BATON ROUGE, La. – No. 3 LSU punched its ticket to the Southeastern Conference Championship Game, but not before Arkansas delivered a series of blows that staggered the home team before the Tigers escaped with a 19-17 win in front of 92,127 at Tiger Stadium on Friday afternoon.
LSU (10-1, 7-1 SEC) clinched a share of the SEC Western Division title and a spot in next weekend’s SEC Championship Game against Georgia. Arkansas (4-7, 2-6 SEC) came narrowly close to upsetting the Tigers and sending Auburn to the league title game.
LSU looked to be in control of the game early in the second half with a 19-3 lead. But Arkansas stormed back scoring 14 unanswered points and needed only a two-point conversion with just less than 11 minutes to play to tie the game. Arkansas quarterback Casey Dick’s two-point pass attempt was intercepted and the Razorbacks were unable to dent the scoreboard again.
Arkansas’ defense held LSU’s offense in check for most of the afternoon allowing only 302 yards of total offense including only 96 yards after the halftime break. But the Tigers parlayed two touchdowns, a field goal and a safety into their ninth-straight victory.
Justin Vincent led the Tigers with 59 rushing yards and one touchdown on 20 carries. LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell completed 13-of-29 passes for 129 yards and a score.
Arkansas, the ninth-ranked rushing team in the nation, found running room hard to come by against the Tigers. The Hogs netted only 35 yards on the ground. Freshman tailback Darren McFadden earned 57 yards and a touchdown on 24 totes. Dick completed 12-of-28 through the air for 148 yards and a touchdown.
The first half featured a battle of field position sprinkled with a handful of big plays. Both teams were unable to generate much momentum on their first offensive possessions. Arkansas was on the move in its second offensive series. The Razorbacks drove to the LSU 24-yard line before bogging down. Chris Balseiro missed a 41-yard field goal attempt wide left to keep the game scoreless.
LSU finally got things going offensively late in the first quarter. The Tigers took over at their own 43-yard line after an Arkansas punt. Russell led LSU on a 11-play, 48-yard scoring drive that culminated with a Colt David 26-yard field goal with 13:24 to go in the second quarter The Tigers looked on the verge of posting the first touchdown of the day when they had a first down and goal inside the five-yard line. But the Razorback defense stiffened and held LSU to a field goal to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.
After a three-and-out offensive series by Arkansas, LSU was back in business taking over at midfield. It didn’t take long this time. Russell hit Bennie Brazell for 50 yards and a touchdown with 10:50 remaining in the first half. David added the extra point to up the Tigers’ lead to 10-0.
Arkansas utilized a big-play in the passing game to get on the scoreboard in the second quarter. The Hogs engineered a scoring drive of five plays covering 64 yards in 96 seconds. Dick connected with wide receiver Marcus Monk for a 50-yard gain to the Tigers’ nine-yard line. It was the longest pass play of the season for the Razorbacks and the longest pass play given up by the Tigers in 2005. Arkansas was unable to move any further, however, and Balseiro nailed a 30-yard field goal to close the LSU lead to 10-3.
The Tigers looked to be on the move again late in the second quarter, but senior strong safety Vickiel Vaughn ended the home team’s hopes when he snared his third interception of the season at the Arkansas five-yard line.
The Hogs were unable to run out the clock, however, and with 12 seconds left in the first half Arkansas punter was pushed out of the end zone for a safety. A low snap was scooped by Skinner but he was unable to get a punt away. With the safety, LSU headed to the locker room with a 12-3 advantage.
Skyler Green kick-started LSU with a 40-yard kickoff return to midfield to open the second half. The Tigers took advantage of the good field position marching 50 yards on 9 plays for a touchdown. Justin Vincent took it in from four yards and David converted on the PAT to up the Tigers lead to 19-3.
Arkansas freshman Darren McFadden countered with a big-play of his own on the ensuing kickoff. McFadden raced 81 yards to the LSU 17-yard line to set the Hogs up deep in Tigers’ territory. LSU’s defense yielded only six more yards, however, and the Hogs came up empty when Balseiro’s 28-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright and bounced away.
The Razorbacks were back on the move on their next drive. Arkansas needed only seven plays to march 68 yards to paydirt. Dick completed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Cedric Washington to close the gap to 19-9. The Hogs converted a two-point conversion as McFadden carried the ball in from three yards to cut the Tigers’ lead to one possession at 19-11 with 4:16 to play in the third quarter.
Arkansas’ defense gave the Hogs another scoring chance early in the fourth quarter when Keith Jackson recovered a Vincent fumble at the Razorbacks’ 35-yard line with 13:10 left to play.
The Razorbacks employed a trick play to move themselves into LSU territory on their ensuing drive. Washington took a lateral from Dick and tossed it 45 yards to Hillis for a first down at the Tigers’ four-yard line. Following an incomplete pass and a three-yard run from McFadden, the North Little Rock freshman carried it over the goal line from one yard to make it 19-17. Arkansas went for a two-point conversion, but Dick’s pass was intercepted by Chevis Jackson leaving the deficit at two points. The scoring drive covered 65 yards in seven plays elapsing 2:36 off the clock.
Vaughn and the Razorback defense made short work of the Tigers’ next offensive drive. Vaughn earned his second interception of the afternoon and his fourth of the season to set the UA offense up at its own 46-yard line. LSU’s defense was up to the task recording three-consecutive tackles for loss to force a Razorback punt.
After a three-and-out series by the Tigers, Arkansas once again had the ball trailing by only two points. The Razorbacks were unable to move the chains and punted it back to the Tigers. Three plays later, LSU was forced to punt and the Hogs prepared for their final drive.
Arkansas took over with 3:44 to play at midfield. Dick hit tight end Jared Hicks for two yards before McFadden rushed for two more. After an incompletion on third down, McFadden took a toss and passed 13 yards to Marcus Monk on fourth down to give the Razorbacks a first down at the LSU 33.
The Hogs’ moved no further and in fact lost real estate when Dick was sacked for a seven-yard loss on third down. Dick’s fourth-down heave was intercepted by LSU’s LaRon Landry at the Tigers’ seven-yard line effectively icing the victory. With Arkansas out of timeouts, Russell took a knee twice to run out the final 57 seconds of the game.