By SCOTT FALDON
SOUTHWEST TIMES RECORD
LITTLE ROCK — In last season’s 33-30 overtime loss to LSU, Arkansas struggled when the Tigers lined up in man-to-man coverage and blitzed everybody else. So during the offseason, Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino and offensive coordinator Garrick McGee worked on counteracting LSU’s all-out blitz.
Early in the fourth quarter at War Memorial Stadium, the Razorbacks finally had a chance to try their countermeasures on fourth-and-3 at the LSU 39. A touchdown toss from Ryan Mallett to Joe Adams gave Arkansas a 28-20 lead in what was eventually a 31-23 Razorbacks win.
"We knew the tendency was for them to play all-out man pressure in that situation. They caused us a lot of problems last season with the same blitz," McGee said. "We studied it all offseason. We had a plan for it that we worked in spring ball. It just so happened it came up against a team that burnt us last season."
But the play almost didn’t happen. Credit special teams coordinator John L. Smith with an assist.
"There was a lot of thought that went into it. I even called coach Smith over one time and asked ‘What do you think, should we punt or go for it?’" Petrino said. "I worked for coach Smith a long time ago and he always had a saying, ‘We didn’t come to paint, we came to win the game.’ So we went for it."
Lined up in man coverage, Adams fired off the line, gave LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu a double move and broke slightly to his left. Mallett lofted an easy pass to his outstretched hands.
It was a measure of revenge for Adams, who finished with three catches for 60 yards. Adams was on the receiving end of a vicious hit on the goal line last year in Baton Rouge.
"That was a sweet touchdown to catch," Adams said. "We had been working on it the whole offseason ... he (Petrino) didn’t really bring it out until this game. We ran it early in the game, but it didn’t work. But the second time, it worked; I was one-on-one with (the LSU defender)."
Adams wasn’t the only Arkansas wide receiver who recorded a big play. Cobi Hamilton scored twice in the second quarter from 85 and 80 yards.
Midway through the second quarter, Hamilton lined up wide left. He sprinted down the sideline and Mallett hit him in stride. LSU free safety Karnell Hatcher appeared to have Hamilton in his crosshairs, but barely managed to get a finger on him. Hamilton’s first TD made it 14-7 Arkansas.
After LSU tied the game, the teams traded punts with Arkansas taking possession at its own 20 with just six seconds left in the first half. Rather than taking a knee and heading to the locker room with a tie, Petrino decided to roll the dice. Just before the snap, he liked what he saw.
"(Our) thought process is always let’s go for it," Petrino said. "We called one of our plays we like a lot; we have an in cut with a post over the top. When they lined up, I thought, ‘Oh we have a chance here.’"
Lined up wide on the right, Hamilton angled across the defense. Hamilton had a step on cornerback Morris Claiborne and Mallett threaded the needle. Just after the catch, Hatcher wiped out his teammate, which freed Hamilton for a trip to the end zone.
"That was the second time I knew I might get hit pretty hard," Hamilton said. "On the first touchdown, I knew I was going to get hit pretty hard. Both times they missed and I took advantage. I heard the collision and then I saw it was open field."
Hamilton only caught one other pass — for a loss on a screen — and finished with 164 receiving yards.