No. 17 LSU 33, Arkansas 30, OT
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP)Les Miles trotted to the edge of the boisterous student section at Tiger Stadium, pumping his fist in triumph.
LSU's embattled coach was one week removed and a world away from the Tigers' late-game debacle at Mississippi.
The Tigers calmly drove 41 yards in 1:08 to set up Josh Jasper's game-tying 41-yard field goal with 4 seconds left in regulation, then the kicker made a 36-yarder in overtime to lift No. 17 LSU to a 33-30 victory over Arkansas on Saturday night.
"We worked that situation a couple of times this week in practice and even in walkthroughs this morning," said LSU tight end Richard Dickson, who had an 11-yard catch on the game-tying drive. "I'm not saying you ever want to be in that situation again, but we were not going to make the same mistake twice."
Alex Tejada missed a 36-yard field goal that could have forced a second OT. Arkansas (7-5, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) fell short in a remarkable comeback bid, highlighted by Ryan Mallet's fourth-down touchdown pass to Joe Adams with 1:18 left, which gave the Razorbacks a short-lived 30-27 lead.
Jordan Jefferson threw for touchdown passes of 16 yards to Brandon LaFell and 15 yards to Deangelo Peterson, and Trindon Holliday had an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown for LSU (9-3, 5-3), which could sneak into a New Year's Day bowl game because of Mississippi's loss earlier Saturday.
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity at a 10th victory at a bowl game of our team's liking," Miles said.
LSU stormed the field after Tejada's field goal sailed wide, celebrating their victory in the battle for "The Golden Boot" with Miles, who'd been under fire from fans since the Tigers' loss at Ole Miss the previous weekend.
LSU botched the end of that game with poor clock management and play-calling. Against Arkansas, Jefferson and the Tigers looked like old pros in the 2-minute drill.
"I'm proud of this team," Miles said. "In an area where there's a swirling backdrop and agendas, it didn't bother them. They got the distraction behind them and they came out and played as a team. I'm very proud of them. I'm proud of this coaching staff."
A week earlier, LSU recovered an onside kick and advanced to Mississippi's 32, but moved backward on a sack and a screen pass, then completed a long pass to the Rebels' 5, only to run out of time. Miles was berated by fans even on his own call-in show a couple days later.
"I've got thick skin," Miles said. "I know what I did and how I did it and more importantly I understand how the corrections were made. ... My professional life is good and in turn my personal life is good. My wife loves me no matter what, so I think I will be OK."
Against the Hogs, LSU marched from its own 36 with one timeout to set up Jasper's tying field goal. Jefferson moved his team efficiently, completing four short passes, the last an 8-yarder to Stevan Ridley, who got out of bounds at the Arkansas 23 with 9 seconds left. Then it was up to Jasper.
"I know what it meant for this team and in particular these seniors," LSU's junior kicker said. "You wanted to send these seniors out with a win in their last game in Tiger Stadium. I knew once I made that kick that we were going to win the game."
Some could argue the Golden Boot, a cumbersome and heavy trophy in the shape of the states of Arkansas and Louisiana, is a bit unsightly. The games to decide who gets it have been thrilling in recent years.
Last season, Arkansas scored a touchdown with 21 seconds left to win 31-30. In 2007, Arkansas won 50-48 in triple overtime, needing a fourth-and-10 conversion to extend that game past the first OT.
This year, it was LSU's turn to pull it out amid the adversity stemming from the previous weekend's loss.
Jefferson finished 17 of 25 for 179 yards and one interception. LaFell had four catches for 70 yards. Missing its top two running backs in Charles Scott (collarbone) and Keiland Williams (ankle), LSU rushed for 147 yards, led by Holliday's 57. Jasper made two 47-yard field goals in regulation.
Mallett was 17 of 39 for 227 yards and was intercepted once. Greg Childs caught five passes for 124 yards.
"We certainly did a nice job of making adjustments at halftime, coming out and competing hard," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "We got in position where we had the chance to win the game. Unfortunately, we didn't get it done."
Arkansas' final drive was loaded with heavy hits. Several plays before Adams scored the go-ahead TD, his helmet was knocked off by Chad Jones at the goal line. A flag for helmet-to-helmet contact came in several seconds later, inciting a storm of boos from the crowd.
Although LSU's defense could not protect the lead on that drive, it stepped up in overtime, completing a solid performance against an offense that came in averaging 445.2 yards and 38 points.
Arkansas finished with 375 yards, most of it coming in the second half as the Razorbacks gradually erased a 17-6 deficit with scoring runs of 13 yards Ronnie Wingo Jr. and 8 yards Broderick Green, and Tejada's third field goal of the game.
"We started too slow on offense," Mallett said. "I take full responsibility for that. We can't start like that against a decent team."