LSU deals painful parting shot to SEC West champion Arkansas
Saturday, November 25th 2006, 2:23 pm
By: News On 6
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) Before Arkansas could move on to the Southeastern Conference title game, LSU made a convincing case to pass the Razorbacks in the league's pecking order.
``We came in with the attitude of trying to show we were the best in the SEC West and I think we did that today,'' LSU defensive end Chase Pittman said after the #9 Tigers beat #5 Arkansas 31-26 Friday.
JaMarcus Russell threw for 210 yards and 2 touchdowns for LSU, which ended the Razorbacks' slim national title hopes. Arkansas was 6th in the BCS standings this week, but the Razorbacks held out hope that wins over the Tigers (10-2, 6-2) and next week against Florida would help them jump the other contenders and into the championship game against Ohio State.
Instead, Arkansas might have to beat the Gators for the SEC title to play in any BCS bowl. The Razorbacks can go to the Sugar Bowl if they win next week, but their chances of an at large bid took a hit. Now, LSU is the team promoting its resume as it tries to earn a second BCS berth for the league.
``I think we've made a case for the BCS certainly and we've made a case that maybe we're one of the best teams in this conference,'' Tigers coach Les Miles said. ``If you were picking the best team, we'd have something to talk about it.''
LSU entered the game 10th in the BCS standings, and the Tigers would be thrilled to travel to a major bowl after playing a brutal road schedule during the regular season. Their four road games were all against teams ranked in the top 10 at the time. The Tigers lost at Auburn and Florida before winning at Tennessee and Arkansas.
``We have the distinct impression that we may be the best team in the West,'' Miles said. ``The West Division champion is the Arkansas team. I'm not certain who the best is.''
The Razorbacks (10-2, 7-1) clinched their spot in the SEC title game by beating Mississippi State last week. They pulled to 31-26 against LSU on Felix Jones' 5-yard touchdown run with 4:53 remaining, then got the ball back at their own 27 with 2:04 to play. But Casey Dick threw 4 straight incompletions, finishing a miserable 3-17 day in which he passed for only 29 yards.
Heisman Trophy candidate Darren McFadden rushed for 182 yards for Arkansas, including an 80-yard touchdown in the 4th quarter. But Trindon Holliday returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-19 with 10:14 remaining.
``Once that happened we knew it was over and all we had to do was take care of business,'' Russell said. ``We think we are now in the BCS picture with a win like that.''
Holliday's touchdown completed a wild stretch of 3 touchdowns in 45 seconds, Russell had thrown a 7-yarder to Early Doucet immediately before McFadden's run.
Dick was 0-8 in the 2nd half. He was intercepted early in the 4th quarter by LaRon Landry, who returned it 23 yards to the Arkansas 9, setting up Doucet's touchdown.
``It's tough for all of us,'' Dick said. ``I obviously didn't play to the best of my abilities and I take full responsibility for that.''
Arkansas hadn't lost since falling 50-14 to Southern California in the season opener. The Razorbacks appeared unstoppable early against LSU, driving 80 yards in 2:30 and taking a 6-0 lead on McFadden's 1-yard run. Arkansas was the first team this season to score on its first drive against LSU.
But Jeremy Davis missed the extra point, and the Tigers went ahead later in the quarter on Keiland Williams' 29-yard scoring run. LSU never relinquished its lead.
Jones ran for 137 yards, and he and McFadden became the first players to rush for 100 against LSU this year. McFadden now has 1,485 yards rushing on the season. He broke Madre Hill's single-season school record of 1,387 in 1995.
``We knew they had two of the best running backs in the country coming into the game so our focus was to stop them,'' Pittman said. ``We did not do a great job of it but well enough to hold on for the victory.''