FAYETTEVILLE, Ark -- No. 8-ranked LSU never trailed Arkansas, but the game wasn't short on drama. Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson's attempt to tie the game from the LSU 18 yard line fell incomplete and the Tigers won "The Battle for the Golden Boot" on Friday, 20-13.
LSU improved to 10-2 overall and 6-2 in the SEC. Arkansas fell to 4-8 overall and 2-6 in SEC play.
The Tigers await their postseason fate, as an unlikely Auburn victory over Alabama coupled with a Texas A&M win over Missouri would allow LSU to earn a berth in the SEC Championship Game. Should either of those not go in LSU's favor, the Tigers hold a solid resume for a Bowl Championship Series bowl.
Defense and special teams for which it's known proved the difference on a cold and breezy afternoon. LSU forced turnovers on consecutive plays and blocked an Arkansas field goal on the way to its 10th victory for the 14th time in school history including six in head coach Les Miles' eight seasons.
Meanwhile, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger completed 16-of-29 passes for 217 yards with a 22-yard touchdown pass. He was sacked three times but did not commit a turnover.
Running back Jeremy Hill again led LSU with 77 yards on 18 carries, while Spencer Ware added 22. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry had a team-high eight receptions including a circus grab that put LSU ahead 10-0 just before halftime. He finished with 75 yards receiving. Odell Beckham Jr. led LSU with 112 yards and setup the Tigers final score with a 47-yard catch and run inside the final two minutes.
For Arkansas, Wilson was 31-of-52 passing for 359 yards with an interception and a touchdown. He had a team-high 38-yards rushing.
Wilson's favorite target was Cobi Hamilton who had 10 grabs for 98 yards before leaving late with an injury. Knile Davis added five catches for 52 yards along with seven runs for 31 yards.
Wilson did it all for Arkansas on the first drive of the game, completing 6-of-6 passes for 61 yards. However, his final completion was fumbled by Johnson after a hit by linebacker Lamin Barrow at the LSU 2. LSU senior defensive end Chancey Aghayere recovered to end the threat.
Hill helped LSU get off its goal line with the team's longest run of the afternoon, a 19-yarder to the 24, but Mettenberger was sacked on third-and-11 and Brad Wing entered to punt. The Tigers almost got the ball back immediately when punter returner Keante Minor muffed the catch, but Deion Jones couldn't hold on to the loose ball and Arkansas recovered at its 28.
For the second time in as many plays, Arkansas turned the ball over, as Wilson's pass was caught by a stiff north breeze and intercepted by cornerback Tharold Simon. Simon's team-best fourth pickoff of the season was returned 21 yards to the Arkansas 40, giving LSU a short field.
LSU couldn't full capitalize, as Mettenberger scrambled on third-and-4 but came up short. Miles called upon senior placekicker Drew Alleman for a career-long 49-yard field goal which the he converted with room to spare.
LSU led 3-0 with 4:45 remaining in the first quarter.
With the exception of the interception, Wilson continued an efficient first quarter with another perfect 4-for-4 drive. However, a sack by defensive tackle Josh Downs put the Hogs behind the down and distance, and Dylan Breeding entered for his first punt.
Breeding's 45 yard punt was downed at the LSU 3 where the Tigers started consecutive drives inside their 5.
Early in the second quarter, Mettenberger found Beckham Jr. behind the Arkansas defense for 43 yards to the Arkansas 43. But, three-straight incomplete passes including an overthrow of Kadron Boone near the endzone ended the drive. Wing's 37-yard punt was downed at the Arkansas 6. Arkansas couldn't overcome the poor field position and returned the ball with Breeding's 54-yard punt.
LSU gained a first down with a short pass to Landry, but a fourth-and-1 at the Arkansas 40 resulted in a loss of two yards when Ware, who was under center, tossed to Michael Ford who went nowhere.
The Razorbacks took over at their 42 and advanced to the LSU 24 before coming up short on a third-and-long run by Johnson. Zach Hocker's 40-yard fied goal attempt came out low and was deflected by defensive tackle Bennie Logan and no good.
The Tigers took advantage offensively, as Hill and Ware had first down runs to the Arkansas 45. The Tigers gained another first down when Arkansas's bench was flagged for a personal foul when they argued that LSU should have been called for a delay of game prior to taking a timeout.
Three plays later, Mettenberger lobbed a pass over the Arkansas defense and Landry made a one-handed grab just inside the endzone for a 22-yard touchdown.
LSU took a 10-0 lead with 1:12 remaining in the half.
With Arkansas kicking off to start the half, LSU had another opportunity to keep momentum and distances itself from Arkansas. Instead Ford fielded the kick after stepping out of bounds at the LSU 6 and the Tigers offense couldn't overcome the mistake.
The zero-yard return cost the Tigers field position, as Wing's 47-yard punt gave Arkansas possession at their 42. A 24-yard catch and run by Johnson put the Razorbacks at the LSU 13, but after gaining five yards Arkansas settled for a 25-yard field goal by backup placekicker Josh Henson.
Arkansas trailed 10-3 with 10:32 left in the third quarter.
Ford made up for the mistake on the previous kickoff by returning his next attempt from the LSU goalline 86 yards to the Arkansas 14.
The last of three Hill runs was a 1-yard touchdown run that put LSU ahead 17-3 with 9:03 left in the quarter.
LSU's momentum was taken away when Wilson helped the Hogs drive 74 yards in seven plays to score a touchdown on a 28-yard pass to wide receiver Mekale McKay. Arkansas cut the deficit to 17-10 with 5:52 remaining in the quarter.
The Tigers overcame another short return by Ford with passes for 6 and 8 yards to Landry to the LSU 24. Then, Mettenberger worked his way out of a third-and-14 with a 14-yard pass to Beckham Jr. that was confirmed by video review. Another pass to Beckham Jr. came up a yard short of a first down, and Wing punted 44 yards into the endzone.
As the fourth quarter began, Arkansas was again driving with a big play. Wilson's play-action pass on fourth-and-1 from the LSU 46 fooled the Tigers defense and resulted in a 36-yard catch and run ot the LSU 9. An 8-yard pass to Hamilton moved Arkansas to the 1, an incomplete pass and Wilson sneak attempt were unsuccessful. After losing its fullback and offensive guard on consecutive plays to injury, Arkansas elected to kick a 17-yard field goal rather than go for the game-tying touchdown from inside the 1.
Henson's attempt was successful and Arkansas trailed 17-13 with 12:17 to play.
The teams traded four-straight punts with only two first downs in between, giving LSU possession at its 12 with 5:27 to play.
An 11-yard catch by Landry and a short run by fullback J.C. Copeland each earned first downs. On third-and-10 from the LSU 36, Beckham Jr. made the key play of the drive when he broke a tackle, picked up the first down yardage and scampered 47 yards to the Arkansas 17.
Three play - and three Arkansas timeouts - later, Allman was again called upon for a much-more-managable 22-yard attempt that put LSU ahead by a touchdown, 20-13, with 1:26 left.
As always, Arkansas didn't quit. Wilson completed a fourth-and-10 pass for 12 yards to the LSU 47 and added a 28-yard pass to Julian Horton to the LSU 18 with time for one play.
With six seconds left, Wilson rolled right and overthrw McKay in the endzone as time expired.