FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — You knew it had to end this way, didn’t you?
No matter how downtrodden, how inept, how mistake-prone the Arkansas Razorbacks have been in a season that really ended the day Bobby Petrino skidded off the road and into limbo, you knew the Hogs would have just enough left in the tank to make the LSU Tigers sweat on a chilly Friday.
Last season’s run of scorched earth victories was an anomaly.
This is who the Tigers are.
This is how they roll.
Maybe it’s attention deficit disorder of youth. This LSU team represents all the colors of Mardi Gras, purple, gold and green, with only five seniors who are really major contributors. It’s a collective personality that is extremely malleable.
One week LSU can play an Alabama team currently the odds-on BCS favorite off its cleats and another struggle to the very last play to fend off a Razorbacks team that has nowhere to go but into the uncertain future of a new head coach.
That’s been the tone of this season, from that very first unblocked sack of Zach Mettenberger against North Texas to his buddy Tyler Wilson’s last collegiate pass that sailed high, wide and handsome over the corner of the end zone to allow the Tigers to pull yet another escape act with a 20-13 win.
“It’s aggravating to me,” Les Miles said. “But when you’re playing with as many young players as we play with now ... we have a very small number of upperclassmen.
“We have to win games like that.”
On their heels most of a tense second half, the Tigers found a way with just enough plays to make the difference.
A brilliant one-handed touchdown grab by Jarvis Landry, an 86-yard kickoff return by Michael Ford, a 47-yard catch and run to set up the final field goal by Odell Beckham Jr. and a couple of forced turnovers by an opportunistic if lately undominant defense overcame a 359-yard passing day by Wilson.
A kooky decision by Arkansas’ soon-to-be former interim coach John L. Smith to kick a field goal from inside the LSU 1 helped immensely. Tigers fans everywhere will find it proof of their theory that Miles said he understood the move by a coach and a team that literally had nothing to lose.
But Arkansas lost. Again. And LSU found a way. Again. And while Arkansas is supposedly trying to string together enough big booster bucks to attract Jon Gruden (yeah, right), LSU is throwing its 10-2 record, top-10 ranking and legion of fans who treked all the way up here on Black Friday on the table to show how attractive it can be to a BCS bowl.
“We have each other’s back,” said linebacker Lamin Barrow, who forced that first momentum-changing Arkansas fumble at his 2. “If we keep fighting, we always come out on top.”
LSU came out on top all but twice this season. Given the key players the Tigers have lost, the season could have been much worse.
These Tigers don’t know how to beat you up; they just beat you.