BATON ROUGE, La. — As sure as Arkansas’ Alex Collins has blossomed into one of the most explosive running backs in college football, the Razorbacks have become one of the toughest outs in the Southeastern Conference.
Collins ran for 141 yards and two touchdowns and Arkansas scored three times on plays longer than 50 yards en route to its fourth straight victory, 31-14 over ninth-ranked LSU on Saturday night.
“I think we can begin to get a little bit of respect in our league before we even take the field now,” said Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, whose team has rebounded from a 1-3 start to win five of six, with the only loss in that stretch coming at Alabama.
“From the outside world, we’re still probably just a 6-4 football team. But I know where we’re at,” Bielema added. “I know where we’re going. I know the kind of kids we’re going to continue to bring in here. The attitude we’re going to breed. It’s going to be fun.”
It’s much tougher for LSU to summon that kind of optimism.
Combined with Alabama’s victory hours earlier, Arkansas (6-4, 4-2) eliminated LSU (7-2, 4-2) from contention in the SEC West. Only two weeks earlier, the Tigers were unbeaten and ranked second by the College Football Playoff committee. They were No. 9 in the CFP this week after losing for the first time this season at Alabama on Nov. 7.
“Anybody that would think that this is a hangover from the Alabama game, it’s absolutely not true,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “I take the discredit here … This was absolutely my fault. The kids played their hearts out. I just didn’t give (them) the right stuff.”
LSU running back Leonard Fournette had 127 yards from scrimmage and scored his 17th touchdown this season, but that may have done little to help his Heisman Trophy candidacy on a day when Alabama’s Derrick Henry rushed for 204 yards and two scores.
“Everybody is disappointed,” Fournette said. “I just have to help keep this team together. In hard times you see what type of man you are. I would never trade my team for anything in the world.”
Brandon Allen passed for 141 yards, including a 52-yard TD throw to Dominique Reed. Jared Cornelius added a 69-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that sent much of the Tiger Stadium crowd to the exits.
“It was really nice to see when their fans started clearing the stadium,” Allen said. “We kind of knew we had them, were hitting them with 8 or 9 yard runs at the end, kind of depleting their confidence.”
Arkansas, which entered the game with eight sacks all season, took down LSU’s Brandon Harris five times.
The Tigers wound up with only 59 net yards on the ground while the Hogs rushed for 299, highlighted by Collins’ 80-yard touchdown dash in the first half.
Harris attempted 35 passes, completing 21 for 271 yards and one touchdown. He also had a pass intercepted in the fourth quarter by D.J. Dean and lost a first-half fumble that set up an Arkansas touchdown.
LSU’s Malachi Dupre had eight catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Arkansas, which scored 170 points in its previous three games, raced to a three-touchdown lead in Death Valley, thanks to two big plays on offense and another on defense.
Reed scored first when he took a short pass from Allen in the right flat and bolted past LSU defensive backs Dwayne Thomas and Jamal Adams, then got a key block from Jared Cornelius near the right sideline to spring him for his 52-yard touchdown.
Collins used a patient stutter-step to find a hole up the middle and then went untouched until the final few yards of his long TD, which made it 14-0.
Collins added his 5-yard score to make it 21-0, LSU’s largest deficit this season. That scoring drive was set up when Harris, scrambling right, lost his handle on the ball while attempted to throw as he was hit by Dre Greenlaw on the LSU 15. Brooks Ellis recovered for Arkansas on the 11.
The Tigers didn’t score until the last minute of the first half, and it took a fortunate deflection of Harris short pass off Travin Dural’s hands and straight to Dupre in the back of the end zone.