The streak is over and The Boot will be spending the year in Fayetteville because Arkansas turned 0-17 into 17-0.
Brandon Allen passed for 169 yards and the Arkansas defense had its best effort of the season as the Razorbacks blanked LSU 17-0 before 70,165 fans that experienced freezing temperatures at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
The win in a game dubbed the “Battle for the Boot” ended a 17-game, 763-day SEC losing streak for Arkansas (5-5, 1-5) and put the Razorbacks a victory away from a bowl berth with games against visiting Ole Miss and at Missouri left in the regular season.
"The Boot is much more than just a symbol of today's win," Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said. "It is a victory that we will able to carry the entire year. It will be on display at the bottom of the elevator when you come into our complex and it will be something we will cherish for a long time."
After dousing their head coach with Gatorade, the Arkansas players sprinted across the field to the LSU sideline where The Boot trophy was stationed the second the game ended and fans flooded the field after Bielema recorded his first league win after two years and several close losses.
"I think the great thing about our guys is that we have been through so much that really nothing is going to faze them," Bielema said. "There is nothing that they haven't been through that they can't learn from. I say it all the time to our players and coaches - it's not what happens, but how you react to what happens. We have had some bad things happen to us, but if they just kept reacting in the right way that eventually good things were going to happen to those who work and survive as you battle."
Arkansas has five losses this season, but all have been to teams ranked in the top 10 when the Razorbacks faced them.
"Different guys offensively and defensively popped in there and did some special things and I thought our coaches during the course of the week did some phenomenal things to get to where we are today," Bielema said. "Today didn't just happen. Today was a process of 24/7 over the last how ever many months to get to where we are."
Bielema was overjoyed about the way the fans showed up for a game that begin with the temperature at 33 degrees - the lowest at a Razorback game since 1995.
"I can't say enough for our fans," Bielema said. "The part that has been amazing to me is I don't know how a coach can get to 0-17 and get the support that we did, but I think it is because we are doing things the right way and we built a foundation the right way. Our kids are going to handle themselves in the right way.
"I think the part that was fun for me was I kind of threw out a challenge at my Monday presser that if you come you better get out there and get acclimated," Bielema added. "I saw different reactions on twitter all week saying they were in the freezer preparing, taking a walk for two weeks to get themselves acclimated. It is just such a fun thing to share with a fan base that absolutely enjoys every trial and tribulation like that did to get them a win, but also to let them know that there are is some really good things coming."
Arkansas senior offensive lineman Brey Cook offered up this assessment.
"If I could pick one game to win all season and lose all the others, it would be this one," Cook said. "It was so much fun for us and it was a blast to go out there and take that thing."
Tight end Hunter Henry - who had 4 catches for 54 yards - while fellow tight end A.J. Derby had 4 catches for 36 yards - loved what he saw from the fans during and after the game.
"If feels so good to see the fans and their passion about it and feel it after the game and feel it in the locker room," Henry said. "I can't even describe the feeling."
The Arkansas defense allowed just 123 yards total offense while pitching its first shutout since 2006 against Utah State, the first SEC shutout since 2002 against South Carolina and kept the LSU offense scoreless for the first time since it lost to Alabama in the 2012 BCS national championship game.
"I think defensively that one of the things that we really addressed after last season was just tackling," Bielema said. "It sounds so silly, but defensively if you just tackle well and get the ball down and play another set of downs. I don't know how many examples there were today of just getting the ball down and playing another set."
Allen was 16-of-26 passing with no turnovers while LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings was harassed into a 12-of-22 night for just 87 yards, was sacked three times and hurried another trio of times.
Jonathan Williams rushed 18 times for 55 yards and Alex Collins 16 times for 46 yards – and each scored a touchdown - as the Razorbacks rushed 38 times for 95 yards while limiting the Tigers to 36 yards on 32 carries.
Arkansas took a commanding 17-0 early in the fourth quarter on a 12-play, 55-yard drive that started in the third quarter and was culminated when Collins busted over from 5 yards out with 11:03 left in the game.
Bielema admitted that he wasn't too comfortable even with that lead.
"I just said whatever happens just keep playing one game at a time," Bielema said about his message to the team to start the final quarter. "Just give yourself on defense a chance to make the next play. On offense there is going to be another down or another series. You just have to stay with it."
LSU (7-4, 3-4) fell to 25-2 after a loss in head coach Les Miles' tenure with this loss coming after a 20-13 home loss to Alabama last weekend.
"First off I want to congratulate Bret on preparing his team so well," Miles said. "They’ve come close so many times and I knew they were eventually going to break through, unfortunately it came against us. Offensively, we struggled yet again. We were unable to get anything going on that side of the ball. Defensively, I thought we played hard, tackled well but made mistakes in coverage that led to big plays. But simply we have to do better on offense."
The Razorbacks used 11 plays to cover 60 yards on the opening possession of the game and took a 3-0 lead when Adam McFain drilled a 32-yard field goal with 10:17 left in the first quarter.
Allen was 3 of 5 passing for 44 yards on that drive – including a 14-yard shovel pass to Korliss Marshall after he had been suspended for a month - while Williams got the other 16 yards on the ground.
"Korliss Marshall, who had been out a couple of games, came in and gave us great juice," Bielema said.
The Razorbacks failed to capitalize on their second possession after taking over at the LSU 49, but were able to push that advantage to 10-0 in the second quarter.
Williams' 1-yard touchdown run capped a 15-play, 59-yard drive with McFain adding the PAT with 8:40 left before halftime.
It was the longest scoring drive of the season in terms of plays for Arkansas and was Williams' 11th touchdown of the season.
LSU had a chance to cut into that lead after its best drive of the first half, but Colby Delahoussaye missed a 27-yard field goal with 1:51 left before halftime. The LSU kicker had made 10 of 11 before Saturday night.
Arkansas had 151 yards total offense on 34 plays in the first half (18 passing, 16 rushing) while limiting LSU to just 51 yards total offense.
After Rohan Gaines was tossed for targeting midway through the third quarter – a play that gave LSU a first down at the Arkansas 24 - the Razorback defense stiffened.
Senior defense end Trey Flowers sacked Jennings on third down and that 10-yard loss proved costly for the Tigers when Delahoussaye came up short on a 47-yard field goal to leave it 10-0.
“I talked to Colby after the first miss and he said he toed it, but he had it fixed," Miles said. "After the second miss I didn’t talk to him. I feel that the second kick was rushed, the clock was running down and we could have called a timeout, but I thought they were lined up and good to go and you all saw the result.”
The shutout remained intact when Jennings was hit by linebacker Martrell Spaight and fumbled at the Arkansas 20 late in the fourth quarter with defensive tackle Darius Philon jumping on the loose football.
Spaight led defensive coordinator Robb Smith's group with 10 tackles while fellow senior linebacker Braylon Mitchell had nine stops and cornerback Jared Collins 7 tackles and a career-high 4 passes broken up.
“Arkansas is a very good football team, much improved," Miles said. "I think their quarterback played very well tonight. But I think the story is that we need to make some adjustments and fix us to finish the season strong. Give them some credit though, things were going well for them early on, but I think if our offensive would of played better out of the gate it would have been a different ball game. I thought they threw the football with some imagination. I think the open week certainly helped them prepare for us.”
Miles said there may have been a hangover from last week's loss to Alabama.
“It’s got to be something," Miles said. "I would like to think to think not, but tonight I saw effort but I didn’t see finish. We were not crisp to start on offensive and that continued, but I think that our defense continued to play great today.”
Brooks Ellis closes in on the ball carrier.
Alan Turner makes a tackle.
Martrell Spaight tackles Leonard Fournette.
Trey Flowers closes in on a tackle.
Brandon Allen looks for a receiver to throw.
AJ Derby powers down the side line.
Photos by Jason Ivester
Arkansas 17, LSU 0
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