Bowled Over

LITTLE ROCK -- The tears rolled down Arkansas receiver Steven Harris' face as the final minutes trickled off the War Memorial Stadium clock.

It was an understandable overflow of emotions for the senior who played in 38 games and has been around longer than any other current Razorback. Harris fought through two injury-plagued seasons, enjoyed memorable moments and knew his final game would probably trigger a multitude of feelings.

But Harris said he wasn't prepared for his career to be sacked Friday.

Harris and the Hogs had to endure the bitter end of two lengthy streaks during their 43-14 loss to No. 14 LSU in front of 55,829. Arkansas (5-6, 3-5 in Southeastern Conference) will miss postseason play for the first time since 1997 after having its 17-game winning streak in Little Rock snapped sharply by the Tigers (9-2, 6-2).

"It's something that I'm not used to," Harris said. "I really don't know how to feel about it. Obviously, it's a disappointing feeling. But what do you say? I've never experienced anything like that. Since I've been here, we've been to bowl games. Since I've been here, we've won in Little Rock.

"It's a rough feeling."

LSU wrecked Arkansas behind senior quarterback Marcus Randall, who earned his first start in more than a month in place of turnover-prone redshirt freshman JaMarcus Russell. The experienced Randall, who started the 21-20 loss to the Hogs in Little Rock two years ago, coolly led the Tigers to their best offensive outing since the 51-0 win against Mississippi State on Sept. 25.

Randall completed 10 of 14 passes for 173 yards, including 20- and 29-yard touchdown passes to tailback Joseph Addai in the first half. He also slipped through the Razorbacks for 79 rushing yards and 2 touchdown runs.

"I thought Russell was going to start the game," said Arkansas defensive coordinator Dave Wommack. "That's what they had been doing for the last three or four games. I think (Randall) just stepped in there with a lot of confidence and moved the ball. We stopped them the first time, three-and-out. I know they had some third down plays where we had a chance to get off the field early in the game and we didn't get off the field.

"So we've got to give him credit for that."

Randall and LSU struck an Arkansas nerve with an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive at the end of the first half. The Tigers, who were leading 20-14, rambled past the Hogs in 3 minutes, 47 seconds. Randall's 1-yard touchdown run gave them a 27-14 lead with 20 seconds left in the half.

Arkansas got the ball to start the second half, but quarterback Matt Jones threw his first of two interceptions to defensive back LeRon Landry. Randall scored a 7-yard touchdown five plays later, and, at 34-14, the rout was on.

The Tigers piled up 468 yards, scored on six of their first seven possessions and wore down an Arkansas defense that struggled all season. Randall threw only one pass in the second half, while tailbacks Alley Broussard, Justin Vincent, Joseph Addai and Shyrone Carey combined for 216 rushing yards.

"This is a difficult place to play," said LSU coach Nick Saban, who was 0-2 in War Memorial Stadium before Friday. "We hadn't won in here in a while and they hadn't lost in a while. It was a nice win."

The Tigers' sweltering defense held Arkansas and the hobbled Jones in check most of the afternoon. Jones' strained right hamstring was better than last week, when he led the Hogs to a 27-24 must-win at Mississippi State.

But Jones' injury still obviously limited the Arkansas offense.

Jones completed 12 of 29 passes for 152 yards and 2 touchdowns with 2 interceptions in his final game. He was sacked three times and couldn't help the Hogs duplicate the miraculous win against LSU in 2002.

"He could move a little bit," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "But whenever he doesn't really take the ball out and force it on the option play, you know he's not healthy. There's some things we could've done.

"The score would've been better, had Matt been full-speed."

The Razorbacks scored twice thanks largely to LSU special teams breakdowns.

Immediately after Addai notched the game's first touchdown, Arkansas tailback DeCori Birmingham returned a kickoff 47 yards to the LSU 49. Freshman Peyton Hillis broke off a career-long, 42-yard run off an option pitch from Jones on the next play and caught a 7-yard touchdown pass to tie the game.

Arkansas got another special teams break when a short punt by Jeremy Davis skimmed off a foot of LSU's Chevis Jackson. Hogs linebacker Pierre Brown pounced on the ball at the Tigers' 15 and Jones threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Harris two plays later to cut LSU's lead to 17-14.

But it was as close as the Razorbacks could get to becoming bowl eligible.

LSU held onto "The Golden Boot," the trophy awarded annually to the winner of this regular-season finale. The Tigers are the first road team to win in this series since their 31-21 victory in Little Rock in 1997 and they staked their claim for some holiday fun, likely at the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

Meanwhile the Hogs, and their senior class, have little to look forward to as they enter what Nutt described as an "unusual" off-season. The loss ended the careers of influential players like Jones, Birmingham, Harris, defensive tackle Arrion Dixon and defensive end Jeb Huckeba.

"I feel like we've let Little Rock down," Huckeba said. "I feel like we've let the coaches down. I wanted coach Nutt to get to his seventh-straight bowl. I really wanted to get that done for him.

"Sometimes you don't get what you want. It hurts bad."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories