The victory came one year and five days after Dick completed a fourth and 10 pass in overtime to keep the Hogs alive in their eventual 50-48 win in Tiger Stadium.
But unlike last season’s thriller, the Tigers have no Heisman caliber force of Nature to blame the loss on. Dick was phenomenal, completing 18-of-29 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns, but he was not quite on par with the 240 total yards and four touchdowns that Darren McFadden notched against the Tigers.
Instead this loss, the fifth of the season and first to a team without a winning record, falls directly on the Tigers themselves.
“I can tell you that our football team should win that game, our football team should manage that game better and smarter,” said LSU coach Les Miles. “I told the team that it’s the last time. This ain’t happening anymore.
“Those people that get back on this plane and go back to Baton Rouge are going to work awful hard. To those seniors and those guys and those individuals that busted their tails it’s just sad, because this should have been one that you mark in the win column.”
On the way to this latest heartbreaker, the Tigers hindered themselves in every form imaginable. The defense allowed 178 yards and two touchdowns. In the first quarter. After rebounding to take a 30-14 lead, LSU surrendered 17 unanswered points to Dick, who did not enter the game until the second half.
If that weren’t enough the Tigers committed seven penalties for 62 yards. Two that will go down in Tiger fans’ memories are senior defensive end Tremaine Johnson’s late hit which prolonged a Razorbacks’ scoring drive and a pass interference call which negated a Chris Hawkins interception. Not to mention Rahim Alem’s 15-yarder for kicking the ball after the Tigers stopped the Hogs.
“Our players don’t understand how much that hurts our team,” Miles said. “You can’t make penalties like that and expect to win the game. There was a drive that was assisted by at least three penalties that allowed our opponent to get three points. It makes you sick.”
Despite losing his first career start, true freshman quarterback Jordan Jefferson gave LSU fans the glimmer of quarterback consistency they’d been hoping for all season long. Jefferson completed 9-of-21 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another 50 yards on 19 carries.
“We did everything we could,” Jefferson said. “It just wasn’t enough. It hurts.”
When Jefferson opened the second half going two for two for 39 yards and a touchdown, it seemed the Tigers had found themselves a new quarterback in addition to their eighth win of the season.
“The good news is Jordan Jefferson played hard, and he gave us something that we needed, that we were lacking,” Miles said. “He gave us plays from the quarterback spot. We’ve just got to play better, play smarter.”
It was not to be however. After the scoring strike the LSU offense was held to just 50 yards of total offense. Jefferson, who managed to find running room throughout the first half, was sacked four times by the Razorbacks pass rush.
After replacing his younger brother Nathan following a second quarter interception, Dick kept Arkansas in the game with a well-thrown 46-yard touchdown bomb to Jarius Wright.
And at the same time the LSU offense stalled, the Razorbacks gained momentum. Johnson’s roughness penalty fueled a drive that lasted more than 10 minutes. The penalty, along with a holding call by Patrick Peterson kept the Razorbacks in business through half of the third quarter and well into the fourth. The resulting field goal gave Arkansas the six-point deficit necessary for the winning score.
“If we avoid some penalties and allow our opponents to punt to us, certainly that makes a difference,” Miles said. “And there were other ways to win that game. We tried to defend a difficult throw in the back end of that game. A man defends one extremely well, has a pick, and it appears to me that’s a pick. From where I was standing that was a good defensive play.”
The Tigers got the ball back with 21 seconds remaining and appeared to have a chance at a miracle drive after a Chad Jones kick return. But Jefferson’s attempts to move into field goal range stalled. Senior kicker Colt David lined up for what would have been a 62-yard game-winner, but his attempt fell about six yards short.
“Losing’s no fun,” Miles said. “This football team’s not used to it and it’s painful in that locker room, and it should be.”
The Tigers now sit at 7-5, their worst record since 2002, and will finish the season ranked third in the SEC West. The team now must wait for Sunday, Dec. 7, when its postseason fate will be announced.