Defense slows LSU ground attack

Arkansas run defense finds some answers against LSU. Casey Dick makes storybook exit.

Arkansas entered the season finale against LSU ranked last in the SEC in rushing defense, 90th in Division I. LSU ranked fourth in the SEC (44th nationally) in rushing offense.

That led most to believe there would be a mash Friday in War Memorial Stadium. LSU was expected to do the mashing.

It didn't materialize. LSU made just 161 yards on 44 rushes and Arkansas got the critical stops late in the game in a 31-20 victory. Most of it came on quarterback scrambles or rollouts.

"We loaded up against their base (personnel) to stop the run," defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said. "We knew we were going to put our corners on an island. We gave up one play, but we came up with a lot of stops."

The idea was to insert senior Cord Gray at defensive tackle and move Malcolm Sheppard to defensive end. Robinson said the idea came from head coach Bobby Petrino.

"We put every possible person in the box," Petrino said. "That left our corners all by themselves. We gave up one play, but you can't feel bad about that with what we put on them. We just tried to get that personnel on the field when they were in their regular personnel knowing we had to stop their run."

Robinson said the Hogs had to protect their linebackers.

"We thought Cord Gray could handle a double team and keep the center off our linebackers. I thought he and Zach Stadther did a great job of keeping that from happening all day.

"Really, the only thing that hurt us bad on the run was when the quarterback kept. We made an adjustment and got that stopped at halftime."

Sheppard and Stadther were solid all day. Sheppard made eight tackles, Stadther five.

"We brought some blitzes and pressures to get after the quarterback in the second half," Petrino said. "We got better as we went along. It was the quarterback who was hurting us on third down early. The defense really did a nice job on third down in the second half. We told them they had to win third down in the second half.

"We got some huge stops today. I thought our defense did a great job in a short week. What we did today showed guts and character."

There was guts on the other side of the ball, too. Everyone was singing the praises of UA senior quarterback Casey Dick afterwards.

"That's a storybook ending for Casey," said safety Matt Harris. "I came in with him in 2005 and he's been through a whole lot. But you never heard him complain, not once. I just can't say how happy the team is that it turned out like this for Casey.

"I thought Casey had magic power today. Casey got us the win."

Dick said it made redshirt quarterback Ryan Mallett a prophet.

"Ryan told me before the game that we were going to win and it would be on a touchdown pass from me," Dick said. "I thought, ‘Yeah, right, he's crazy.' Well, it turned out that way. I guess sometimes everything happens for a reason."

Senior Jonathan Luigs said he got excited coming out of the locker room at halftime when line coach Mike Summers told him "to get some snaps with Casey because he's going to play." That was just fine with the All-America center.

"I have to admit that I got a lift when I heard that," Luigs said. "I said to myself, ‘Yes, Casey gets to redeem himself.' I really wanted to help Casey in the second half. I blocked extra hard. I think we all did. We know what he's been through. "Casey really played with a lot of poise. It was like he wanted to prove something going out. We wanted him to go out on top."

Jake Bequette and Malcolm Sheppard sack LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson.

Photo by Marc F. Henning, Hawgs Illustrated

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