Ryan Mallett didn't need anyone to second guess him after Arkansas lost a 33-30 overtime decision at LSU. The sophomore quarterback beat everyone to the punch.
"I tried to make too many big plays in the first half," Mallett said. "I take responsibility. We can't start like that against a decent team. We have to start faster than that."
Mallett was talking about giving the Tigers a 17-3 lead. He threw an interception early in the game on a bootleg pass that sailed over the intended target. It was one of several passes in the first half that was high.
With LSU's secondary playing deep giving the Hogs some soft spots in the middle of the field and on the sideline, Mallett was often high and off the mark. Ultimately, that put too much pressure on an Arkansas defense that allowed just 326 total yards.
The breakdown on Mallett showed 4 of 7 for 70 yards in the first quarter. He was 3 of 13 for just 21 yards in the second quarter. He improved to 9 of 17 for 128 in the second half, then 1 of 2 in overtime. That comes to 17 of 39 for 227 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
"He was too excited in the first half," Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino said. "He made some great plays in the second half to give us a chance to win, but he was rushing it in the first half. We calmed him down and he made some things happen."
Petrino said the Hogs made other adjustments aside from slowing down Mallett's motor. They took advantage of the way LSU backed their safeties off the line. Free safety Chad Jones often played 25 yards deep at the snap.
"They were playing them both inside, kinda in a robber look," offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said. "They were playing the (strong safety), cheating on the slot receiver."
That was often set to stop flanker Joe Adams. Ultimately, the Tigers knocked Adams out of the game with a helmet-to-helmet hit by Chad Jones on a play that drew a 15-yard penalty late in regulation. Adams returned to catch the go-ahead touchdown just a couple of snaps later, but was stopped from playing in the overtime by doctors.
"From what I was told, Joe is going to be alright," Paul Petrino said. "He made a great play to give us the lead. He took a couple of shots tonight."
Bobby Petrino said, "Our guys competed and played with a great attitude. We felt like we had a good team. We just ended up scoring too soon."
Mallett's 14-yard touchdown pass to Adams came with 1:18 left in regulation. The Tigers then tied it with an eight-play, 41-yard drive for Josh Jasper's 41-yard field goal.
The Hogs lost in overtime when Jasper converted from 36 yards and Alex Tejada was about one yard wide right on another 36-yarder. Petrino was asked if it was too much to ask of Tejada, since he's missed from the right hash in other games.
"He had to go out there and kick the ball through the uprights," Bobby Petrino said. "He did it all game long and made some nice kicks during the game. I have a lot of confidence in him. Unfortunately, he just missed."
Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said it came down to tackling in LSU's drive to end regulation.
"You have to tackle the flare back in bounds," he said. "You do that, it's different. They were out of timeouts. We missed the tackle on the first pass to the flare back. Then, we were in the wrong coverage the second time.
"We were going back and forth as a staff between three and four man rush. We got the sack to start it, but we didn't get any pressure after that."
Robinson said the Hogs were hurt by a new LSU wrinkle in the first half. The Tigers hit two long plays on run calls out of an unbalanced line, with only one offensive lineman to one side of the center.
"We had seen an unbalanced look on tape, but not anything with that many receivers to the other side," Robinson said. "We didn't handle it well the first two times, but we got it stopped after that."
The adjustments the Hogs made at halftime revolved around better run blocking.
"We certainly did a nice job of making adjustments at halftime," Bobby Petrino said. "We came out and ran the ball in the third quarter. LSU was running a three-man front with a bunch of linebackers. We wanted to go with Ronnie Wingo in the third quarter and then have Dennis (Johnson) fresh for the fourth quarter.
"We also did some things in protections that helped. Ryan played better, but it was a combination of him and the things that helped protections."
Paul Petrino said Mallett's excitement at the outset didn't seem like a problem.
"He's been (excited) like that before and he's played well," Petrino said. "So you don't know he's (too hyped). We did have to calm him down at halftime. Just slow him down."
The Hogs had the ball second in overtime and got nothing. Johnson lost 2 yards on the first play. Mallett's second-down pass was batted down by an end who dropped into coverage. Mallett found London Crawford for 8 yards on third-and-12.
"The first play was a check and our center just missed (Drake Nevis)," Bobby Petrino said. "The play that hurt was on second down. The defensive end knocked it down. We had one-on-one and it was open."
By then, the Hogs were without Greg Childs (cramps) and Adams.
"That hurts, but we have other guys," Paul Petrino said. "London made a great catch and was just inches from getting away from the tackle. He fought as hard as he could and almost made the play.
"It just came down to them making a few more plays than we did. We fought and competed."
Mallett Takes Blame for Start
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