LSU outlasts Arkansas, keeps West hopes alive

LSU quarterback Rohan Davey and running back LaBrandon Toefield each tallied three touchdowns against No. 24 Arkansas in the Tigers 41-38 win Friday afternoon at Tiger Stadium. The Tigers offset five turnovers with over 500 yards of total offense to stay in the hunt for the West division in the Southeastern Conference, which will be decided next in Saturday's game between LSU and Auburn.

It was the first win over a ranked team this season for LSU (7-3, 5-3 SEC), who needs to beat Auburn next week to earn its first trip the SEC Championship game. Arkansas (7-4, 4-4) failed in its bid to end the season with seven straight wins after beginning the year 1-3.

Arkansas took a 10-7 lead in the first quarter but fell behind by 16 points in the second half. After allowing the Razorbacks to rally back within three points, LSU ran out the last 2:21 in the game with a clutch third down conversion.

The win also gave the Tigers possession of "The Boot," the geographically-designed trophy awarded to the winner of the annual LSU-Arkansas border rivalry.

"I'm tired. I almost feel like I played in the game," said LSU coach Nick Saban. "It was a great win for our players and a great competitive game for both teams. I have to give the Arkansas players a lot of credit for competing and coming back in the game. Arkansas has a great football team and I understand very well why they won six games in a row. They didn't have a bit of quit in them and it took everything we had to win today."

Despite throwing four interceptions, Davey rallied for a 19-of-33 passing performance for 359 yards. Toefield ran 30 times for 173 yards and set a new LSU record for rushing touchdowns in a single season with 18, passing Charles Alexander's mark of 17 set in 1977. 

LSU wide receiver Josh Reed had seven catches for 183 yards and two touchdowns and ended the afternoon with two new records. On a 33-yard reception in the second quarter, he eclipsed the SEC record for receiving yards in a season set by Florida Travis McGriff in 1998 (1,357). He also broke the LSU career receiving record, finishing the game with 2,755 career yards. The previous mark of 2,708 yards, held by Wendell Davis (1984-87), was broken on Reed's 22-yard reception in the fourth quarter.

Reed stands at 1,494 receiving yards on the season with one game left to play. He is now second on the SEC's career receiving yardage list after passing Eric Martin, who had 2,625 yards from 1981-84.

"We made it tougher than it really should have been," said Davey. "To Arkansas' credit, they were a good football team. They came out and played hard and you could tell that the stakes were high. We gave it away but our defense kept us in it. It was total team effort tonight."

After winning the coin toss, LSU took possession first and scored on a four-play drive capped with a 62-yard scoring run from Toefield. His path was clear on the right side and he ran straight up the hash untouched to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead less than 90 seconds into the game.

Arkansas did not need much longer to answer LSU's initial score. Utilizing two quarterbacks -- passing specialist Zak Clark and the athletic Matt Jones -- the Razorbacks moved 53 yards in nine plays and evened the game on a three-yard Jones jaunt.

Jones ended the game completing 5-of-10 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. He also had 73 rushing yards Clark was 10-of-22 for 137 yards and two touchdowns.

"Both of our quarterbacks put us in a position to win," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "They both have their own separate abilities and they did a great job of executing today."

While the two-man quarterback approach was effective for Arkansas, the LSU defense was able to come up for key stops throughout the afternoon. The Tigers recorded three sacks and forced Jones into a third quarter interception.

It was an interception that ended LSU's second possession of the game, as safety Tony Bua hauled in a deflected Davey pass to give Arkansas possession at LSU's 21. Taking over near scoring position, the Razorbacks gambled on a fourth-and-12 play but could not convert.

But just three plays later, Davey was intercepted for the second time after having his pass deflected at the line. Bo Mosley came up with the ball fot Araksnas at the LSU 34. Brennan O'Donahoe's 27-yard field goal gave Arkansas points from the turnover and put the Razorbacks ahead, 10-7, with 1:00 to go in the first quarter.

The Tigers tried their own fourth-down gamble on their next possession that spanned into the second quarter, but a Toefield run on fourth-and-1 failed to net the required yardage. Arkansas took control at its 40 and drove downfield for another field goal, this one from 20 yards.

Toefield gave the lead back to LSU, 14-13, with a 9-yard touchdown run at the 3:24 mark of the second quarter. The score capped a 5-play, 79-yard drive that included a 30-yard pass from Davey to Reed that put LSU at the Arkansas 27. A pass interference call on the Razorbacks moved the Tigers into position for Toefield's second touchdown.

"(Toefield) is a great back," said LSU offensive lineman Stephen Peterman. "He hits the holes and gets a lot of extra yards. He always stays on his feet. When you see a back run like that it makes everyone say, ‘We need to give this guy the ball.'"

The Tigers had a chance to widen their lead before the half but imploded as they tried to run their two-minute offense. A shotgun snap got away from Davey and the Razorbacks recovered at the LSU 31. Two plays later, Jones hit Richard Smith for a 15-yard touchdown pass to give Arkansas a 19-14.

LSU got the ball back at its 32 with 1:14 remaining before halftime and went to the air looking to take back the lead. Davey connected on four straight passes, culminating with a 33-yard play and a 20-yard touchdown – both to Reed – to move the Tigers ahead, 20-19.

The LSU defense thwarted the Razorbacks on their first two possessions of the third quarter and got a chance to extend its advantage. Facing third-and-8, Davey hit Michael Clayton on a post route for a 60-yard touchdown. It was the sixth touchdown reception of the year for Clayton and his seventh touchdown overall -- the most by an LSU true freshman since Dalton Hilliard had 16 in 1982 --11 rushing and five receiving.

LSU looked as though it was ready to forced Arkansas into another punting situation on its next drive, but Jones converted a third-and-22 play with a 61-yard touchdown pass to Sparky Hamilton. The two-point conversion failed, but the Razorbacks moved to within two points of the Tigers, 27-25.

Davey's third interception came on the first play of LSU's next drive. Caleb Miller made the pick-off on a pass intended for Reed and returned it to the Tiger 27.  However, Jones gave the gift back when he unwisely threw with an LSU defender draped across his back. Defensive end Kenderick Allen, playing with a torn PCL ligament in his knee, snagged the floater for his first career interception and returned it to the LSU 27 with 1:36 to go in the third quarter.

The Tigers hoped to capitalize on the turnover, driving toward midfield early in the fourth quarter, but squandered their chance when Davey looked deep for Reed but found an Arkansas defender instead. Ahmad Carroll came up with the interception and returned it 43 yards to the LSU 41-yard line.

The turnover failed to produce points for Arkansas, as O'Donohoe's 43-yarder glanced off the right upright of the south end zone goalposts.

There were no mistakes on LSU's next drive, a 5-play production that covered 73 yards in just over two-minutes. Davey's found Reed again for a 38-yard touchdown that the junior receiver had to leave his feet to catch. With 9:09 left in the game, the Tigers owned a 34-25 lead.

The door began to close on Arkansas on its next possession when LSU safety Ryan Clark made a diving interception to give the Tigers the ball at the Razorback 17. Toefield went unscathed up the middle for a touchdown on the very next play, making the score 41-25.

On the ensuing kickoff, LSU's Ryan O'Neal was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after a tackle that would have forced Arkansas to start at its 20-yard line. The penalty put the Razorbacks at the LSU 35 and sparked a 6-play, 80-yard drive that cut the Tigers' lead to 10. Clark led the push and connected twice with receiver George Wilson, once for 30-yards and again for an 11-yard touchdown. Clark also made an 11-yard catch on a halfback reverse pass.

After forcing LSU to punt on its next possession, Arkansas drew closer with another Clark touchdown pass. His 15-yard connection with Sparky Hamilton capped a 6-play drive that covered 57 yards and left 2:21 to play in the game.

"We didn't really have our A-game today," said Saban. "I'm not sure why. We played very well on defense in the second half. They went to two-minute at the end and we got a little disoriented, but we kept playing and overcame it."

Starting at its own 20, LSU received help from Arkansas in the form of a pass interference penalty that moved the Tigers up to their 36-yard line. But the Razorback defense toughened and stopped Toefield for a loss on back-to-back runs, stopping the clock with timeouts between them.

But on third-and-13, Davey was asked to pass and drilled his shot to Reed for a gain of 31 that sealed the game for LSU.

"I think coach Fisher wanted to run it but coach Saban overruled him," said Reed. "He called a pass play and I was able to get open and make the catch, and Rohan made an excellent throw."

The catch was Reed's 80th of the season, tying LSU's single-season record for receptions.

"We had five turnovers and we gave up some big plays on defense," said Saban. "But when you keep competing and keep playing you still have a chance to win. Our players understand that, and I'm really pleased with the way we were able to compete. We had to come back at several points in the game, but we made the plays we needed to make."

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