2:30 PM ET, November 25, 2005
Tiger Stadium (LA), Baton Rouge, LA
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- LSU's defense had withstood too many close games to get rattled -- even under threat of blowing a berth to the Southeastern Conference title game.
A trick play had Arkansas within 33 yards of erasing a two-point deficit and scoring a stunning upset in the waning minutes Friday, but the third-ranked Tigers drove the Razorbacks backward to seal up a 19-17 victory and a spot in the SEC championship game on Dec. 3.
"I was saying, 'We've been here before. Don't put your head down, just fight through it," said safety LaRon Landry, whose interception in the end zone ended the Hogs' final drive. "Why should you get nervous? Just make it happen. When you find yourself getting nervous that's when bad things happen."
The Tigers (10-1, 7-1 SEC) also registered their second safety in as many games after forcing Arkansas to punt from its own end zone late in the first half. The bad snap by the Razorbacks gave LSU two critical points, but Arkansas (4-7, 2-6) refused to relent after falling behind 19-3 early in the second half.
Arkansas coach Houston Nutt was proud of his team -- 17½-point underdogs -- for not giving up, but he struggled to let go of a few key errors. The safety came on a bad snap and kicker Chris Balseiro missed field goals of 41 and 28 yards.
"When we had to make some plays, when you go back and look, we missed some opportunities," Nutt said. "That's what hurts. There were one or two plays if we just could have gotten three more points, as y'all know, it's a whole different outcome."
LSU had to have the victory to clinch the SEC West and now will face No. 13 Georgia in the conference championship game in Atlanta, the second time in three years those two teams have met to decide the SEC.
Five of LSU's victories this season -- including those over Florida, Auburn and Alabama -- came by four points or fewer.
The Tigers held Arkansas standout freshman Darren McFadden to 57 yards on 24 carries, leaving McFadden at 1,113 for the season.
But McFadden still made his presence felt. His 13-yard gain on a third-and-9 play kept alive a drive that got Arkansas back in the game, at 19-11, on Casey Dick's 29-yard touchdown pass to Cedric Washington in the third quarter.
Trickery got the Razorbacks even closer when Dick threw a backward pass to Washington, who then found Peyton Hillis all the way across the field for a 45-yard gain to the LSU 4. McFadden's 1-yard touchdown made it 19-17 with 10:43 to go, but the Razorbacks' two-point conversion attempt was intercepted by Chevis Jackson.
LSU's defense, which has held opponents to 20 points or less during every game of its nine-game winning streak, closed the game out from there. It started with an impressive stand after Vickiel Vaughn's interception for Arkansas near midfield. The Hogs' next three plays went for minus-13 yards. LSU did not allow a first down on Arkansas' next drive, either.
"Time and time again we had to turn to the defense and the defense came through," first-year LSU coach Les Miles said. "There were miscues on the offense ... but the defense came to play and we won."
The Razorbacks got the ball back once more with 3:44 left at midfield. The Razorbacks stayed alive on a fourth-and-6 with a successful halfback pass from McFadden to Marcus Monk for 13 yards to the LSU 33.
LSU locked down Arkansas after that. Melvin Oliver sacked Dick back at the 41, and a fourth-and-18 pass was intercepted by Landry in the end zone.
"We've played in a lot of tough games this year. It came down to us knowing that we had been in that situation before and we know how to get ourselves out of it," LSU strong safety Jesse Daniels said. "We're a great team. We know how to comeback together and communicate -- just making sure we know where we're supposed to be at the end of a play."
It was the last game in Tiger Stadium for 21 LSU seniors. The Tigers are now 50-13 during the past four seasons, including a BCS national championship.
Colt David's 26-yard field goal and Russell's 50-yard TD bomb to Bennie Brazell gave LSU a 10-0 lead.
Dick, a freshman, was erratic early, completing only four of his first 12 passes. But his 55-yard connection with Monk led to Chris Balseiro's 30-yard field goal.
"We played them real close for the most part," said Vaughn, who had two picks. "LSU just found a way to win."
Skyler Green's 40-yard kickoff return led to Vincent's 4-yard TD run that made it 19-3 early in the third.
Russell finished with 194 yards passing but threw two interceptions. Vincent had 59 yards rushing but fumbled on the Arkansas 35 with the Tigers threatening to put the game away.
Dick finished 12-for-28 for 148 yards.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... LaRon Landry picked off Arkansas QB Casey Dick's fourth-down pass with under 25 seconds left.
Gameball goes to... the LSU defense. The Tigers held the Razorbacks to 12 first downs and made big plays when they had to.
Stat of the game... 4: Five of LSU's 10 wins in 2005 are by four points or fewer.