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No. 1 LSU beats No. 3 Arkansas

No. 1 LSU left no doubt why it’s the top team in the land.

The Tigers rolled to a 41-17 over No. 3 Arkansas Friday afternoon in Baton Rouge. The win clinched the SEC West title for LSU and a spot in the SEC championship against Georgia next week. More importantly, the Tigers remain on course to play for the BCS national title in New Orleans in January.

But for a brief time LSU was in trouble and there was pandemonium brewing with the BCS. Arkansas built a 14-0 lead in the second quarter after a 13-yard pass from Tyler Wilson to Jarius Wright and a 47-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by Alonzo Highsmith.

Then it was all LSU.

Kenny Hilliard’s 6-yard touchdown run helped bring LSU to within 14-7 with 5:15 to go in the first half. The play, however, that really changed the momentum was a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown from Tyrann Mathieu with 3:24 to go. After the extra point, LSU had tied the game at 14-14 and Arkansas certainly appeared to be a deflated team.

Mathieu forced a fumble on Arkansas’ next possession. Four plays later, quarterback Jordan Jefferson hit Russell Shepard for a 9-yard touchdown that gave LSU a 21-14 halftime lead.

The teams traded field goals in the third quarter and LSU had a 24-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

LSU took control on the first possession of the fourth quarter, going 45 yards in nine plays. Eight of those plays were bruising runs, with Spencer Ware scoring from 7 yards. Ware appeared to be stopped on the play but kept his legs pumping and ended up in the end zone. LSU slammed the door on Arkansas with a 31-17 lead. The Tigers stole the momentum in the second quarter and took the Razorbacks’ spirit on this drive in the fourth quarter.

Arkansas’ offense was on the field for one play as Morris Claiborne intercepted Wilson’s pass. After a short Ware run, Jefferson faked a handoff to his running back, kept the ball and ran 48 yards untouched to the end zone.

Jefferson had a strong game, completing 18 of 29 passes for 208 yards with a touchdown and interception. He also had the 48-yard touchdown run (7 total carries for 53 yards). Jefferson really had some zip on his passes today.

The player of the game, however, goes to Mathieu. He had the huge punt return for a touchdown and forced two fumbles, including one late in the game when he stripped the ball from Chris Gragg and recovered it all in one motion. Mathieu certainly played his way back into the Heisman Trophy race.

Other numbers:
-- LSU had 26 first downs and 494 yards of total offense
-- LSU had 286 rushing yards (Hilliard 19 for 102, 1 TD, Michael Ford 11 for 96, Jefferson 7 for 53, 1 TD, Ware 8 for 37, 1 TD)
-- Rueben Randle had 9 catches for 134 yards
-- LSU’s defense held Arkansas to 11 first downs and 254 yards of total offense, including just 207 passing yards