BATON ROUGE, LA – LSU coaches called one last play for running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire in hopes of getting him his fourth-straight 100-yard game.
Perhaps it was only fitting that Edwards-Helaire, who needed just a yard, would break loose for a career-long 89-yard touchdown run. The top-ranked Tigers’ new spread offense has been producing explosive plays all season — a big reason why they’ve booked a trip to the Southeastern Conference title game for the first time since 2011.
Joe Burrow passed for 327 yards and three touchdowns, Edwards-Helaire rushed for a career-high 188 yards and three TDs and No. 1 LSU remained unbeaten with a 56-20 victory over reeling Arkansas on Saturday night.
“What a showing on offense — and we’re not done yet,” Orgeron said, referring as much to all 11 games this season as to the Tigers’ 612 total yards against Arkansas.
LSU (11-0, 7-0) can finish no worse than in a tie for first with Alabama (10-1, 6-1) in the SEC West and owns the tiebreaker with its 46-41 triumph in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9.
“We expected this coming into the year. If we were not 11-0 right now, we would be disappointed,” Burrow said. “That’s a testament to our hard work, but we’ve got more ahead of us.”
Each time Edwards-Helaire broke loose for a score — his other TDs went for 27 and 26 yards — he left at least one defensive back grasping at air. On his 89-yarder, he was about to be caught from behind but used a high-step to slip the tackle before resuming his gallop to the goal line as the Tiger Stadium crowd roared for a Baton Rouge native having a career night.
“I went in and it was like, ‘Get the yard, get out of bounds, shut it down for the rest of the game,’” said Edwards-Helaire, who has 15 TDs rushing this season. “But that hole parted like the Red Sea.’”
Burrow’s first touchdown was a 37-yarder to Ja’Marr Chase on the game’s first possession. They connected on a 50-yarder in the third quarter on which Burrow eclipsed 4,000 yards for the season and Chase increased in single-season LSU record for TD catches to 15.
Burrow’s other touchdown toss was a 10-yarder on a crossing route to Justin Jefferson.
Interim Arkansas coach Barry Lunney Jr. started freshman quarterback KJ Jefferson, who exhibited potential and athleticism, if not consistency. Jefferson, the fourth starting QB for the Razorbacks this season, completed 7 of 14 passes for 105 yards without a turnover. He also looked effective rushing at times, but his total in that department was skewed by three sacks.
“He competed hard but we didn’t have enough gas in our tank to hang with these guys for four quarters,” Lunney said.
The Razorbacks (2-9, 0-7), who’ve lost eight straight, were as close as 7-6 in the second quarter after Jefferson led them to their second field goal — a 47-yarder by Connor Limpert.
That’s when LSU began to pull away. Burrow completed four quick passes for 66 yards to set up Tyrion Davis-Price’s 2-yard touchdown to make it 14-6. By halftime, the Tigers led 28-6.
LSU led 56-6 on John Emery’s 39-yard run before Arkansas scored two late touchdowns, the second coming after an onside kick that squirted to the LSU 11 before the Razorbacks recovered.
Arkansas: Lunney had the Hogs energized and playing hard throughout. They lost by less than the six-TD spread set by Las Vegas odds makers. Meanwhile, Jefferson was making a solid case to keep the starting job another week but left the game after taking a hard hit as he threw.
Lunney said Jefferson would be evaluated for a concussion, but added, “He’s very talented. There’s no doubt about that.”
LSU: Burrow, a front-running candidate for the Heisman Trophy, completed 82 percent of his passes against Arkansas and now has 4,014 yards and 41 TDs passing this season, both LSU single-season records. Edwards-Helaire has been virtually unstoppable in LSU’s past four games, during which he’s piled up 814 yards and nine TDs from scrimmage.
“I knew he was going to have a lot of success for us and I knew that this offense fit him perfectly. We use him like that guy over there in New Orleans,” Burrow said, referring to Saints running back Alvin Kamara.
LSU defensive back Jacoby Stevens had all three LSU sacks and also batted a pass right back at him, which Jefferson caught for a completion to himself, albeit for a loss of 8 when Stevens immediately smothered him.
LSU became the first team in SEC history to have a 4,000-yard passer (Burrow), two 1,000-yard receivers (Chase and Jefferson) and a 1,000-yard rusher (Edwards-Helaire) in the same season.
While LSU won “The Boot,” a gold trophy in the shape of the states of Arkansas and Louisiana, the Tigers didn’t celebrate with it.
“There was going to be not too much of a celebration to beat Arkansas. They haven’t beat anybody in a long time,” Orgeron said. “We don’t feel like we’ve accomplished what we want to accomplish yet.”
Arkansas: Tries to avoid a second-straight season with fewer than three victories when the Hogs host Missouri on Friday in their season finale.
LSU: Looks to close out its first unbeaten regular season since 2011 when the Tigers host Texas A&M on Saturday.