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No. 1 LSU blows out No. 3 Arkansas
BATON ROUGE, La. — Tyrann Mathieu answered the call for a game-turning play when LSU needed one most, and the top-ranked Tigers piled on from there.
Mathieu returned a punt 92 yards for a game-tying score and the Tigers punished third-ranked Arkansas with 286 yards rushing, wiping out a 14-point deficit with a 41-17 win Friday that secured a spot in the SEC championship.
“I could hear my teammates in my ear saying, ‘Man, we need you to go make a play,’” Mathieu said. “I was able to help the momentum really go in our favor.
“You have no idea how bad I just wanted to go out there and make a big play for our team. I was fortunate enough to be able to do that.”
A win over the Bulldogs would assure the Tigers their third trip to the BCS title game in nine seasons. Though at this point, LSU might be able to get there even if it loses.
The rivalry game with Arkansas (10-2, 6-2) for the big Boot trophy was billed as the biggest in Tiger Stadium since 1959, the last time two teams ranked in the top three clashed in Death Valley. Billy Cannon lifted No. 1 LSU to a 7-3 win over No. 3 Mississippi in that game with an 89-yard punt return for a score, so it seemed fitting that the Tigers would get a similar score against the Razorbacks.
“That was a huge turning point in the game,” Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. “We were trying to get the ball punted to the sideline, but he miss-hit it a bit and punted it to the middle. … (Mathieu) made a great cut and made us miss at the point of attack. He made a great play.”
“It made the statement that that lead was not going to stand up,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “Our defense was going to continue to play well and our offense was coming.”
Cannon also made a game-sealing tackle on defense late in that classic game against Ole Miss. Mathieu, who was playing safety instead of cornerback much of the game because of Eric Reid’s injury the previous week, had defensive highlights of his own, forcing two fumbles with strips, one of which he recovered.
He now has six forced fumbles this season. His fifth was a strip of running back Dennis Johnson in LSU territory late in the first half. That set up a touchdown drive that put the Tigers ahead to stay.
It was Mathieu’s third touchdown of the season, his second on special teams, the other coming on a fumble return.
Arkansas took a surprising 14-0 lead on Tyler Wilson’s 13-yard TD pass to Jarius Wright and Alonzo Highsmith’s 47-yard fumble return. The largest deficit LSU had faced before Friday was 13-9 against Oregon in the season opener.
The Tigers stormed back and outscored the Razorbacks 41-3 from there.
By Tom Fitton
New photos confirm the attack's coordination and its cover-up
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