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Tigers Ready For Annual Battle For The Boot In Fayetteville

After a three-week layoff, LSU (2-3) travels to Fayetteville on Saturday for the annual “Battle for the Boot” with Arkansas (3-4), looking to defend the Golden Boot that currently rests on the sidelines of the Fighting Tigers.

Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. on SEC Network and the LSU Sports Radio Network.

Given the unexpected time off, junior receiver Terrace Marshall addressed the team on Monday about the team’s goals and aspirations. It’s been 21 days since LSU last hit somebody else, and Marshall wanted to make sure the team was focused and locked in for Saturday’s rivalry game.

“I don’t say too much, but when I do say something, my point can get across,” Marshall said on Tuesday. “I wanted to help motivate the young guys and the old guys. Just remind them that we still have a mission ahead of us.”

Reserved and quiet in nature, Marshall is still looked upon as a team leader. His words carry weight. And finishing the season the strongest way possible is the vision he has in sight.

Defensively, senior linebacker Jabril Cox said the extra week off was important in identifying and fixing mistakes. One of the bright spots in the 48-11 loss to Auburn on Oct. 31 was the play of junior linebacker Micah Baskerville, who led the Tigers’ defense with a total of 10 tackles, including six solo and one for loss. Right now, he’s the starter alongside Cox, but head coach Ed Orgeron said it remains an ongoing competition with Damone Clark.

“The past two weeks have been great for us,” said Cox. “(The time off) helped the younger guys in development in getting more reps. We’ve been working on ourselves and fixing us.”

“Practice has been no different than a normal week,” added offensive guard Ed Ingram. “Everything was straight-forward. Once we heard the Alabama game was postponed, we turned our focus to Arkansas and didn’t skip a beat.”

Coach O hinted on Thursday that quarterback TJ Finley will again get the nod in place of injured starter Myles Brennan, though Orgeron did not announce a final decision. Brennan’s pair of true freshmen backups of Finley and Max Johnson have combined to complete 45-of-69 passes for 580 yards and 3 TDs. Orgeron wants to see some smarter decisions out of Finley in what could be his third career start, but he also wants some more help from those around him.

“You can’t go on the road and turn over the football. It’s not all on him,” Orgeron said on Monday. “It’s on the play-calling, keep it simple for him. It’s on the other players surrounding him to play better. It’s about the offensive line protection. It’s about everybody.”

The Tigers should also get a boost to their offensive line with the return of left tackle Dare Rosenthal. Cam Wire has started in his place over the last two games against South Carolina and Auburn.

The Razorbacks enter the contest as one of the most improved teams in the conference under first-year head coach Sam Pittman. LSU is 41-22-2 all-time against Arkansas, which includes an 18-10 mark in games played since the Razorbacks joined the SEC in 1992.

“Sam Pittman has done a tremendous job with this football team,” Orgeron said. “His coaching staff ought to be commended. They’re completely different football team. They play with great fundamentals. They play with energy. This is going to be a big challenge for us.”

Feleipe Franks has thrown for 1,678 yards and 16 touchdowns (tied 13th in FBS) under center in his senior season with the Hogs. Wideout Treylon Burks has recorded 38 catches for 508 yards and five touchdowns. Arkansas has a new identity and LSU certainly isn’t taking them lightly.

“He’s doing a little more RPOs than he did at Florida,” Orgeron said of Franks. “His leadership skills are showing on the field. He loves to run the offense. He’s using his skill.”

Even in the midst of an unusual college football season filled with moments of adversity, Orgeron believes the Tigers are in the early stages of something special. Growing pains come with young talent, and Orgeron recognizes that in order to get back to the top, you have to go through the hurdles at the bottom.

“I know we’re going to build a championship team. I know it’s coming,” he said. “But you have to go through some adversity. Iron sharpens iron. You have to develop some grit and toughness. You just can’t go roll your helmet out there. We’ve got to pay attention to details. It all starts with me.”