LSU 55, Arkansas 24 (Final)

LSU jumped on Arkansas late in the first half when two turnovers sparked the Tigers to a 34-17 halftime lead. The Tigers earned the SEC West berth in the championship game in Atlanta. Arkansas finished the regular season at 8-4 with a likely trip to Shreveport to play in the Independence Bowl.

Quarterback Matt Mauck completed 12 of 19 passes for 186 yards and four touchdowns as the No. 3-ranked Tigers broke free from a 17-17 tie to roll past the Hogs into the SEC title game and stay in contention for the national title. Mauck did not play in the fourth quarter after guiding the Tigers to 38 straight points and a 55-17 lead.

Arkansas trailed at the half, 34-17. LSU's advantage in total yards was, 269-192. LSU won the turnover battle, too. The Hogs were credited with three, and they setup 17 points. LSU lost one fumble, at the UA 9-yard line.

The Hogs opened the scoring with a three-play, 61-yard TD march before most of the 92,213 had settled into their Tiger Stadium seats. Matt Jones opened at quarterback and found DeCori Birmingham with a dump in the right flats for a 53-yard TD pass. It was 7-0 at 11:37 of the first quarter.

The Tigers answered with a Chris Jackson field goal from 38 yards after an 11-play, 52-yard march, the longest possession of the first half by either team. Most of the yardage came on off-tackle handoffs out of the shotgun.

The LSU defense got into the scoring three plays later when Jones tried go handoff to Mark Pierce out of the shotgun. The play blew up when Cedric Cobbs bumped into them both and the ball came loose. Eric Alexander scooped and rolled 25 yards for the touchdown for a 10-7 LSU lead at 5:30 of the first quarter.

Arkansas answered with an 8-play, 57-yard march to Chris Balseiro's 40-yard field goal to make it 10-10 at 2:01 of the first quarter. Cobbs rolled 16 on first down and Jones rolled right to find Steven Harris floating open to the left for another 25.

LSU rolled 75 yards in eight plays to reclaim the lead on Matt Mauck's 10-yard TD pass to Mark Clayton on the second play of the second quarter. Mauck erased third-and-4 to start the drive with a 25-yard dump to his tailback. Clayton was in motion on the TD pass and ran an out to beat Lawrence Richardson on third-and-3. It was 17-10 at 14:09 of the second quarter.

Arkansas answered in two plays, both big runs by Cobbs. The big tailback made 61 on first down, then powered through the right side for the final 20 on the next play, the first rushing defense allowed by the Tiger starters this season. It was 17-17 at 13:40 of the second quarter. Cobbs made 122 in the first half and finished the day with 169 on 21 carries against LSU's tough run defense.

LSU rolled to the UA 9-yard line before Caleb Miller knocked the ball away from Justin Vincent and Jeb Huckeba recovered for the Hogs. Arkansas gave it back at the 9-yard line just a few minutes later when punter Jacob Skinner dropped a perfecet snap and was forced to cover it for a 15-yard loss at the 9-yard line.

LSU scored in three plays. On third-and-goal at the 2, Mauck rolled right to find Skyler Green sprinting across the back of the end zone ahead of Bo Mosley for a 2-yard TD pass. It was 24-17 at 6:35 of the second quarter.

The Tigers added a 47-yard field goal by Jackson with 1:42 left in the half after a nine-play, 38-yard march. Mauck's third down pass was batted away at the goal line by Bua.

On third-and-10, Jones rolled right and threw it up for grabs on a 25-yard pass to near midfield. It was easily intercepted and returned 5 yards to the UA 36-yard line with 1:16 left in the half. The Tigers cashed that in three plays on Mauck's 22-yard strike to Devery Henderson alone in the end zone. Henderson appeared to split UA defensive backs Jimmy Beasley and Eddie Jackson. It was 34-17 at 50.6 of the second quarter.

The Hogs went three-and-out to start the second half and the Tigers were two-and-in the end zone. Vincent made 6 on first down and the Tigers got 15 more when Bua hit him in the LSU bench area for a personal foul. With Bua on the sideline, Mauck found tight end David Jones behind Desmond Sims and Jimmy Beasley for the final 37 yards to make it 41-17 at 12:56 of the third quarter.

The Hogs made a first down on Cobbs' 3-yard run on third-and-3, but Jones' option pitch to wideout Richard Smith lost 3 on third-and-3.

Mauck came up 2 yards short on a third-and-9 scramble, but the Tigers converted fourth-and-2 on a fake field goal. They made it by about one foot. Vincent, going over the 100-yard mark on his 16th carry, scored two plays later, circling the Hogs' left flank on a 23-yard sweep. He outran Bua and stepped inside of Richardson at the 2-yard line. It was 48-17 with 4:16 of the third quarter.

The Hogs nearly gave it back on the kickoff when Cedric Washington fumbled at the 16-yard line. Somehow the ball bounced back to him at the 14-yard line. But the Hogs didn't keep it long. Jones was intercepted on the next play and the Tigers had it at the UA 31-yard line. The lead swelled to 55-17 with 41 seconds left in the third quarter on Vincent's 2-yard TD run. That came after a third-and-4 incompletion in the end zone was negated by Ahmad Carroll's holding penalty against Clayton for a first-and-goal at the 2-yard line.

The Hogs, who made just 20 yards in the third quarter, came up short on second-and-2 when Cobbs went out of bounds one foot short. On third-and-1, Jones lost a foot on a sneak. The Hogs had to punt again to start the fourth quarter.

The Tigers brought on Marcus Randall at quarterack at that point, but left in their starting offensive line. The Tigers stalled after a holding penalty, punting for the first time since going three-and-out on their opening possession. The Hogs gave it back when Birmingham muffed the punt and then was splattered at the 20-yard line trying to pick up the ball on a bounce. The Tigers got it at the UA 20-yard line. The Tigers acted like they had scored enough. They handed off into the line, losing on three straight plays and passed up a field goal to run it on fourth-and-17 to turn it over on downs at the 7:38 mark.

The Hogs, with LSU pulling its front-line defenders, finally moved the chain when they made 9 on Cobbs run off right tackle and 4 on Birmingham's dash up the middle. Jones optioned to Birmingham for 24. On third-and-8, Jones rolled right and lobbed for Birmingham. It was tipped by a linebacker, but popped to Birmingham in the open. He blasted past the last LSU defender at the 2-yard line for a 16-yard TD play. That stopped the LSU scoring run and cut the lead to 55-24 at 2:53 of the fourth quarter.


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