LSU fans scrambled for the exits. Arkansas fans called the Hogs.
The Alabama tidal wave that pushed the Tigers into deep water last week drowned them on Saturday night.
LSU’s defense allowed touchdowns of 80, 69 and 52 yards, and colorful coach Bret Bielema and his Razorbacks thumped the Tigers 31-14, erasing any championship hopes that the Crimson Tide didn’t crush.
The Tigers (7-2, 4-2 Southeastern) slipped to a second straight loss for just the third time in coach Les Miles’ 11 years, and they’ve now dropped consecutive games to Bielema’s bunch.
LSU followed a 30-16 bashing from Bama with a sluggish performance at home to a team that has now won four straight games. They limped to a disappointing defeat in a stadium that lost half of its occupants by the third quarter.
The ones that stuck around saw a rarity: a night-game loss in Tiger Stadium. This was just the sixth time in 54 games that LSU lost a home night game under Miles, and three have come in the past 14 months.
Bielema and the Hogs (6-4, 4-2) reached bowl eligibility and won a fourth straight game. Arkansas hasn’t beaten the Tigers by more points (34) in consecutive games since 1992-93.
“Once it got to a three-score game, I knew we had a situation where we’d have to blow it if it was going to become a game at all,” Bielema said. “I didn’t feel that these guys would ever do that.”
A Tigers team that was second nationally in the College Football Playoff rankings a week ago had its SEC championship bubble all but popped in Tuscaloosa. The air’s completely out now, and this squad must regroup for a road challenge at Ole Miss (7-3, 4-2).
Afterward, Miles pointed the finger at himself multiple times.
“This is mine. Absolutely my fault,” he said. “I like my quarterback, like my tailback. Offensive line is pretty good. It’s something I’m not getting done.”
In front of an announced crowd of 101,699, the Hogs, seven-point underdogs, jumped to a 21-0 lead. Running back Alex Collins ripped off an 80-yard touchdown run, and quarterback Brandon Allen threw a 52-yard touchdown pass — all in the first 16 minutes of the game to stun the Tiger Stadium crowd.
The Tigers closed within 21-14 with a score early in the third quarter, but the Hogs ran away with it from there, slowing running back Leonard Fournette just enough and constantly pressuring quarterback Brandon Harris.
Arkansas sacked Harris five times — three fewer than the Razorbacks’ total sacks in their first nine games — and Harris tossed a fourth-quarter interception in the end zone to end any chance of a comeback. Fournette was held to fewer than 100 yards for the second straight game — back-to-back dents in the sophomore’s once-promising Heisman Trophy campaign.
“Arkansas came out and played a game,” Fournette said. “They played it really well offensively and defensively.”
LSU rolled up 330 yards, but many of them came after the streaking Razorbacks (6-4, 4-2) grabbed a 31-14 lead on Jared Cornelius’ 69-yard scamper — the epitome of a defensive effort on this rough night.
LSU’s defense missed a host of tackles, and gaping holes appeared. Arkansas had those three 50-plus yard touchdowns; the Hogs had four such plays in its first nine games.
“Those were huge, huge plays,” Miles said.
Arkansas rolled up 299 rushing yards, held LSU to 59 yards on the ground and stomped on the Tigers’ slim chances of a title this year.
LSU is mathematically eliminated from the championship race in the SEC West, and Fournette’s Heisman campaign took another nasty left hook.
Fournette had just 12 yards on his first seven carries, but he took off late in the second quarter, rolling up those 10-yard, tackle-breaking runs that LSU fans are used to. He finished with 91 yards on 19 carries.
The Tigers raced out of halftime with help from their Heisman hopeful, scoring on an eight-play, 67-yard drive to make it 21-14 and igniting a quiet venue. Harris got it started with a 25-yard strike to Travin Dural, and Fournette had runs of 13, 12 and 6 yards, capping the march with a 2-yard touchdown.
Before that TD run toward the north end zone, Fournette beckoned the LSU student sections to roar. They did, and the running back stormed in with 11:10 left in the third quarter.
It was the last score.
There was some drama even before kickoff. An Arkansas offensive lineman, Sebastian Tretola, danced on the midfield Tiger eye for about 10 minutes, according to LSU radio’s pregame broadcast. Tretola declined LSU players’ request for him to stop.
Bryan Madden, the state trooper who escorts around coach Les Miles, intervened, and Tretola stopped.
The home team normally runs out of its tunnel first, but that didn’t happen Saturday. Arkansas raced out of its tunnel to boos seconds before LSU rushed onto the field.
The captains for the squads did not shake hands after the coin flip, a customary tradition ditched before this one.
The Hogs came out hungry. They took a 14-0 lead on two big plays — that 52-yard pass from Allen to Dominique Reed and the 80-yard run from Collins. Collins’ run came just 18 seconds into the second quarter, putting the Tigers in an early hole.
Dwayne Thomas missed the tackle on Reed’s catch-and-run. He turned a 10-yard pass into that big score. On Collins’ dash — right up the gut — safety Rickey Jefferson rushed up to the line and missed the hole in which Collins ran.
“That’s very uncharacteristic of us,” defensive back Jalen Mills said. “That’s not something we let happen, not something we’re going to have to get used to.”
Boos rained down on LSU’s next offensive series. The Tigers’ first four series — many of them with Harris in the shotgun with the intent to pass — ended in punts. The fifth ended in a Harris fumble. Arkansas recovered and scored a few plays later to make it 21-0.
Miles confirmed after the game that LSU’s plan early was to pass on a Hogs secondary that ranked as one of the worst nationally. The Tigers didn’t get a first down, though, until their third drive.
Harris began 3-for-7, hitting an Arkansas defender in the back on one pass.
“Started the game not as crisp,” Miles said of Harris. “That affected the offense.”
LSU eventually made its run behind Harris. The sophomore completed 8 of 9 passes for more than 70 yards as the Tigers scooted down the field in less than 31/2 minutes — a nine-play, 92-yard drive that resulted in a deflected touchdown.
Harris’ pass, intended for Travin Dural at the goal line, ricocheted off Dural’s hands and found Malachi Dupre in the back of the end zone to cut the deficit to 21-7 at halftime.
LSU had just 18 yards of offense on those first five drives before that march to end the half — a sour start for a sour end.
Arkansas players rushed to the visiting section and called the Hogs. Their cheers echoed through an empty Tiger Stadium.
“We’re sore losers,” Mills said. “We don’t come here to lose. We don’t come here to lose at all. That feeling of coming in second or losing in the game, that’s not something we get too comfortable with.”