Bielema, Miles Pushing Teams Forward

Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema and LSU's Les Miles discussed on this week's SEC Football Coaches Teleconference what happened to their teams last week and how they will move forward as the Razorbacks (5-4, 3-2) visit the Tigers (7-1, 4-1) Saturday night at 6:15 p.m. in Baton Rouge.

Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema and his team could not help but celebrate last week’s thrilling 53-52 overtime at Ole Miss for a little while after the contest ended.

But then it was time to quickly turn the attention to the fact that the Razorbacks will be walking into an angry Tigers’ den in Death Valley on Saturday night.

Arkansas (5-4, 3-2) will meet LSU (7-1, 4-1) in a 6:15 p.m. game that will televised by ESPN and one that occurs a week after Alabama manhandled the Tigers 30-16 in Tuscaloosa.

“Obviously it was great experience to get out of Ole Miss with a win, one for the ages,” Bielema said on Wednesday's SEC Teleconference. “I think that everybody that was there got their money’s worth as well as those at home.

“We got out of it fairly healthy and our guys are excited about winning a couple of games in a row and trying to string some things together.

“We have a chance to go over now and play an upset LSU team. I am sure they are not happy with how the way things went last week and that probably doesn’t bode well for us.

“They are a team that is very talented, got talented players and obviously Coach Miles and everything he has been able to accomplish at LSU speaks for itself. 

“So will be a very difficult challenge that we are excited about. We’ve got a few Louisiana kids on our roster that I know get geeked up for this game. It should be a great environment and we are very, very excited to be a part of it.”

Bielema noted that it was important to turn the page quickly.

"I would say that obviously the game in itself there was a lot of celebration on the field and in the locker room, kids jumping for joy and it was a great day for them in an environment where it is great for them to be able to have success and have that memory," Bielema said. “We put it to bed pretty early Sunday afternoon and those guys knew that we had a very tall task coming in front of us.

“It’s been fun and the part that the outside world doesn’t realize is that we can’t dwell on last week very long. You literally have to turn the page.

“We went through about an hour and fifteen minute film review of Ole Miss and then quickly jumped into LSU prep that we prepared on Friday and Saturday before we left…and then we supplemented it with their game on Saturday against Alabama and went through some things on Sunday night where if you were thinking about Saturday, you were going to be lost.

“So I worry about the physical toll that our guys have gone through, the nature of beast being so far into the SEC season with three games left and having LSU brings a whole another set of issues.”

Miles knows his team took a hit last week, but still has a chance to be in the College Football Playoff if it can win out.

"We're a team with a lot to play for,” Miles said. “A team that understands this is a quality opponent coming in here. We have goals and aspirations of our own. I think you'll see a team play to that."

He has not tried to discount the disappointment in last week’s loss, which dropped LSU from No. 2 to No. 9 in the CFB playoff poll. 

“I know our team, I know our state, and I know our fan base is disappointed,” Miles said. “I can tell you this - that was my feeling."

LSU tailback Leonard Fournette (6-1, 230), who has rushed for 1,383 yards and 16 touchdowns this season and was the Heisman Trophy frontrunner entering the game with Alabama, was held to just 31 yards on 19 carries by the Alabama defense.

“I think Leonard Fournette is a guy that understands football," Miles said. "He recognizes there's another Saturday, there's another Saturday, and the opportunity to show your body of work is something that is on display routinely through these falls. I don't think he's put much into the last game."

Bielema noted that he is a big fan of Fournette, who has been helped by the emergence of quarterback Brandon Harris.

“Offensively, obviously enough has been written and said about number seven and believe me I am a big fan,” Bielema said. “I love the running game and love what it brings.

“I have been able to watch LSU a little bit during the course of the year, but nothing like I have since we started our game week preparation.

“The jump that he has taken from a year ago to this year – and he was really good a year ago – he is now a great running back. He is violent, he is strong, he is secure in what he sees and what he believes in. He reads it and does it and doesn’t ever think twice.

“To me, the big difference has been the play at quarterback. I think without a doubt that Brandon has been able to do is complete his game.

“He throws a very, very nice deep ball and compliments it with a short ball very, very well. He escapes pressure, is a very good athlete that seems to have bought in to what they are asking him to do offensively.

“And when you see quarterback that seems comfortable, that goes a long way in making everything else work better without a doubt."

Former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis left for Texas A&M with Kevin Steele taking his place.

“Defensively, obviously there is a change in coordinators," Bielema said. "The part that Kevin has instilled is they play very, very solid defense, do some things that they did a year ago, but on the same account he has brought some nuances to the back end as well as up front.

“They are subtle, but they have worked very, very well. I think in the kicking game especially that they have some threats returning the football that are very, very special and very gifted.”

The LSU-Arkansas game used to be the played in the regular season finale for both teams, but was moved up by the SEC when Missouri and Texas A&M entered the league.

It has dubbed the Battle For the Boot, a trophy given to the winner and currently in the hands of the Razorbacks.

Arkansas has won five of its last eight SEC games since ending a 17-game, 763-day league losing streak with a 17-0 home win over LSU last season. 

The Razorback defense held the Tigers to a season-low 123 yards total offense in that game with 50 of that coming in the fourth quarter.

"Certainly it's a very important piece,” Miles said of The Boot. “We recognize we don't have it. We recognize we're playing for it. It is certainly an important rival and one that befits a trophy of the magnitude of the Boot."

Bielema expects wide receiver Cody Hollister to return to action for the first time since the second game of the season and hopes linebacker Dwayne Eugeme, who missed last week with a hand injury, will be able to play.

“He (Hollister) was cleared for practice last week…but he just wasn’t quite there yet," Bielema said. "This week, we have repped him in there a little bit more, especially Tuesday.

“Dwayne Eugene, he will put on a different cast. The one he had yesterday was limiting him a little bit so he will put on a different cast.

“I know he is excited. He is a Rummel boy from downtown New Orleans and it is going to be pretty hard to deny him to play in this game I believe. So we are going to give him that opportunity to show us this afternoon and excited to see what he can bring.”

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