight passes. It was Beckwith's emergence earlier in the year that galvanized coordinator John Chavis' unit.
Flowers smiled big when the shutout was mentioned.
“Big time,” he said. “Coach Smith said it was big time after the game. He told us, that's what happens when you stick to the plan, stick to your technique and believe in the system. You trust that, this is what you get. We are proud of the shutout, and to do it to get the victory, that's huge.”
Flowers was overjoyed when he got to Bielema after the game just before heading into the Broyles Center. He recalled the tearful hug they shared after the loss at Mississippi State two weeks ago after a 17-10 loss.
“It was the same hug, but less tears,” Flowers said. “More smiles this time.”
There were even smiles about his struggles to carry the game's trophy, the Golden Boot.
“Yeah, I told the rest of the D-line to let me get it,” he said. “I didn't know it was so heavy. I got it, but it was pretty heavy. By the time we got it in the locker room, I just laid out.
“We are going to enjoy tonight, but it's just like the losses. You forget it tomorrow and we get on to the next one, against Ole Miss.
“We are blessed with this one. We had to keep believing what our coach said and the Lord blessed us. We are thankful.”
Safety Alan Turner is thankful that he has bragging rights back in Junction City on the southern border.
"I've got friends, I've even got cousins who root for LSU back home," he said. "But I get to do the talking now. They have trash talked me. But it's my turn now.
"It does mean a little extra to get the shutout. It got pretty crazy when our fans rushed the field."
Flowers said, "That's why we play, for them. They have supported us through all of this. We had some fun with them out there with us at the end."
Bielema knows the Hogs are just 5-5, but he pointed out again that the losses are all to teams that were in the top 10 at the time.
“I know the chairman of the Selection Committee,” he said, referring to Long. “I'm going to beg him to put us in the top 10. Ole Miss is coming to town and then we get a very good Missouri team. But we know we can play with anyone.”
Yes, but now the Hogs know they know the recipe to beat a ranked team. It starts with defense.