SPORTS >>National title hopes gone, SEC still looms
By NOAH TRISTER
Cross off Arkansas from the dwindling list of national championship contenders. Ja-Marcus Russell threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns, and No. 9 LSU held off No. 5 Arkansas 31-26 Friday to derail the Razorbacks' slim national title hopes.
Arkansas was No. 6 in the BCS standings this week, but the Razorbacks held out hope that wins over the Tigers (10-2, 6-2) and next week against Florida in the Southeastern Conference title game would help them jump the other contenders and into the national championship game against Ohio State.
Instead, LSU improved its chances of landing a bid to the Bowl Championship Series.
Arkansas pulled within five at 31-26 on Felix Jones' 5-yard touchdown run with 4:53 remaining, and the Razorbacks (10-2, 7-1) got the ball back at their own 27 with 2:04 to play. But Casey Dick threw four straight incompletions, completing a miserable 3-for-17 day in which he passed for only 29 yards.
After the game, LSU's cheering section began chanting "BCS" -- the Tigers are hoping to earn an at-large spot after entering the game 10th in the standings. Arkansas' chances of an at-large bid took a hit, but the Razorbacks can go to the Sugar Bowl if they win the SEC title.
Darren McFadden rushed for 182 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. That made it 24-19, but LSU's Trindon Holliday returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown with 10:14 remaining. That completed a wild stretch of three touchdowns in 45 seconds -- Russell had thrown a 7-yarder to Early Doucet immediately before McFadden's run.
Dick was 0-for-8 in the second half. He was intercepted early in the fourth quarter by LaRon Landry, who returned it 23 yards to the Arkansas 9, setting up Doucet's touchdown.
Arkansas had won 10 straight since a 50-14 loss to Southern California, and the Razorbacks appeared unstoppable early, driving 80 yards in 2:30 and taking a 6-0 lead on McFadden's 1-yard run. Arkansas was the first team this season to score on its first drive against LSU.
But Jeremy Davis missed the extra point, and the Tigers went ahead later in the quarter on Keiland Williams' 29-yard scoring run. LSU never relinquished its lead.
The Tigers made it 14-6 in the second when Russell threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Craig Davis on third-and-13.
Arkansas answered with Dick's 21-yard scoring pass to Marcus Monk, but Dick's pass for a 2-point conversion was incomplete -- and he didn't complete another.
LSU has won the Golden Boot – a trophy shaped like a map of Louisiana and Arkansas -- four straight seasons. The Tigers played four road games this year -- all were against teams ranked in the top 10 at the time. They lost at Auburn and Florida before winning at Tennessee and Arkansas.
The Razorbacks fell to 20-2 at Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium under coach Houston Nutt -- the other loss was in 2004 to LSU.
Jones ran for 137 yards, and he and McFadden became the first players to rush for 100 yards against LSU this year. He now has 1,485 yards rushing on the season. He broke Madre Hill's single-season school record of 1,387 in 1995.