2:30 PM ET, November 29, 2002
War Memorial Stadium, LITTLE ROCK, AR
LITTLE ROCK (AP) -- Now LSU knows how it feels to lose on the last pass of the game, too.
DeArius Howard and Arkansas are the SEC West champs.
Matt Jones threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to DeCori Birmingham with 9 seconds left, and David Carlton made a long extra point to give Arkansas a 21-20 victory over the Tigers (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) on Friday.
The ending was nearly as stunning as LSU's win over Kentucky on Nov. 9, when Devery Henderson caught a 75-yard touchdown pass on the game's final play for a 33-30 victory.
"First of all, I feel very bad for our players,'' LSU coach Nick Saban said. "We won a game in 13 seconds and then lost this one in (34) seconds. It's just the way the ball bounces and we were the victim today.''
Arkansas scored twice in the last half of the fourth quarter to win the SEC's West Division title and advance to the conference title game against Georgia next Saturday in Atlanta.
Trailing 20-14 with 34 seconds left, the Razorbacks (9-3, 5-3 SEC) got the ball at their 19. Jones completed a 50-yard pass to Richard Smith on the first play.
"I couldn't believe Richard Smith got behind that guy,'' Jones said. "Our play wasn't designed to go to Richard, but they let him get behind them. If I could have thrown the ball about 10 yards further we would have scored on that play.''
After an incompletion from the LSU 31, Jones found Birmingham in the back right corner of the end zone. The sophomore slipped behind Randall Gay and outleaped him for the ball. LSU's Travis Daniels was too late to break up the pass.
"It was a triple post route and Matt threw it deep in the end zone and I just jumped up and made the catch,'' said Birmingham, who had only 14 receptions coming into the game. "I kind of gave (Gay) a little stick to make him think I was running a much shallower route. He bit for it so we went a little deeper.''
Arkansas was penalized 15 yards for excessive celebration, however, setting up a 35-yard extra point. Carlton's kick was plenty long enough, but it curved left and was barely good.
LSU (8-4, 5-3) could have won the West Division and advanced to the championship game if not for the dramatic touchdown. Jones was just 2-of-13 for 46 yards before completing the two long passes on the final drive.
LSU quarterback Marcus Randall accounted for two touchdowns and threw for 203 yards on 14-of-25 passing to give LSU to a 20-14 lead before Arkansas' comeback.
The sophomore threw a 67-yard touchdown to freshman Skyler Green, and his 5-yard touchdown run in the third quarter put the Tigers in control. Randall seemingly gave LSU the game with a late drive that took up 5:53 and resulted in a 29-yard field goal by John Corbello with 40 seconds remaining.
Arkansas pulled to 17-14 with 6:33 left when Fred Talley ran up the middle for a 56-yard touchdown.
"It seemed like they had the play defended pretty good,'' Talley said. "Shawn (Andrews) lunged at one guy and allowed me to cut back inside. For me to cut back inside means the backside had to be blocking and no one took the play off.''
The run made Talley the eighth Arkansas running back to gain 1,000 yards in a season, and first since Madre Hill set the school record with 1,387 in 1995. Talley finished with 118 yards on 15 carries; he has 1,035 this season.
Randall, who came off the bench in a 14-13 win over Ole Miss last week, completed four of six passes on the opening drive. Green caught his second pass of the season on a wide-receiver screen, and he turned it into a 67-yard touchdown with 6:44 left in the first quarter.
LSU kept the Razorbacks out of the end zone on their longest drive on the season. Arkansas drove from its 25 to the LSU 9, but Corey Webster intercepted Jones' third-and-9 pass in the end zone with 6:35 left in the second quarter.
Jones tried to throw the ball where Smith could catch it in the back of the end zone, but Webster stepped in for his SEC-leading seventh interception. Arkansas made six first downs on the drive, which lasted 17 plays and took 8:10 off the clock.
Arkansas responded by holding LSU to three plays, and a 10-yard punt return by Birmingham gave the Razorbacks their best field position of the game at the Tigers 47.
LSU didn't allow Arkansas to take advantage of that either, holding on three plays and forcing the Razorbacks' third punt of the half.
The Tigers took over at the 10 with 3:18 remaining and drove 58 yards in 10 plays to set up Corbello's 49-yard field goal on the last play of the half for a 10-0 lead.
Arkansas pulled within three with 8:37 left in the third quarter when Mark Pierce scored on fourth-and-1.