Arkansas had everything to gain and everything to lose, but it was LSU that played like the team with its season on the line.
Arkansas entered the game needing a victory to earn a winning record and a bowl berth, as well as a streak of six consecutive bowls and a 17-0 record in Little Rock under coach Houston Nutt.
No. 12 LSU (9-2, 6-2 SEC) ruined all that with a dominating 43-14 victory over the Razorbacks in Little Rock.
"We came into what is a very, very difficult place to play, someplace we haven't won for a while, and they haven't been beaten for a while, and I'm really proud of the way our players focused and played hard and came back and dominated the second half of the game," LSU coach Nick Saban said. "We played as well as we've played all year against a pretty good football team on offense, and got it straightened around in the second half defensively."
Senior quarterback Marcus Randall sparked an LSU offense that rolled for 468 yards, including 295 rushing yards. Randall started for the first time since the Troy game on Oct. 23 and played the most complete game of his career by rushing for 79 yards and two touchdowns and completing 10 of 14 passes for 173 yards and two more touchdowns.
"I can't say enough about him," said defensive end Marcus Spears, a fellow senior. "I can't say enough about his character. I can't say enough about the way he competes every time he's on the field. He's just a stand-up guy.
"I get real touched when I see him out there because a lot of people doubted him and a lot of people said he wasn't good enough. To see him go out and have success like that really means something to me, because I know him personally and I know he strives to be the best player he can be."
The defense also did its part, with help from a pulled hamstring that limited the mobility of Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones. With Jones unable to make plays on the run, the Tigers held the Razorbacks to 95 yards rushing, sacked Jones four times and intercepted him twice.
"We should have played this way all season long," Spears said.
It's too late to change the past, and too late to win the SEC West and play for the SEC championship or even play for a second consecutive national championship, but it's not too late for the Tigers to play in a quality bowl and close out the season strong. At this point, the Cotton Bowl looks promising for LSU, but the Tigers' bowl options remain open.
"Our team has a lot of character," Saban said. "We came back to win after that humiliation at Georgia (a 45-16 loss on Oct. 2). I am very proud of our team for winning nine games in this league."
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