FAYETTEVILLE- Cam Little’s boot for The Boot booted Arkansas to a 16-13 overtime SEC victory over the LSU Tigers Saturday night at LSU’s Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.
Saturday’s SEC West success snapped the Razorbacks’ 5-game losing streak in the annual game whose winner brings home the 173-pound Golden Boot Trophy.
So back to Fayetteville, Coach Sam Pittman’s nationally 25th ranked by the College Football Playoff Committee Razorbacks bring home The Boot and improved to bowl-bound 7-3 and 3-3 overall and SEC records before next Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. CBS televised SEC West game at nationally No. 2 Alabama.
LSU, the 2019 national champion but fallen on times that by mutual agreement will end Coach Ed Orgeron’s Tigers tenure at season’s end, fell to 4-6, 2-5.
Little’s 37-yard field goal, his third of the game in three tries, broke the 13-13 tie ending regulation.
Arkansas cornerback Montaric “Busta” Brown’s interception of LSU quarterback Garrett Nussmeier’s pass in the end zone corner ended LSU’s overtime opening possession.
With each overtime possession starting at the defense’s 25 and knowing a field goal victoriously sufficed after Brown’s pick, Pittman ordered quarterback KJ Jefferson run it three times down the middle placing the game on Little’s big foot on fourth down at the 19. The freshman, huge in beating Mississippi State, 31-28 last week kicking 3 of 4 field goals while Mississippi State kickers missed their three attempts, and Saturday in Baton Rouge kicking 48 and 27-yard field goals and the PAT after Jefferson’s 43-yard touchdown pass to running back Dominique Johnson, coolly came through.
“We were just trying to get a few more yards and then put it in the middle because we got Mr. Automatic back there,” Pittman told the SEC Network on the TV postgame. “And man did he do a nice job! The man’s got ice water man!”
Apparently so. Because even while rated the nation’s No. 1 high school kicker and his SEC successes against Mississippi State and Texas A&M (four field goals in a 20-10 victory) the Moore, Okla. native had never been thrust into such a hot spot.
“This is actually my first game-winner,” Little said. “Ever. It’s the first time I’ve ever been put in that situation and I was just glad to make the kick. Once Busta picked it I was just warming up in my net and I’m like, ‘OK, I’m ready.’I’ve been preparing myself for this situation and I was just ready to go out there and make the kick. I had no doubt in my mind. Shout out to Busta for the opportunity with the pick. He gave me the opportunity to make that pick.”
And took away the LSU opportunity that Nussmeier had just rescued.
Two plays before Brown’s pick, freshman Nussmeier on an overtime third and 20 completed a 24-yard pass to Malik Cabers for a first down at Arkansas’ 11.
Ashdown’s Brown cornered his pick on second and eight.
Nussmeier, the freshman backup quarterback that Orgeron publicly promised would play in addition to starter Max Johnson, replaced Johnson’s on LSU’s third series and quarterbacked the duration. Nussmeier completed 18 of 30 for 179 yards and a touchdown but had thrown one interception to Arkansas safety Myles Slusher setting up Little’s second field goal, a 27-yarder in the third quarter.
Little feigned trying a 56-yarder when that drive first bogged down. Instead got to try it from 27 on holder Reid Bauer running 23 yards on the fake field goal for a first down to the LSU 13.
Little’s first field goal of 48 yards at 11:59 of the first quarter capped the game’s first possession with Arkansas up, 3-0.
Arkansas’ offense mostly was stifled thereafter.
LSU, led by linebacker Michael Baskerville’s 12 tackles including three for losses, constantly pressured Burks. The Tigers bottled both season-long All-American candidate mainstay receiver Treylon Burks, just 21 yards total offense with 4 catches for 16 yards and one rush for 5, and recent mainstay running back Dominique Johnson just 39 yards on 14 carries.
But though sacked three times, Jefferson, 6-3, 245, still often proved too strong to be downed. On one of his tackle-breaking, sack-escaping forays, Jefferson spotted Johnson wide open for the 43-yard touchdown that gave Arkansas a 16-13 lead.
“When I made him (the would-be LSU tackler) miss, the only thing on my mind was making a play,” Jefferson said. “I saw him (Johnson) downfield, wide open and I just tried to give him a good ball and he ended up doing the rest.”
LSU, with running back Tyrion Davis-Price bulling for 106 yards on 28 carries, scored on Cade York 34 and 45 field goals, he missed short on a 55-yard attempt, and Nussmeier’s second quarter 29-yard touchdown pass to Jack Bech securing the Tigers’ 10-3 halftime lead.
Otherwise the Hogs, led by the senior linebacking triumvirate Bumper Pool, Grant Morgan and Hayden Henry and their respective 13, 11 and 10 tackles, and securing with nickel back Greg Brooks recovering an errant LSU’s Wildcat snap towards Davis-Price, and the Slusher and Brown picks, stifled the Tigers offense even more than LSU’s defense stifled the Hogs.“It sounds awesome but man it was ugly!” Pittman said of bringing home The Boot through the defensive maze. “It was ugly and beautiful and all in between. But we got it done. We got The Boot!”