The Set Up
Arkansas entered the season finale 9-2 after only suffering losses to teams from Alabama. The Razorbacks suffered a heartbreaker in Fayetteville to an Alabama team who would prove mortal that year, losing 24-20. They also suffered a defeat on the plains, as Auburn (the eventual National Champions) defeated the Hogs 65-43. That game was incredibly strange in retrospect, as Tyler Wilson was forced to fill in for an injured Ryan Mallett. The game was marred by controversial officiating, so much so that the University put forward a statement of concern regarding the crew. Arkansas was likely eliminated from National Championship contention, but had a great shot at getting a BCS Sugar Bowl invite with a win.
LSU, meanwhile, entered the game with only one loss, also to Auburn. The team was loaded with talent, and had their own desires for a National Championship spot, though it wouldn’t be in their own hands. Auburn was undefeated, and would probably have had to lose the Iron Bowl and the SEC Championship for LSU to have a shot.
It was a big game, with a lot of national implications, and both teams had plenty of reason to be motivated.
The game took place on a Saturday, November 27, in War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. This was before all of the “curse” implications in Little Rock, and at the time, War Memorial Stadium was a bit of a fortress. It was a 2:30pm CBS exclusive game, with a national audience pulled in by the teams’ rankings and possible national results. Coach Bobby Petrino and Coach Les Miles would lead the teams in a massive showdown.
Arkansas got the upper hand early, as Knile Davis scampered in for a 14 yard touchdown. The breakout sophomore was a revelation in that season’s campaign, and continued to make his mark, giving a new dimension to the Arkansas offense. The Arkansas offense was stacked, led by Ryan Mallett at quarterback and an all time great receiving corp. Greg Childs, Joe Adams, Jarius Wright, and Cobi Hamilton were all capable of lining up out wide, while D.J. Williams turned in a Mackey Award winning season at tight end. Childs had come up injured against Vanderbilt early in the year, but Adams, Wright, Hamilton, and Williams were more than enough to for Arkansas to become a lethal passing attack. The Arkansas defense was full of excellent pass-rushers, as Jake Bequette and Tenarius Wright bookended a solid defensive line, while Jerry Franklin and Jerico Nelson served as linebackers.
As the game went on into the second quarter, LSU struck back with a five yard rush by Stevan Ridley. The LSU rushing attack boasted three future pros in Ridley, Spencer Ware, and Alfred Blue, while future pros Russell Shepherd and Rueben Randle bolstered the passing attack. Their defense was comprised of an almost comical who’s who of future defensive pros, consisting of Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne, Eric Reid, Tyrann Mathieu, and Barkevious Mingo.
Midway through the second quarter, Cobi Hamilton electrified the spectators. Ryan Mallett hit Hamilton on a sideline pass, through a tiny window just over Patrick Peterson’s head, leaving Cobi open to run 85 yards for a massive touchdown. LSU would strike back though, after a long drive resulted in a three yard touchdown rush, again by Stevan Ridley. The game was all tied up at 14-14.
It was then that Cobi Hamilton decided to blow the roof off. With six seconds left in the half, rather than take a knee and send it to halftime, Arkansas opted to take one last shot to go into the locker room with a seven point lead. Mallett took the snap, found Hamilton over the middle, and then a moment of madness led to another miraculous moment. Two LSU defenders attempted to waylay Hamilton, but found each other instead, leaving miles of green ahead of the Razorback receiver. After some clutch blocking by Jarius Wright (a common theme in his career), Cobi punched it in for six. An extra point made by Zach Hocker made it 21-14, and left LSU dumbfounded.
The third quarter saw LSU pull within one point, as two Josh Jasper field goals brought the Tigers within breathing distance of the Razorbacks, but 21-20 was as close as it would get for the rest of the day. The fourth quarter determined that the Razorbacks would grab the win, on an immensely clutch play.
After driving down the field, the Razorbacks found themselves facing a 4th and 3 at LSU’s 39. LSU had pulled some momentum back, and though Hocker was a capable kicker, a field goal would give LSU the opportunity to take the lead if a touchdown was given up. Arkansas elected to roll the dice, and immediately saw that decision rewarded. Joe Adams found himself covered only by Tyrann Mathieu. Mallett noticed the man coverage, and delivered a bomb over the entire LSU defense into the hands of Adams for what became a game-sealing touchdown.
Later in the fourth, the teams traded field goals, bringing the score to 31-23. LSU would have one more drive to possibly tie the game, and have a shot at BCS glory. After a punt and a penalty, LSU found themselves backed up to their own six yard line. Jordan Jefferson had struggled with ball control all day, and this drive would be no different. One play after a first down incompletion, Andru Stewart found his way into the backfield, stripped Jefferson, and forced a fumble that was collected by Freddy Burton at the LSU one yard line. After review, the play was determined not to be a safety, or a defensive touchdown, but that fumble recovery was all Arkansas needed. Mallett took a knee, the clock ran out, and Arkansas grabbed a statement win, finishing 10-2, all but punching a ticket to the Sugar Bowl. “Pour Some Sugar on Me” played through the stands as the fans made their way to the exits, in one of the most thrilling nights of Arkansas football that I can remember.
The game propelled Arkansas to number 8 in the BCS standings, and into the Sugar Bowl where they faced Ohio State. Nothing happened in that game, as it has been vacated. There was no heartbreaking loss.
Knile Davis: 30 rushes, 152 yards, 1 touchdown
Cobi Hamilton: 3 receptions, 164 yards, 2 touchdowns
After Further Review
This is an incredibly special game to me, as it’s one of the (few) signature wins that’s happened in my time as a Razorback fan. Watching the game with my dad and grandpa, hearing the insane Little Rock crowd, and witnessing three amazing passing plays will always stick in my mind. The angry LSU fans beside us who complained about how the game was rigged and that all Arkansas fans were stupid and rude when we told them to drive safely on their way home will stick in my mind too. What a great game.
A Hog legend has a field day against a team from Columbia. If you can guess which one, you gain nothing, but can feel proud on this Tuesday morning.