Brandon Harris’ flaws exposed in back-to-back losses
After going into the game against Alabama undefeated, LSU now sits outside the playoff picture looking in. Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette was unable to carry the Tigers as he had previously in their 7-0 start. The way Saturday’s game against Arkansas unfolded forced the ball into Brandon Harris’ hands and ultimately delivered the Razorbacks the victory. Fournette was incredibly sluggish to start the game, struggling to get out of the backfield on LSU’s first three drives. With a facemask penalty on RT Vadal Alexander killing another, and then a sack-forced fumble, the Tigers found themselves with a three score deficit towards the end of the first half.
Arkansas’ defense deserves credit for packing the box against LSU’s most potent weapon, stymying him for long enough to get a significant lead. Having said that, Fournette had a pretty good game by most standards. Overall he carried 19 times for 90 yards and a score, with a ridiculous 77 of those yards coming after contact and seven broken tackles. Once Fournette found his rhythm he was tough to stop, but by that time the clock was working against them.
It is no surprise QB Brandon Harris’ worst game of the season (-3.6) coincided with a game in which Fournette was quieter than normal. He’s a legitimate quarterback when his team is close or in the lead, but it was evident that he lacks the passing skills to bring a team back from behind. LSU’s success has been predicated on the ground game, but Harris was forced to dropback 40 times in this one.
He’s attempted more than 20 passes in just one other game this season, against Syracuse, finishing with 35 attempts against the Razorbacks. Harris generated some yardage through the air, but most of the credit should go to Malachi Dupre (+2.9), who turned some contested balls into big plays for the Tigers.
Aside from throwing it up and giving his 6-3 target a chance, Harris mostly cost his team by fumbling early and then throwing an interception late that sealed the game. Until LSU finds a QB who can pass them out of a hole, this team will struggle to sustain their success.
It is inevitable that they’ll face teams who are able to stop the run at some point — no matter the talent in the backfield — meaning they need an alternative strategy to win games.