Casey Dick threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to London Crawford on fourth-and-1 with 22 seconds remaining to give Arkansas a 31-30 victory over LSU.
That was the memory that most Tiger fans summed up the 2008 season with. While the win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta on New Year’s Eve was well received, it certainly did not erase the five conference losses that LSU suffered.
With a new season just around the bend, it is not a stretch to assume that most Louisianans have attempted to leave the performance in the past.
The same can’t be said for a slew of current Tigers, most of which say that the memories of the Nov. 28 loss in Little Rock were ones that they plan to use as motivation come game time this fall.
“I get this feeling every time I think about it, and it kills me,” said running back Charles Scott, who rushed for just 28 yards on 12 carries against the Razorbacks. “I think about the whole season that way. Anyone knows the feeling, and all the fans know it. It was the worst.”
The game ended about as badly as it could, seeing the Tigers fall apart after holding a 30-14 lead in the third quarter.
The breaking point came late in the third, when LSU’s Tremaine Johnson was called for unnecessary roughness with Arkansas about to face fourth down and roughly 30 from deep in its own territory. Instead, the Razorbacks drove for a field goal.
Johnson’s penalty came during a 17-play, 90-yard drive by Arkansas that took 8:33 off the game clock. Johnson, now graduated, was not alone on the mental mishaps. Senior Rahim Alem also received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on that same drive for kicking the ball after an incomplete pass.
When all was said and done, the Tigers were penalized seven times for 72 yards in the second half.
“I put it behind me,” Alem said. “I just want to get out and have a good season. I have got a bunch of motivations, and I know that none of that was acceptable. 8-5 was not acceptable. My first three years here, we had ten wins at least. Last year was just different, and we want to get back to what we normally do.”
The real progress, as any Tiger from last year’s squad will tell you, came between the Arkansas loss and the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. During that stretch, stitches were applied and wombs healed.
“Out of all the teams that I have been a part of, I have never seen a group that really changed,” Alem said. “We talked a lot, but it was not just talk. People felt it, and we saw something needed changing. I have been on bad teams where we just talked and talked, but we talked and we went out and backed it up.”
The night prior to the win over the Yellow Jackets, the team held a private meeting in which players were given the floor to express their thoughts. The result, clearly, was that there was a new direction in the Tiger program.
“It was definitely emotional,” said senior running back Keiland Williams. “The meeting the night before the game, everyone had an opportunity to say what they wanted to say. Everyone spoke their mind, and Tyson [Jackson] ended it with a great speech. We fed off that and went out and dominated.”
All the prior missteps, Williams said, led to plenty of soul searching.
“It came down to the Arkansas game, and we felt like we dominated early on,” he said. “We went into the locker room, and the speech was to keep our foot on the gas. For them to come back and us to lose the game, we questioned ourselves. We questioned if we were the team we thought we were. In between that game and Georgia Tech, we had to dig deep and find ourselves.”
Headed forward the mission becomes to remember the 2008 season for what it was, and to move into a new direction this fall. The best way to do that, according to the leader on the offensive side, is to continue to challenge each other every outing.
“I don’t want to grab someone and say do this or that,” Scott said. “I want to scream at them and challenge them to be better. I am going to challenge Keiland, and any man like him would step up. He will do the same, and we will be looking good.”