Defense propels opportunistic Arkansas past LSU in OT
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Arkansas’ Cam Little kicked a 37-yard field goal in overtime after LSU freshman quarterback Garrett Nussmeier was intercepted earlier in the extra period, and the Razorbacks beat the Tigers 16-13 on Saturday night.
Nussmeier, who’s been a backup throughout this season, replaced Max Johnson after two fruitless possessions to start the game and completed 18 of 31 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. But the promise he showed in spurts was overshadowed by his two interceptions.
Nussmeier’s second and most costly turnover came just two snaps after he appeared to have rescued LSU from a fruitless first overtime possession by completing a 24-yard pass to Malik Neighbors on third and 20.
After that, Arkansas, which had struggled offensively for most of the game, needed just a field goal to win and set it up with three QB keepers by KJ Jefferson.
Jefferson passed for 142 yards and one touchdown to running back Dominique Johnson, who slipped uncovered behind the LSU defense for a 43-yard touchdown while Jefferson was scrambling after spinning away from blitzing linebacker Damone Clark.
That scoring play, which tied the game at 10, came after a series of missed opportunities by LSU.
With LSU still leading 10-3, Clark sacked Jefferson on fourth and four from the LSU 38 — a play that had the potential to put LSU in control of the game if the offense could capitalize. But the Tigers stalled at the Arkansas 38 and Cade York’s 55-yard field goal attempt fell short.
Jefferson’s TD strike came on the Razorbacks’ next series, and it got worse for the Tigers when Nussmeier threw his first interception.
Arkansas (7-3, 3-3 SEC) proceeded to convert a fake field goal for a first down on what would have been 54-yard attempt.
Instead, holder Reid Bauer kept the snap and ran around the left end for a 23-yard gain to the LSU 13, setting up Cam Little’s 27-yard field goal for a 13-10 Arkansas lead late in the third quarter.
LSU tied at 13 on York’s 45-yard field goal with 10:53 left.
Tyrion Davis-Price rushed 28 times for 106 yards for LSU (4-6, 2-5), which has lost three straight.
Nussmeier’s lone touchdown came when he spun away from blitzing safety Joe Foucha, rolled left and lofted a pass to the back of the end zone, where tight end Jack Bech made a leaping catch and touched a toe down in bounds for a 29-yard touchdown before falling backward out of bounds.
Bech’s TD catch made it 10-3, and the Tigers were on the brink of widening their lead when they marched from their own 44 to the Arkansas 18 in three plays, only to opt for a direct snap to running back Tyrion Davis Price. The play resulted in a turnover on a fumble when Davis-Price was unable to catch a snap that appeared to sail a bit high and to his right.
Orgeron appeared furious with the play call, yelling and gesticulating angrily on the sideline as he spoke to offensive assistant Mickey Joseph about the missed opportunity.
If Orgeron feared that mistake would come back to haunt the Tigers, he was right.
Arkansas: While the offense generally struggled, Jefferson’s ability to extend plays multiple times by slipping the grasp of pass rushers allowed the Hogs to ultimately cash in on a stout defensive performance with a victory. Jefferson wound up leading Arkansas in rushing with 41 yards on 15 carries.
LSU: LSU has lost six games for the first time since 1999 and is one loss away from its first losing season since that same year — the year before Nick Saban left Michigan State to take over at LSU in 2000.
LSU’s starting left tackle Cameron Wire left the game with 8:22 to go, unable to put any weight on his right leg. Garrett Dellinger then moved from guard to left tackle and Kardell Thomas came on at guard.
Arkansas: Visits No. 3 Alabama on Nov. 20.
LSU: Hosts Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 20.
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