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LSU's Terrace Marshall: 'Through the mist of it all, we have to keep our eyes straight'

Glenn Guilbeau
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

BATON ROUGE - Football begins again for LSU on Saturday at Arkansas, or it continues its ending that began with a resounding, 48-11 loss at Auburn three weeks ago on a haunting Halloween.

The Tigers (2-3) have never had a longer break - three weeks - between games this late in a regular season because of rescheduling in history. Kickoff with the Razorbacks (3-4) is at 11 a.m. on the SEC Network from Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

Fear that could stretch to four weeks ended Friday morning as the Razorbacks cleared the final COVID-19 test results of the week and will have enough players for the game. They had been battling the virus with its quarantine and contact tracing throughout the week.

“We are thin," Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said Thursday. "We want to play the game."

In 1964, the LSU-Florida game scheduled for Tiger Stadium on Oct. 3 was postponed because of the approach of Hurricane Hilda that hit south of New Orleans on that Saturday. The game was rescheduled for Dec. 5 after LSU's last regularly scheduled regular season game at Tulane on Nov. 21.

So, LSU was off for two weeks in late November and early December before falling to quarterback Steve Spurrier and the Gators, 20-6, in Tiger Stadium.

"It felt like fall camp all over again with three extra weeks," LSU linebacker Jabril Cox said on a teleconference on Tuesday.

Maybe too long.

"We've been off two weekends, and a lot of people - their minds can go elsewhere," left guard Ed Ingram said. 

LSU wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. (6) reacts after scoring a touchdown against South Carolina during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La. Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.

That's what junior wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. was thinking. So, he asked Coach Ed Orgeron if he could speak to the team before practice on Monday and was welcomed.

"He wanted to talk about playing one team, one heartbeat and 'Let's go beat Arkansas, one game at a time and a lot of good football left,'" Orgeron said.

"It's a definitely a challenge to stay focused with all this outside stuff going on with people's families and being in danger," Marshall said in reference to the COVID-19 spike happening nationally, particularly in Louisiana recently.

In addition, a major investigation of how LSU likely mishandled accusations against football players of sexual violence and misconduct by USA TODAY hit Monday and continues to ripple.

"All I can say is keep your eyes straight and focus on the main thing," Marshall said. "And that's just to win this season out."

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The Tigers have three games scheduled with a trip to No. 6 Texas A&M (5-1) on Nov. 28 and the regular season finale on Dec. 5 at home against Ole Miss (3-4).

But the game against No. 1 Alabama (6-0) that was postponed from last Saturday in Tiger Stadium because of COVID-19 quarantines on LSU's team may be rescheduled for Dec. 5 with the LSU-Ole Miss game moving to Dec. 19 and the Alabama-Arkansas game on Dec. 5 moving to Dec. 12. The Southeastern Conference's deadline for such a move would be Nov. 30.

"I just wanted to get in front of the team and try to help, try to motivate the young guys to the old guys" said Marshall, who leads LSU with 31 catches for 540 yards and nine touchdowns.

"Just remember that we still got a mission ahead of us, and we've got to keep playing and keep rolling," Marshall told his teammates. "Even through all the hard times, all this COVID stuff, we've got to keep our eyes focused on the prize. That's to finish this season out the best way that we can."

Cox said the team heard his message.

"He told the younger guys, 'This isn't over. We can still have our record positive.' Terrace brings a fiery edge to us. He doesn't say much. It's a business to him, but we all look up to him."

And they listen to him.

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"It was to keep everybody's head in the right place," Ingram said. "It was a refocusing meeting. We've got to lock in. We've got a game this week. We've got a lot to prove."

Of course, Arkansas has been dealing with COVID-19 issues of its own as it has also had a quarantine after one player and two non-coaching staff members tested positive for the virus. Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman just returned to practice on Wednesday after suffering from COVID-19 and missing his team's 63-35 loss to Florida last week.

The game was still on as of Thursday afternoon.

"Through the mist of it all, we have to keep our eyes straight," Marshall said. "Don't get distracted."