November 23, 2007: Arkansas 50, LSU 48 (3 OT)
How fitting that the two best SEC games of the year came on the last week of the regular season.
If this one didn’t have quite the same soap opera quality that the LSU-Alabama game did, it was pretty close, with rumors swirling around embattled Arkansas coach Houston Nutt’s fate. There was also LSU’s #1 ranking at stake: a standing in the polls that LSU had achieved earlier in the season, lost after the Kentucky game and regained down the stretch.
And there was a certain overlooked Heisman Trophy candidate who showed up ready to play. As he put it, he “got the wood”.
In this case, the wood was 289 all purpose yards and four touchdowns. Keep in mind this wasn’t cheaply gained against a mediocre defense (LSU finished third in total defense in the nation). And it wasn’t as if LSU didn’t game plan for him, either:
… Miles said he thought he had a good plan for the “Wild Hog,” with two defenders shadowing McFadden. LSU linebacker Ali Highsmith did his best, making 15 tackles.
“There’s a point where I thought we were going to defend that thing pretty well,” Miles said. “There were two pretty good LSU tacklers ready to tackle that guy and he didn’t go down. It definitely affected us.”
It’s hard to believe that a game that featured 98 points and 926 yards of offense would have a 7-6 score at halftime, but that’s where things stood. The action heated up in the third quarter, beginning with this play that contains my favorite block of the year:
Casey Dick, ladies and gentlemen. Casey Dick.
LSU answered right back with an eight play, 51 yard TD drive. The two point conversion tied the game at 14.
All that meant was that it was time for another big play from the Arky offense. In this case, it was Peyton Hillis who stepped up.
Shades of Owen Schmitt against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
Hillis was the unsung hero of the game. He finished with 11 carries for 89 yards (8.1 ypc), 5 catches for 62 yards and matched McFadden’s four touchdowns.
The Tigers responded to Hillis’ score in much the same way that they responded to McFadden’s – with another long scoring drive, in this case, 75 yards on 10 plays to close out the third quarter scoring at 21-21.
The teams traded possessions for the first half of the fourth quarter (at one point, LSU had a long TD pass called back on an ineligible receiver penalty). Arkansas put together a scoring drive capped by a McFadden TD pass to Hillis that gave it a 31-24 lead with less than five minutes to go. It wouldn’t hold up. Flynn calmly led his team down the field and LSU scored on a do or die fourth and goal play with under a minute left in regulation to tie the game.
The first overtime was a nailbiter. LSU scored first on two plays. Arky answered, but had to convert a fourth and ten – Casey Dick completed a 13 yard pass to Hillis to pick it up – and a second and 11 to do it. The teams swapped scores in the second.
In the third and last OT, Arkansas scored and converted the two point play, on seven straight rushes. LSU scored a touchdown to respond, but couldn’t match the conversion.
It was the first time the Razorbacks had beaten a number one ranked team in 26 years.
Matt Flynn didn’t have the greatest of starts for LSU, but he played a gutty second half and overtime to keep his team in the game. His counterpart? In a game when his team scored 50 points, Casey Dick only threw for 94 yards. But he made two key throws in the first OT to tie the score.
Besides, the passing yardage didn’t matter, as Arky’s ground game shredded the 12th ranked in the country rushing defense for 385 yards and five touchdowns. Arkansas averaged 7.3 yards per carry. Overlooked in the glare of McFadden’s and Hillis’ performances, Felix Jones gained 85 rushing yards and averaged a glittering 9.1 ypc.
Les Miles summed it up after the game.
“Certainly, he had a Heisman performance today,” LSU coach Les Miles lamented. “Right now, there’s a goal of our football team taken off the board and it’s sad. … Tonight, we’ll be sick.”
They got better. LSU survived the loss and managed to play in the BCS title game.
Here’s a highlight summary: