Arkansas 21, LSU 20 (Final)

DeCori Birmingham hauled in a 31-yard TD pass from Matt Jones with nine seconds left to lift Arkansas over LSU for the SEC West championship. Pandomonium rained in Little Rock as the Hogs stayed unbeaten in War Memorial Stadium under Houston Nutt.

About the only thing DeCori Birmingham saw after his touchdown was a few clouds. He was laying flat on his back as his teammates congratulated him for the clutch catch.

"I saw the sky, and that was about it," Birmingham said. "I tried to get up at first, but there just wasn't any way to get up. So, I just stayed flat on my back and kept seeing people looking down on me and the sky. I'll remember seeing the sky more than anything else. It was a beautiful sight."

Birmingham said he remembered seeing Sparky Hamilton on the sideline after the catch as the final seconds ticked off.

"Sparky told me he was scared to death they were going to call me for a pushoff and it wasn't going to count," Birmingham said. "I don't know if I pushed off or not. I just remember seeing the ball coming down out of the sky and knowing that I had to catch it. And, I knew I had to hold on."

I asked DeCori if he'd ever heard of Teddy Barnes, and he said, "Who? I never heard of him. What did he do?"

I related that he'd now be up there with Teddy as someone that would live on in Razorback history.

"That's okay with me," Birmingham said. "I'm just glad I got to do something like that."

There was some irony to the fact that Birmingham made his biggest catch against LSU since it was before and after the LSU game last year that Houston Nutt made it clear that Birmingham could be something special like All-America wideout Josh Reed if the UA frosh would concentrate on just wide receiver.

"Wide receiver is my spot now," Birmingham said. "I get a taste of running back with the way they use me and I get to return punts. I love wide receiver. I just want to help this team win ball games."

His 31-yard TD catch was his only reception of the day, but it was one worth remembering. The Hogs had little else go right in the passing game until their three-play 81-yard drive for the winning points with 9 seconds left.

Matt Jones found Richard Smith for a 50-yard reception to start the drive. Then, after an incompletion into the end zone, he had time to wait for Birmingham to break free from the left side all the way into the right corner of the end zone. The Hogs got a 15-yard celebration penalty, then, after an LSU timeout, David Carlton's hooking extra point was signalled good to give the Hogs the lead for the first time on the long afternoon before 55,553 in War Memorial Stadium.

Quarterback Marc Randle found Skyler Green on two tunnel screens, one at the start of the half and the second at the end of the half. Those two plays provided LSU with two scores, a 67-yard TD pass and the second one set up a 48-yard field goal to end the half for a 10-0 LSU lead.

 

Green's first big play converted a third-and-15 situation and split the UA safeties. Neither safety really had a good shot at Green and cornerback Eddie Jackson couldn't catch as the speedy wide receiver veered to the corner pylon. The Tigers had converted two first downs before Randle found Green for the touchdown. It was 7-0 at 6:44 of the first quarter.

 

Green hauled in another screen pass for a 16-yard gain with five seconds left in the half. LSU used its final timeout of the half to setup Corbello's 48-yarder that ended the half. The Tigers had driven from their 10-yard line, facing just one third down. Randle converted that one with a 5-yard strike on a slant to Mark Clayton which moved LSU to its own 20-yard line. Arkansas had used one of its timeouts just ahead of that completion thinking it would force a punt inside the three-minute mark.

 

Arkansas totaled  only 122 yards in total offense in the first half, but kept the ball for over 18 minutes. The Hogs came away empty when Jones was intercepted in the end zone on a third-and-goal pass from the LSU 10 midway in the second quarter. Jones was back peddling, and appeared to try to throw the ball away. But, LSU's Corey Webster grabbed it just as he stepped out of bounds.

Arkansas thwarted LSU's first possession of the second half, then drove 61 yards in eight plays to get on the board for the first time on a 1-yard plunge by fullback Mark Pierce. It came on a fourth-and-1 play, just after it appeared the Hogs had scored on a third-down play. It was 10-7 at 8:37 of the third quarter.

However, LSU responded with an impressive 7-play, 89-yard TD march with Randle circling his right end after faking a shovel pass to the left. Randle found Michael Clayton for a 50-yard bomb to set up the score.

Arkansas couldn't answer until a 5-play, 80-yard TD march culminated by Fred Talley's 58-yard scamper on a draw. That made it 17-14 with 6:33 left in the fourth quarter.

"I heard boo, boo, boo when it was the draw, and then cheer, cheer, cheer when he broke into the clear," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "You don't give up on Fred Talley and you can't give up on Matt Jones, either. They don't quit and they are playmakers."

The Hogs almost didn't get a chance at another offensive play. LSU threatened to run out the final 6:33 by driving to the UA 12-yard line before settling for John Corbello's 29-yard field goal with 40 seconds left. The Hogs used up all of their timeouts trying to stop the Tigers.

The winning drive started when Jones fired deep down the right hash for Smith. The play was designed to go to George Wilson on a 20-yard out pattern. However, both the safety and the cornerback went to Wilson, and Smith was left alone behind the secondary.

"I under threw it or it would have been a touchdown," Jones said. "Fortunately, Richard came back and made a nice catch. If I had put a little more air under it, Richard would have scored."

James Shibest, the Hogs' wideout coach, said, "Richard made a nice catch. We'd been frustrated in the passing game because we'd dropped some, and those floaters are the toughest to catch. You have to wait forever. Richard made a nice catch."

The TD pass to Birmingham came after the Hogs' lined up with three receivers to the left.

"DeCori was in the slot, and I kinda looked for him first," Jones said. "Geoge was on the right and he cleared things out and I saw DeCori behind the cornerback. I just put it up there for him."

The Hogs made 58, 50, 0 and 31 on their final four plays to finish with 372 total yards, ahead of the 353 the Tigers made on the day. Talley led all rushers with 118 yards on 15 carries. Domanick Davis led LSU's runners with 67 on 14 tries.

Arkansas meets Georgia in the SEC championship game at 5 p.m. Saturday in the Georgia Dome. The Hogs advance with a 9-3 overall record, and a 5-3 SEC mark. Arkansas tied with Auburn and LSU in the SEC West, but had the tiebreaker thanks to victories over both teams.

Fred Talley

Fred Talley (20) turns the corner on the way to a 58-yard TD run.

 

Tackle

 

 

Huddle

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