A Near Knockout Punch
“Who would have thought they would have hit a long ball? Certainly not I.” – Les Miles
It wasn’t the final blow, but it was certainly the most devastating punch the Razorbacks delivered.
The Tigers called a timeout and tried to pass downfield for points, but a pair of incompletions by Jordan Jefferson forced punter Josh Jasper to the field. His kick went out of the back of the endzone, setting Arkansas up at their 20-yard line with six seconds until the half.
According to Patrick Peterson, the team expected run.
Instead, Arkansas went pass.
From their base formation, Arkansas sent wide receiver Cobi Hamilton on a post route. Hamilton, being tracked by cornerback Morris Claiborne, pulled in the pass and braced for the hit from LSU safety Karnell Hatcher.
Instead, Hatcher misfired and took out Claiborne.
Claiborne said of the hit: “It knocked the wind out of me.”
Now running free, Hamilton followed a blocker past Patrick Peterson and ran into the endzone for the 80-yard touchdown as time expired.
“We were just in a base defense, but we were in bail technique,” said linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. “The players were there. The corner was right there on the receiver and the safety was coming in, just like we draw it up. I think out of 100 times we would stop that play 99 times. Today was just the day they got it.
“Karnell Hatcher is one of the biggest hitters in the country, and he came up and made a big hit. Unfortunately he knocked our corner off, and the receiver spun off and made the play.”
The obvious question in hindsight: why were the Tigers in a base defense with only one play before the half?
“We could have been in something different,” Miles said. “At this point in time you would like to run prevent. We felt like we had a really good call, we just didn’t execute; just too deep.”
Peterson said of the score, which gave Arkansas a 21-14 lead headed into the locker room: “That play was definitely the changing point of the game.”
Saving It for LSU
After his final touchdown pass of the night, Ryan Mallett looked to the sideline and pointed to his head coach.
Moments earlier, Bobby Petrino had harnessed his inner Les Miles.
Less than a minute into the fourth quarter, Arkansas faced a 4th-and-3 from the LSU 39-yard line. Up 21-20, Petrino decided on a call that the Razorbacks have had stored away for 12 months.
“It’s a play that we’ve been working on since LSU last year,” Mallett said. “They max pressured a lot and I tried to give them a hard count but they didn’t bite. I could have checked out of that play, but it was man coverage and Joe (Adams) made a great play to make his man miss.”
Matched one-on-one with LSU freshman cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, Adams shook off the coverage and quickly moved past him – where there was no help over the top
“It was just a double move,” said LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson. “We sent everybody and there was no safety. They went max protect so they had it blocked pretty well. (Mathieu’s) a young guy who knows how to play the position. We can’t fault him for giving up the touchdown.
The Drive to Seal the Deal
Following the score from Adams to make the game 28-20, Arkansas forced LSU into a three-and-out.
Taking over at their own 10-yard line, the Razorbacks ran the ball on 10 of 13 snaps en route to an 88-yard scoring drive that culminated with a 19-yard field goal by Zach Hocker.
Knile Davis, who finished the game with 159 yards and a touchdown on 30 touches, carried the ball six times for 52 yards. Broderick Green stepped in and spelled Davis to the tune of 22 yards on four carries.
“We really thought our offensive line was taking over the game,” Petrino said. “I really didn’t plan on making every play a run, it just ended up that way when we were moving the line of scrimmage and breaking tackles.”
The drive took 6:03 off the clock, handing the ball back to the Tigers with an 11-point lead and not much wiggle room for the comeback.
“They did a good job blocking and running their scheme,” said defensive end Lavar Edwards. “We weren’t tired, we just couldn’t get a stop.”