Victory over LSU leaves Arkansas with sweet deal
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.”
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.
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.