The LSU Tigers (10-2, 6-2) jumped out to an early double-digit lead, then held on to be at the Arkansas Razorbacks (4-8, 2-6) 20-13 Friday at Razorback Stadium. The loss likely ends John L. Smith;'s temporary tenure as the Hogs head coach.
"I'm gonna look back on it as a step in my life to coach great young men at a great institution," said Smith. "I'm blessed."
The game ended with Arkansas driving for a game-tying touchdown. Quarterback Tyler Wilson led the Razorbacks deep into LSU territory with under a minute to go. Wilson's final pass as a Razorback fell incomplete in the end zone as the final second ticked off the clock.
The Razorbacks out-rushed the Tigers 103-89 yards. Wilson finished 31-52 for 359 yards and a touchdown. Arkansas's failures to execute efficiently in the red-zone ended up being the story of the game. The Hogs scored only two field goals in the four drives into the red-zone. One of those field goals was a 17-yard kick from John Henson. Smith decided against going for it on fourth-down and goal from the LSU half-yard-line trailing 17-10.
"It's the right call," said Smith. "We have to score twice to win it. So you take it there. We have to take the sure points. That was the thought."
LSU won the turnover battle too. The Tigers forced two Razorbacks turnovers early in the first-quarter. Dennis Johnson fumbled on the opening drive at the LSU two-yard-line. Wilson then threw his lone interception on the next drive.
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger proved his efficiency for Les Miles' Tigers. The junior finished 16-29 for 217 yards and a touchdown. Arkansas' aggressive defense forced LSU to run pass more they wanted to do.
"The effort that they gave is a testament to all the fight these guys have," said defensive coordinator Paul Haynes. Our front and even our two young linebackers stepped up and took the fullback on. But again, just a good team effort and playing hard."
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson and receiver Cobi Hamilton set school records in the loss. Wilson broke the career record for passing yards with 7,765. Ryan Mallett set the previous record in the 2010 season with 7,493. Hamilton broke Jarius Wright's school record for career receptions, ending with 175. Wright set that mark a season ago.
"That's something we will look back for years to come," said Hamilton. "It's a great honor to be with Tyler. I just cannot ask for any better quarterback than him."