LSU ends regular season with loss to Arkansas

Dave Moormann
LSU’s Patrick Peterson returned a pair of kickoffs for a combined 109 yards against Arkansas in the regular-season finale Saturday. The Razorbacks took a 31-23 win.

LSU has the capacity to beat any college football team in the country, including itself.

Arkansas deserved to win last Saturday’s regular-season finale, 31-23, but the Tigers sure helped the Razorbacks along the way.

A unit that once led the Southeastern Conference in total defense doesn’t yield an 80-yard touchdown pass to end the first half or a 39-yard scoring pass on fourth down. A championship club doesn’t have to settle for three field goals because of its inability to punch the ball into the end zone.

That’s what happened to the Tigers, though, who were a mistake here and a mental error there from pulling out a game they could have won.

“We just had mental mistakes that hurt us in a big game like this,” senior wide receiver Terrence Toliver said.

LSU had too many of them, and Arkansas didn’t. That’s why Arkansas is going to a BCS bowl game and LSU isn’t. 

It’s why Arkansas jumped to eighth in The Associated Press Top 25 and LSU fell to 11th.

Really, no one should be surprised. That’s how LSU operated all season. Instead of entertaining, the Tigers were frustrating. It was like watching a new-model car with a serious hard-knock engine. Its sleek look belied its unreliability under the hood.

“I’m not happy,” said LSU coach Les Miles, who echoed the sentiments of those who are passionate about his team. “It’s certainly not how it’s supposed to end for us.”

That’s what happens sometimes when you get too careless or don’t have a sense of urgency. Any play at any time can change the course of a game. Anything can happen. Witness Boise State’s shocking first loss or Alabama’s inability to maintain what may have seemed an insurmountable lead in losing to Auburn.

For all its faults, LSU deserves credit for tackling a murderous schedule and coming away with records of 10-2 overall, including 6-2 in the Southeastern Conference Western Division. The losses came to the second-and eighth-ranked teams in the country.

It appears that No. 1 Oregon and Auburn will contend for the BCS national championship. LSU is the only team that will face both of them in the regular season next year.  LSU isn’t one to back away from a challenge, but to be up to the task, LSU has to remain focused. The slightest slip up can spell the difference between victory and defeat. It’s a lesson LSU learned the hard way.

“We didn’t execute our game plan,” Toliver said.

Arkansas surely had something to do with that, but the Razorbacks weren’t responsible for the Tigers’ glaring carelessness.

Patrick Peterson committed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that all but impeded the Tigers’ final drive before it even started. Not to excuse Peterson, but that had to be his frustration coming to a head. Peterson did what he could to earn LSU a victory, including the return of two kickoffs for a combined 109 yards. It was the fifth time he topped the century mark this season.

Peterson is a certain NFL first-round draft choice and in all likelihood won’t return to LSU for his senior season. This isn’t the way he wanted to go out. Nor was it how junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson wanted it to end. Jefferson didn’t protect the football and fumbled on the Tigers’ final play.

It’s doubtful LSU would have marched 94 yards with little time remaining, but who would have thought Arkansas could have scored from 80 yards out when only six seconds showed on the first-half clock?

If you’re going to lose, at least go down swinging. Take advantage of every opportunity you have. Don’t take anything for granted and keep plugging away. Sooner or later the tide will turn.

LSU kept that attitude throughout most of the season, which makes its two losses more bearable.

Anyway, there’s always redemption. Pity the Tigers’ bowl opponent should they show no mercy.