FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — On a day when LSU never could land a knockout blow, the Tigers had the ball in their hands with only two minutes to play and still nursed a four-point lead.
But they would have to convert third-and-10 at their 36-yard line. Or else.
Arkansas had all three of its timeouts, the crowd at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium was begging for a stop and the Razorbacks had a hot quarterback in Tyler Wilson playing the final game of his college career and hoping for a chance to lead his offense on a game-winning drive.
That’s when Zach Mettenberger fired to Odell Beckham on the right sideline.
Beckham not only beat Arkansas cornerback Will Hines to the pass, but he then broke free of Hines on the right sideline to turn a 10-yard out route into a 47-yard pickup that helped salt away LSU’s 20-13 victory.
“They’re fortunate he didn’t score,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “He’s that kind of player.”
A week after zigzagging through the Ole Miss Rebels on a game-changing, 89-yard punt return, Beckham came up just as big Friday — right when it seemed Arkansas may be on the brink of ruining LSU’s shot at a BCS bowl bid.
By beating Hines to the Mettenberger strike, Beckham kept alive a drive that began with 5:27 to play and LSU looking to work some clock.
Then, after dragging Hines by one leg for a couple of steps, Beckham broke free down the sideline to put the Tigers deep into Arkansas territory.
“There were four or five Arkansas players running over,” Beckham said. “I tried to just stay in bounds and keep the clock running.”
LSU ran three more plays — forcing Arkansas to burn its three timeouts — before Drew Alleman trotted out to give the Tigers their 20-13 lead with 1:26 remaining. Arkansas got all the way to the LSU 18 on its last-ditch possession, but Wilson’s shot to the end zone fell incomplete as time expired.
Mettenberger said the yards Beckham made after contact may have ultimately been the Razorbacks’ undoing.
“That put us in field goal range and really changed the way we were calling plays,” Mettenberger said. “We had a field goal in our back pocket and they were going to have to score a touchdown regardless.”
Beckham finished the day with a game-high 112 yards on four catches, the sophomore’s second game this season getting more than 100 yards.