DEFENSE: Tigers give up a bunch, but hold

The words Darren McFadden will likely haunt the minds of defensive coordinators across the South for years to come.

The sophomore running back from Little Rock was not only a difference maker for the Razorbacks, but he almost single-handedly won his team the game in the second half. But No. 8 LSU left McFadden's hometown with a 31-26 victory over No. 5 Arkansas on Friday.


"It makes losing even harder when you're that close," Arkansas running back Felix Jones said. "We just have to take it as a stepping stone and learn from it. We can't blame anyone. We played our best."


The LSU defense, the nation's No. 1 defense going into the contest, didn't have an answer to the 6-foot-2, 205-pound back, and if McFadden wasn't human and didn't need to catch his breath on the sideline after long runs, he could have received five to seven more carries. 


"This is a tremendous victory," LSU head coach Les Miles said. "Arkansas has a really good football team. It took a special effort today. It's so hard to prepare for what Arkansas has to offer."


The Arkansas back finished the day with 182 yards on 21 carries while also completing two passes for 33 yards under center. His most impressive play came on first down just minutes after the Tigers went ahead 24-12 in the fourth quarter on an Early Doucet touchdown grab. McFadden busted through the line of scrimmage and found the end zone 80 yards later for the score.


For the LSU defense, controlling McFadden was a key to winning the game going into Friday. In the end, it was the most important piece of the game plan.


The LSU defense had not allowed a 100-yard rusher the entire season. But defensive coordinator Bo Pelini said he knew McFadden would get his yards, and his plan was to wrap up and tackle him when possible.


"McFadden is a great back," defensive back Chevis Jackson said. "Probably one of the two best backs in the nation. We just had to wrap him up and try to bring him down."


The Tiger defense did an excellent job of wrapping up backs, allowing McFadden and his sidekick Jones to break just a few tackles. Jones added 137 yards on 16 carries on the ground, and together they rushed for 298 yards of offense.


"They changed a lot coming into the game," Pelini said. "They gave us a lot of different formations, a lot of different looks. I thought we played well except for the first drive of the game. Other than that, they hit us on that long run. They gave us a lot more than they gave others."


Arkansas sophomore quarterback Casey Dick had struggled all season with finding a rhythm, and he didn't find one against the Tigers. The Tigers supplied ample pressure on the Razorback signal caller and limited him to just 29 yards passing, completing three of 17 passes with an interception in their own territory.


Senior safety LaRon Landry intercepted the pass and returned the ball 23 yards to the Arkansas 9-yard line, which set up JaMarcus Russell's touchdown pass to Doucet.


The Tiger defense played well throughout the day, bending but not breaking on many drives, but it was the two final Arkansas drives of the game that granted their team the victory. 


After a 92-yard kickoff return by Trindon Holliday for a touchdown, Arkansas regained possession of the ball down 31-19. The Razorbacks composed a nine-play, 38-yard drive that resulted in a 5-yard Jones touchdown run, making it a five-point game.


The defense did bend and eventually broke, but Pelini and his squad managed to slow down Arkansas' momentum by allowing small chunks of yards and lots of time.


Arkansas scored on the first play from scrimmage from 80 yards out on the possession before. This time, they took 5:21 seconds off the clock.


After the LSU offense did just enough to take 2:49 seconds off the clock and forced Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt to use all three time-outs, Chris Jackson punted the ball away with 2:04 remaining.


For the next four plays, Nutt did something that surprised everyone in the Natural State: He passed. Dick threw four straight incompletions during the final drive even though his two backs had already accounted for almost 300 yards rushing.


"We stuck to our plan; we just outlasted them," Pelini said. "That's what it is all about. Our guys never gave up. We knew we had to do whatever it takes, and that is what we did today."


Dick looked for McFadden on one play and twice for Marcus Monk, the Razorbacks' most talented receiver who was shut down by the LSU defense, grabbing just one catch for 21 yards.


"Every time they dropped back to pass, we knew they were looking for [Monk]," Landry said.

Tiger Blitz Top Stories