LITTLE ROCK - One thing is always guaranteed when it comes to an Arkansas-LSU – it's going to be wildly entertaining.
Saturday's included an 82-yard punt, a dropped punt, a punt which hit a camera hanging above the field, six touchdowns, five fumbles, two interceptions, two 80-plus yard TD passes – one on the final play of the first half - and the game-clinching points coming on a fourth-and-3 play in the fourth quarter.
Knile Davis rushed 30 times for 152 yards and Ryan Mallett threw for 320 yards and hit Cobi Hamilton on two TD passes as No. 12 Arkansas downed No. 6 LSU, 31-23, before 55,508 fans at War Memorial Stadium. The Tigers entered at No. 5 in the BCS standings.
"They have made my job a lot easier and it's been one of the most enjoyable year's I've spent coaching because of their attitude and the way we go about our business," Petrino added. "It was one heck of a game tonight. It was a battle. Our guys just kept at it and made some big plays on offense and defense and we held on with special teams."
The game-winning points came on Mallett's 39-yard pass to Joe Adams when Arkansas decided to go for it instead of punting deep.
"There was a lot of thought that went into that," Petrino said. "I even called Coach (John L.) Smith over one time and asked ‘do you think we should punt? Go for it?' I worked with Coach Smith a long time ago and he had a saying ‘We didn't come to paint. We come to win the game.' So we went for it.
"It was really a play that we have worked on ever since last year's game with LSU," Petrino added. "They have given us problems with their all out – we call it a house blitz – straight across the board with man coverage. They sit at the sticks, particularly the safety on Joe. Joe did a great job on the double move and took it over the top. Great throw. Great play. Well-executed. Obviously a big, big play in the game."
The Razorbacks (10-2, 6-2) and Tigers (10-2, 6-2) finished in a tie for second in the SEC West behind champion Auburn (12-0, 8-0) while defending national champion Alabama finishes fourth.
"Congratulations to Arkansas," LSU head coach Les Miles said. "They did a great job. I'm not happy. It's certainly not how it's supposed to end for us, but give Arkansas credit."
Arkansas put itself position to be in a BCS Bowl, maybe the Sugar Bowl. The music played after the game: "Pour Some Sugar on Me."
There were reps from five bowls on hand - Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Capital One and Chick-fil-a.
"Hopefully if the right teams win, we'll end up in the Sugar Bowl," Razorback senior defensive end Jake Bequette said. "That's what we were playing for tonight so hopefully it will happen."
One thing that was needed already happened and that was Auburn rallying from a 24-0 deficit to beat Alabama on Friday.
"That was really hard rooting for Auburn," Petrino joked.
Mallett finished the night 13 for 23 passing for 320 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
He is obviously the biggest reason that Arkansas set single-season records for passing yardage (4,061) and touchdowns (34) on Friday.
"It was a tough win," Mallett said. "LSU is a good team. They showed us a few different things, but it was a good, hard win."
One of the stars of the day for LSU was cornerback Patrick Peterson, who had four kickoff returns for 163 total yards.
"He is very good," Petrino said.
LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson was 16-of-27 for 184 yards and was sacked four times by the Razorbacks, same as Mallett was by the Tigers.
The Razorbacks had 464 yards total offense to just 294 for the visitors.
Jerico Nelson, who led Arkansas with 11 tackles, set the tone of the day with hits of Jefferson for lost yardage on the first two plays of the game.
"Our defense battled hard," Petrino said. "We did a good job on the front. The quarterback was hard because of his ability to move around and scramble and you saw some tremendous efforts out there by our players to get to him and get him down. We'd have to get him down and chase him down one time, two times, three times.
"We had good coverage I thought – for the most part – all night long," Petrino added. "He didn't have a lot of guys open and we had tight coverage and that allowed us to get to him."
Arkansas took a 7-0 lead on Davis' 14-yard scoring run and Zach Hocker's PAT with 2:30 left in the first quarter.
LSU tied it 7-7 on Stevan Ridley's 5-yard run early in the second quarter.
Mallett hit Hamilton and he did most of the work on the 85-yard touchdown pass while showing off the speed that made him a combo football-track star at Texas High.
"Once I got by that first guy, I knew I was going to score," Hamilton said. "I just tried to turn it on and head to the end zone."
Ridley answered that with a 3-yard run – on which he eluded three Arkansas defenders. That tied it up 14-14, which it stayed until the last play of the half.
There were four possessions in the final minute with a fumble and an interception on consecutive plays and a punt setting up Arkansas on its own 20 with six seconds left.
Mallett hit Hamilton in stride as two LSU defenders collided in mid-air to take each other out of the play. Hamilton then made a great cut and only had LSU speedster Peterson to beat.
Jarius Wright caught up, screened Peterson and Hamilton got into the end zone after the first-half time had expired.
"The thought process is always to go for it," Petrino said. "We called one of our plays that we like a lot. We have an end cut with a post over the top. When they lined up, I thought 'hey, we've got a chance. Unbelievable throw. He (Mallett) was getting hit as he was throwing the ball. Cobi did a great job on his route the first thing. It was a very, very good catch and that is where luck comes in a little bit. You have two guys collide. He really did a great job with the big plays he had after catching it and running with the ball."
LSU cut it to 21-20 on its first two possessions of the second half when Josh Jasper booted kicks of 46 and 20 yards.
The Tigers started those possessions on the Arkansas 46 after a Peterson kickoff return from the end zone and on the Razorbacks 9 when punter Dylan Breeding dropped a good snap.
Arkansas took a 28-20 lead on the Mallett to Adams connection that came after the the Razorbacks first tried to get LSU to jump offsides and then took a timeout.
"It's a play we've been working on since LSU last year," Mallett said. "Like Coach was talking about, they max pressured a lot and I tried to give them a hard count, but they didn't bite. I could have checked out of that play, but it was man coverage and Joe made a great play to make his man miss."
Hocker's 19-yard field goal pushed it to 31-20 with 6:09 left in the game.
That capped an 88-yard drive from the Arkansas 10 that began with a 14-yard pass to D.J. Williams and then featured nine punishing runs by Davis and Broderick Green.
"I really felt like our offensive line was taking over the game and I just wanted to go get points and use as much of the clock as we could," Petrino said. "I really didn't plan on making every play a run, it just ended up that way as we were moving along. Going forward, I thought it was a huge thing for us.
"It was really nice to be able to power the ball like that, block guys, running backs running hard," Petrino said. "When you fall forward like that, it is a pretty good situation with the sticks. If I had to do it again, I wouldn't have called the pass play because it didn't work. But I thought maybe we would catch them in man coverage and pop it wide. Obviously we didn't."
Mallett also praised the offense for that time-consuming march.
"Obviously that was a great drive," Mallett said. "We took six minutes off the clock and we want to punch it in, but that was a good drive taking time off. Our running game has come along so far and for the six minutes we physically imposed our will on them."
Jasper's field goal with 1:58 left set the final score, although there were still plenty of action left.
Hamilton recovered LSU's onside kick attempt, but the Tigers did get the ball back with 46 seconds left.
They did so in part because a referee ruled that Davis was injured and stopped the clock - something the Razorbacks certainly did not want.
"The referee said he ruled he was hurt and had the discretion to call a time out there," Petrino said.
But LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson was sacked by Andru Stewart and Jerry Franklin recovered at the Tigers 1 and Arkansas ran one play to run out the clock.
"We wanted a safety there at the end," Bequette said, "but I think it worked out better giving our offense the ball so there was no chance of an onside kick. Our defense put out a great effort today."
Cobi Hamilton had touchdown catches of 85 and 80 yards.
Knile Davis had 30 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown.
Jarius Wright had a game-high four receptions for 68 yards, including a 37-yarder to set up Arkansas' second score.
Joe Adams had three catches for 60 yards and a fourth quarter touchdown reception on fourth down.
Andru Stewart knocks the ball loose to clinch the victory.
Bobby Petrino didn't like it when the referee didn't re-start the clock near the end of the game.
Jerico Nelson tackles LSU running back Stevan Ridley.