Rock climbers

Vic­tory over LSU leaves Arkansas with sweet deal

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - TOM MUR­PHY

FAYET­TEVILLE — The fi­nal SEC game of Bobby Petrino’s third sea­son at Arkansas pro­duced a crescendo mo­ment — a show­down be­tween the No. 12 Ra­zor­backs and No. 5 LSU with a BCS berth on the line at War Memo­rial Sta­dium on Nov. 27, 2010.

The Ra­zor­backs won it 31-23 be­hind a cou­ple of bold calls by Petrino, record-break­ing days from quar­ter­back Ryan Mal­lett and re­ceiver Cobi Hamil­ton, and three take­aways, in­clud­ing

Jerry Franklin’s fum­ble re­cov­ery at the LSU 1 in the fi­nal minute, to im­prove to 10-2.

Mal­lett took a knee on the game’s fi­nal play, and the Ra­zor­backs had es­sen­tially punched their ticket for a Su­gar Bowl date against Ohio State.

“It was great when we knew we had the game se­cured and to see the fans go­ing crazy, throw­ing su­gar cubes on the field,” said Lit­tle Rock’s Joe Adams, who caught a crit­i­cal touch­down pass on fourth down in the fourth quar­ter. “It ac­tu­ally felt like we were big time.”

The 2010 vic­tory in the Bat­tle for the Golden Boot, Arkansas’ third over LSU in

four sea­sons, was voted No. 10 in the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette’s count­down of the top 25 Ra­zor­backs games dur­ing 25 sea­sons in the SEC. It is the first game in the count­down thus far to re­ceive a first-place vote from one of 15 pan­elists.

The vic­tory in­cluded two sig­na­ture mo­ments that epit­o­mized Petrino’s ag­gres­sive play call­ing: Mal­lett’s 80-yard touch­down pass to Hamil­ton on the fi­nal play of the first half and Mal­lett’s 39yard scor­ing strike to Adams on fourth and 3 early in the fourth quar­ter.

“The most memorable part to me was ob­vi­ously be­fore half­time,” said Mal­lett, a Bal­ti­more Ravens quar­ter­back who is pre­par­ing for his sev­enth NFL sea­son.

LSU had a chance to run out the clock in a 14-14 game be­fore half­time, but Coach Les Miles wanted to try to get in po­si­tion for a late field goal, and the Tigers wound up punt­ing into the Arkansas end zone with six sec­onds left.

CBS an­a­lyst Steve Beuer­lein as­sured view­ers the Ra­zor­backs would take a knee from their 20, but Petrino had other ideas.

“I go over there think­ing we’re go­ing to take a knee and Bobby is like, ‘No let’s run this play,’ so we ran 72 Z Topper,” Mal­lett said.

“72 Z Topper, that’s one of Petrino’s bread and but­ters right there,” said Hamil­ton, who grabbed an 85-yard touch­down pass at the 6:52 mark of the se­cond quar­ter to give the Hogs a 14-7 lead.

“Coach Petrino, he al­ways has a play up his sleeve,” Adams said.

Hamil­ton grabbed Mal­lett’s pass on the right hash at the 50, lead­ing to a col­li­sion be­tween LSU de­fend­ers Mor­ris Clai­borne and Kar­nell Hatcher as Hamil­ton shook them off. Hamil­ton planted a foot to juke cor­ner­back Pa­trick Peter­son at the LSU 40, then fol­lowed re­ceiver Jar­ius Wright’s 15-yard screen­ing block on Peter­son to score the im­prob­a­ble 80-yard touch­down.

“That was prob­a­bly the most ex­cit­ing feel­ing I ever had,” Hamil­ton said. “That was prob­a­bly the hap­pi­est Lit­tle Rock, Arkansas, has ever been.”

Mal­lett watched as Hamil­ton, also from Texarkana, sprinted to the end zone as the half ended.

“Cobi made a good play and made those two guys run into each other,” Mal­lett said. “I think that just changed the whole game right there for us.”

Hamil­ton, en­ter­ing his se­cond sea­son with the Pittsburgh Steel­ers, be­came the first Arkansas re­ceiver to catch two scor­ing passes of 80-plus yards in the same game. He also re­cov­ered an LSU on­side kick after the Tigers pulled within eight points late in the game.

Mal­lett, who en­tered the game tied with Clint Sto­erner for most Arkansas ca­reer touch­down passes (57), threw three on the day en route to 13 of 23 pass­ing for 320 yards. Mal­lett fin­ished his ca­reer with 62. Only Tyler Wil­son (64) has more.

Miles said he called time­outs late in the half in an ef­fort to get into field-goal range, only to see the clock stop­page back­fire.

“Who would have thought they would hit the long ball like they did for the score?” Miles said. “Cer­tainly not I.”

LSU pulled within 21-20

on two field goals in the third quar­ter, set­ting up a Petrino coup de grace.

Arkansas faced fourth and 3 from the LSU 39 early in the fourth quar­ter, and Mal­lett tried to get the Tigers to jump off­sides with a hard count be­fore hav­ing to call time­out.

Petrino called Adams’ num­ber on a hitch and go, ex­pect­ing man cov­er­age.

“We had been prac­tic­ing that one play for LSU the whole year,” Adams said.

LSU came with a heavy blitz, which the Hogs matched with max pro­tec­tion, and Adams’ stut­ter step left fresh­man Tyrann Mathieu in his dust as Mal­lett feathered the pass in Adams’ di­rec­tion for the dag­ger touch­down.

“I had an op­tion,” Adams said. “If he stayed too far back, I could just run a dig. Coach Petrino knew it was go­ing to be man to man. He looked at me like, ‘Should I call it?’ and I told him to call the play and we scored.

“I knew once I broke his cush­ion, I sold the hitch and he bit on it, I knew he was ei­ther go­ing to reach out and grab me or knock me out of the route. I ran right past him.”

Mal­lett needed 25 games in two sea­sons to snatch the school touch­down passes record from Sto­erner.

The Arkansas run game, led by sopho­more Knile Davis’ 152 yards, took over late in the game. The Hogs reeled off nine con­sec­u­tive run plays that led to Zach Hocker’s 19yard field goal with 6:03 re­main­ing.

Freddy Bur­ton, Mau­drecus Humphrey and Franklin had fum­ble re­cov­er­ies for the Ra­zor­backs, who held LSU to 294 to­tal yards.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of our foot­ball team,” Petrino said after lead­ing Arkansas to its sixth con­sec­u­tive vic­tory and the pro­gram’s eighth 10-vic­tory sea­son.

Su­gar Bowl Pres­i­dent David Melius was at War Memo­rial Sta­dium sig­nal­ing that the Ra­zor­backs would in­deed be Su­gar Bowl bound if SEC West cham­pion Auburn won the con­fer­ence ti­tle game the fol­low­ing week to qual­ify for the BCS cham­pi­onship game.

“We’d be thrilled to have them if the op­por­tu­nity comes,” Melius said of the Ra­zor­backs, who ended up drop­ping a 31-26 de­ci­sion to Ohio State in New Or­leans.

The Arkansas’ buses were filled with joy on the ride back to cam­pus two days after Thanks­giv­ing.

“Leav­ing that sta­dium, I just feel like the whole state was happy,” Hamil­ton said. “It was our first big BCS bowl game. I felt like the whole state was happy and it was a re­ally big mo­ment.

“I’ll never for­get, I had like 115 text mes­sages. It was like the cra­zi­est my phone has ever been, still to this day. It was a crazy, crazy, crazy night.”

Demo­crat-Gazette file photo

Bobby Petrino cel­e­brates after Arkansas’ vic­tory over LSU at Lit­tle Rock’s War Memo­rial Sta­dium in 2010. It was Petrino’s se­cond vic­tory against the Tigers as Arkansas’ head coach. The Ra­zor­backs went on to play Ohio State in the Su­gar Bowl in New Or­leans.

Demo­crat-Gazette file photo

Arkansas wide re­ceiver Cobi Hamil­ton scored on an 80-yard re­cep­tion at the end of the first half against LSU in 2010 in Lit­tle Rock.

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