Arkansas Defense Stands Tall in Finale

LITTLE ROCK — For the better part of 11 games, two quarters and one drive, Arkansas' defense had been the laughingstock of the Southeastern Conference.

But after coming up with key stops in the closing minutes of Friday's 31-30 win against LSU, the beleaguered group didn't care much about its past.

"This was big for us," defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard said. "We haven't been playing the best. But to end on a good note like this is good for us."

Arkansas — after being run over all season — stood up to LSU's test when it counted in the season finale.

Sure, the Tigers became the sixth team to score 30 or more points on the Hogs this season, but Arkansas held LSU scoreless over the final 28 minutes.

"They kept playing with emotion," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "Our defense fought extremely hard. ... It showed a lot of character, guts and determination."

Arkansas helped itself by coming up with a new plan to stop the run.

The Razorbacks — who were gashed for 226 yards by MSU's ground game last week — inserted senior defensive tackle Cord Gray into the starting lineup. He often lined up alongside Zach Stadther and Sheppard, giving the Hogs more beef on their front.

"We put every guy you could ever possibly put down in the box to try to be really physical at the point of attack and it really helped," Petrino said.

Said defensive coordinator Willy Robinson: "That was really coach Petrino's thought. It was really well thought out as far as what we needed to do to stop their run out of their base package."

Arkansas still had trouble with LSU and freshman quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who was making his first start. Behind the fleet-footed quarterback, the Tigers ran for 161 yards, had 242 total in the first half and raced to a 23-14 lead at halftime.

It got even worse for Arkansas to start the second half when Jefferson threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to receiver Brandon LaFell for a 30-14 lead.

But Arkansas got pressure on Jefferson the rest of the game and LSU's offense grinded to a halt. The Tigers finished with 3 yards on their final six drives.

"We didn't let him have the edge and so he had limited space to work with," Sheppard said.

The Razorbacks made their biggest stands after the offense failed to convert on a fourth-down play with 5:31 left. LSU gained a first down on the drive, but the defense stood and forced the Tigers to punt.

Arkansas scored the go-ahead touchdown and the defense was called on again to make big plays. LSU returned the ensuing kickoff to the Arkansas 46, but couldn't gain any yards on three plays and Colt David's 63-yard field-goal attempt fell short.

"This was an up-and-down game and an up-and-down season," safety Matt Harris said. "To go out and not only beat LSU, but hold them to seven points in the second half, it's unbelievable what it does for us."

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