Originally created 11/30/02

Arkansas stuns LSU



LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas players looked to each other for support, holding hands on the sidelines as No. 18 LSU seemed poised to capture the Southeastern Conference West Division title on Friday.

After Matt Jones' 31-yard touchdown pass to DeCori Birmingham with 9 seconds left produced a 21-20 victory, the Razorbacks could only look skyward for an explanation.

"Coach (Houston) Nutt said about two or three weeks ago that an angel had been sent to us and I really believe that," said Jones, who was 2 of 13 for 46 yards when Arkansas took over at its 19 with 34 seconds remaining. Jones won the game by completing 2 of 3 passes for 81 yards.

That angel carried kicker David Carlton's 35-yard extra point attempt inside the left upright after a celebration penalty and left Arkansas (9-3, 5-3 SEC) as stunned as LSU (8-4, 5-3).

"It's unexplainable. All you can do is look up to the heavens and thank God for this one," said senior defensive captain Raymond House.

The victory ties Arkansas with LSU and Auburn at 5-3, but the Razorbacks beat both and advance to the SEC Championship Game to face Georgia next Saturday in Atlanta. LSU would have advanced if it had won.

The ending was similar to how the Tigers beat Kentucky on Nov. 9, when Devery Henderson caught a 75-yard touchdown pass on the game's final play for a 33-30 victory.

"First of all, I feel very bad for our players," LSU coach Nick Saban said. "We won a game in 13 seconds and then lost this one in (34) seconds. It's just the way the ball bounces and we were the victim today."

Arkansas had to score twice in the last half of the fourth quarter after LSU led the entire game. Fred Talley's 56-yard run with 6:33 remaining cut the Tigers' lead to 17-14 and LSU responded by eating 5:53 off the clock to set up John Corbello's 29-yard field goal with 40 seconds left.

With 34 seconds remaining, the Razorbacks lined up at their 19. Jones completed a 50-yard pass to Richard Smith on the first play.

"I couldn't believe Richard Smith got behind that guy," Jones said. "Our play wasn't designed to go to Richard, but they let him get behind them. If I could have thrown the ball about 10 yards further we would have scored on that play."

After an incompletion from the LSU 31, Jones found Birmingham in the back right corner of the end zone. The sophomore slipped behind Randall Gay and outleaped him for the ball. LSU's Travis Daniels was too late to break up the pass.

"It was a triple post route and Matt threw it deep in the end zone and just jumped up and made the catch," said Birmingham, who only had 14 receptions and two touchdowns coming into the game. "I kind of gave (Gay) a little stick to make him think I was running a much shallower route. He bit for it so we went a little deeper.

Arkansas was penalized 15 yards for excessive celebration, however, setting up a 35-yard extra point. Carlton's kick was long enough, but it curved left and was barely good.

LSU quarterback Marcus Randall accounted for two touchdowns and threw for 203 yards on 14-of-25 passing to give LSU to a 20-14 lead before Arkansas' comeback. The sophomore threw a 67-yard touchdown to freshman Skyler Green, and his 5-yard touchdown run in the third quarter put the Tigers in control at 17-7.

Arkansas tightened the game when Talley ran up the middle and cut back to his left on the touchdown run.

"It seemed like they had the play defended pretty good," Talley said. "Shawn (Andrews) lunged at one guy and allowed me to cut back inside. For me to cut back inside means the backside had to be blocking and no one took the play off."

The run made Talley the eighth Arkansas running back to gain 1,000 yards in a season, and the first since Madre Hill set the school record with 1,387 in 1995. Talley finished with 118 yards on 15 carries; he has 1,035 this season.

Randall completed 4 of 6 passes on the opening drive, which ended on Green's second reception of the season on a wide-receiver screen. He turned it into a 67-yard touchdown with 6:44 left in the first quarter.

LSU kept the Razorbacks out of the end zone on their longest drive on the season. Arkansas drove from its 25 to the LSU 9, but Corey Webster intercepted Jones' third-and-9 pass in the end zone with 6:35 left in the second quarter.

Jones tried to throw the ball where Smith could catch it in the back of the end zone, but Webster stepped in for his SEC-leading seventh interception. Arkansas made six first downs on the drive, which lasted 17 plays and took 8:10 off the clock.

The Tigers took a 10-0 halftime lead by driving 58 yards in the final 3:18 to set up Corbello's 49-yard field goal on the last play of the half.

Arkansas pulled within three with 8:37 left in the third quarter when Mark Pierce just beat LSU linebacker Bradie James to the goal line on fourth-and-1.

Randall gave LSU a 17-7 lead on the ensuing drive with his 5-yard run. On the seven-play drive he completed a 48-yard pass to Michael Clayton, who had a game-high seven receptions for 89 yards.