LSU running back Terrence Magee gets into the end zone in front of Arkansas safety Alan Turner during the first half Friday afternoon in Baton Rouge. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Friday, November 29, 2013 11:31 PM
BATON ROUGE — LSU called for a tsunami and danged if it didn’t almost cause another earthquake in what had been a quiet and low-grumbling Tiger Stadium most of Friday afternoon.
Check the Richter scale-ometer over in the geology department.
It was hardly a full house in the stadium.
But it might have moved the Richter needle like that Auburn game did long ago once the Tigers finally got in position to pull the trigger on a play they named after what the dictionary refers to as a massive flood.
“I knew tsunami-right would be open,” junior Jarvis Landry, who’d been suggesting it to the coaching braintrust for three or four series, said.
It didn’t matter that a true freshman was in at quarterback for injured Zach Mettenberger.
LSU had no other options.
So Anthony Jennings fired a perfect, in-stride strike to fellow freshman Travin Dural streaking down the sidelines for a 49-yard touchdown pass with 1:49 to play as the Tigers escaped with a 31-27 victory over lowly Arkansas.
Tsunami, a play in which the Tigers flood one side of the field and leave the other side for Dural’s speed, was the easy part.
Rewind to the game’s 3:04 mark, when LSU began its last-gasp drive inside its own 1-yard line, missing nor only Mettenberger and star wide receiver Odell Beckham two two starting offensive linemen.
“Ninety-nine yards,” head coach Les Miles kept repeating of the unlikely final drive. “Wow. Tigers win. Tigers win.”
The first 57 minutes were hardly a thing of LSU beauty or Tiger efficiency against an upstart Razorback team (3-9) that finished winless (0-8) in the SEC under first-year head coach Brett Bielema.
The LSU offense went stagnant after Terrence Magee broke off scoring runs of 29 and 23 yards on the Tigers’ first two possessions. Jeremy Hill broke off a 52-yard scoring run in the third quarter to break up the monotony.
The same LSU defense that shut down high-powered Texas A&M a week ago struggled against the Razorbacks’ more pedestrian attack, giving up 360 yards.
“It may not have been exactly the style of game that we like to play,” Miles said. “I think we could have played better.
But the Tigers (9-3, 5-3) will now await word on their bowl destination — most likely the Cotton Bowl — next Sunday.
It didn’t look very likely, even when LSU stopped Arkansas inches short on third down at the Razorbacks’ 34-yard line.
“If they get a first down there, the game’s over,” Miles said.
“I thought about going for it,” Bielema said. “I did for a second.”
Bielema looked like a genius when Sam Irwin-Hill’s punt rolled dead at the Tigers’ half-yard line and the Tigers trailing 27-24 with 3:04 to play.
Jennings, a self-described “designated quarterback-sneaker” before Friday, entered the game the previous series after Mettenberger strained his knee while throwing a pass that Landry made a miraculous catch on for 32 yards down to the Arkansas 21.
But Jennings looked shaky, the drive stalled and the Tigers settled for Colby Delahoussaye’s 37-yard field goal to pull within 27-24.
“Then,” Miles said, “we turned to our defense and said, OK, this is the one. It’s got to be a three-and-out, and we have to stop it right now.”
But LSU didn’t get any favors when the punt rolled dead a foot or two from the Tigers’ own goal.
“I had confidence in my team,” Jennings said. “I felt like we were going to win the game.”
Jennings got away from the end zone with a comfortable quarterback sneak, before completing passes of 16 yards to Dillon Gordon and 11 yards to Landry.
When the next play broke down, he did something Mettenberger never could have done when he scrrambled 21 yards to the Arkansas 49.
That was the position LSU was waiting for, the chance to call the tsunami rather than playing it safe to set up for a tying field goal
“You get out there, we want to take a shot,” Miles said the coaches had been discussing. “Travin runs fast. We knew that.”
Miles said offensive coordinator Cam Cameron didn’t think the Arkansas cornerback realized how fast Dural was. Jared Collins had been sneaking up closer and closer to him during the drive.
On the tsunami, Dural blew by him and was wide open by 10 yards.
“Tiger win,” Miles said. “Tigers win.”