LSU now awaits their bowl fate
Instead of "pass the gravy," the phrase LSU used at the Thanksgiving dinner table should have been "beware of Arkansas."
As in years past, the Tigers had to dig deep to survive a Black Friday trap set for them by a struggling Hogs team. It took a 99-yard drive to save them from their first four-loss regular season in five years.
They got that epic scoring march from the most unlikely of places. Zach Mettenberger had to be sidelined late in the fourth quarter with a knee injury--giving way to the true freshman Anthony Jennings--a guy that had only thrown three passes prior to the contest.
Neither his inexperience nor the late deficit intimidated the young signal-caller.
He finished a drive started by Mettenberger--a drive that ended with a Colby Delahoussaye 37-yard field goal to cut the Arkansas lead to 27-24.
The Tigers got the ball back inside their own 1-yard line with just over three minutes remaining. That's when Jennings went to work.
He completed two huge passes--one to Dillon Gordon and another to Jarvis Landry and followed it up with a 21-yard scramble.
Finally, with just 1:15 left, he hit a wide open Travin Dural down the sideline for a 49-yard touchdown to give LSU their first lead since the second quarter.
From there, the defense--just like they had the previous two drives--made a huge stop. Sophomore cornerback Dwayne Thomas sacked and stripped Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen, and Jermauria Rasco recovered the fumble--clinching the razor-thin victory for the Tigers.
In his relief role, Jennings went 4-7 for 76 yards with a touchdown. He added 26 yards on the ground.
Landry came away with one of the best catches college football has seen this year late in the fourth quarter. Overall, he made eight grabs for 113 yards. Jeremy Hill chipped in with 20 carries for 145 yards and a score.
Winning a close game against a seemingly-overmatched Razorback squad is nothing new for LSU. In the teams' last 10 meetings, only two games have been decided by more than eight points.
The matchups in 2005, 2008 and 2012 immediately come to mind. Each time, a heavily-favored Tiger team got much more of a fight than they bargained for.
In 2005, a 9-1 LSU squad had to hold on to escape the friendly confines of Tiger Stadium with a 19-17 victory over the 4-6 Hogs.
In Jordan Jefferson's first ever start back in 2008, the 7-4 Tigers opened up a 30-14 lead over 4-7 Arkansas just to see it evaporate. The Razorbacks surged to a 31-30 win to hand LSU their second straight loss.
Finally, just last year, the Tigers were sitting pretty at 9-2 but had to cling to a 20-13 advantage to escape Fayetteville with the win over the 4-7 Hogs.
Having to win another close one over a 3-8 team was just a glimpse of the inconsistencies LSU has been a victim of all season.
However, the offense has been one area that has remained steady for the Tigers despite the ups and downs of the schedule. They ended the regular season averaging 37 points a game.
Mettenberger became only the third LSU quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards. Only JaMarcus Russell and Rohan Davey had pulled off that feat prior to this year.
Unfortunately, his college career has come to an end one game sooner than expected. In the big hit that sidelined him against the Hogs, Mettenberger tore his ACL and sprained his MCL.
His career is now over for the Tigers--giving way to the Jennings era. The freshman will have to duplicate his late-game heroics against Arkansas for LSU's bowl game--which will be his first ever start.
Despite being suspended for the season opener and the first half of the UAB game, Hill still ran for 1,185 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Many have proclaimed Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. the best receiving tandem in college football, and they have certainly lived up to that billing. Landry finished with 1,172 yards and 10 scores while Beckham collected 1,117 yards and eight scores of his own.
With the win over Arkansas, the Tigers were able to finish the regular season 9-3 and keep hopes alive of reaching that coveted 10-win mark with a bowl victory.
Now, they'll just have to sit back and watch championship week like the rest of us.
They'll then know their bowl destination. At this moment, the biggest possibilities are: the Cotton Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Outback Bowl and Chic-fil-A Bowl.