FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. —
Even record-setting performances by Tyler Wilson and Cobi Hamilton weren't enough for Arkansas to close out its disappointing season with a win.
The Razorbacks rallied in the second half on Friday, but their efforts fell short in a 20-13 loss to No. 8 LSU.
Wilson was 31 of 52 passing for the Razorbacks (4-8, 2-6 Southeastern Conference) whose fall from preseason top 10 is now complete. The senior set the school record for career passing yards in the loss, while Hamilton set the school record for receptions in a career with 175.
The records were a bright spot in an otherwise dismal season for a Razorbacks team that struggled mightily following the April firing of former coach Bobby Petrino. Arkansas was 21-5 the last two seasons and entered the season with SEC and national championship expectations, but it was eliminated from the bowl picture following last week's loss at Mississippi State.
"We kind of stuck together (through) all the adversity,'' Hamilton said. "We're still brothers. We're still the same 2012 team that everybody had high expectations for. But we just stuck together.''
Jarvis Landry, meanwhile, helped keep LSU's SEC championship hopes in reach with the win.
Now the receiver and the rest of the No. 8 Tigers (10-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) must sit back and wait while their next destination - perhaps next weekend's SEC championship game - is played out elsewhere.
Landry's spectacular, reaching, one-handed touchdown catch late in the first half helped LSU take the early lead on its way to holding off the reeling Razorbacks. It marked the sixth time in eight seasons that the Tigers have reached double-digit wins under coach Les Miles.
LSU must now hope for an Alabama loss to Auburn (not likely) and Texas A&M victory against Missouri (very possible) on Saturday in order to win the SEC West and earn a trip to Atlanta. Even without a division crown, the Tigers could still get an at-large bid to the BCS.
"We'll take the next day and a half or so and watch TV tomorrow and be excited about it, and move forward and see how things go,'' Miles said.
Zach Mettenberger passed for 217 yards and hooked up with Landry for the play of the day with 1:12 left in the first half to put LSU up 10-0. The Tigers were outgained 462-306 in total yardage, but they were able to hold off record-setting performances by Arkansas quarterback Wilson and Hamilton.
The Tigers took at 17-3 lead early in the third quarter after a 1-yard touchdown run by Jeremy Hill, who finished with 77 yards rushing on 18 carries. The touchdown followed an 86-yard kickoff return by Michael Ford to the Arkansas 9.
It also appeared to be the clincher for LSU, though the Razorbacks rallied behind the combination of Wilson and Hamilton.
Wilson passed former Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallet's mark of 7,493 yards passing in the second quarter, finishing with 359 yards in the game and 7,765 yards for his career, and his 28-yard touchdown pass to freshman Mekale McKay in the third quarter closed the LSU lead to 17-10.
After forcing a Tigers' punt, the Razorbacks used a key fourth-and-1 conversion to set up another scoring opportunity. Wilson found Jonathan Williams for a 37-yard completion on the fourth down at midfield, helping to set up a second-and-goal at the LSU 1.
Arkansas was unable, however, to find the end zone on its next two plays. Interim coach John L. Smith then elected to kick a 17-yard field goal, which backup kicker John Henson converted to close the Tigers' lead to 17-13.
The Razorbacks never did find the end zone again, bringing a likely end to the Arkansas career of Smith - who was signed to a 10-month contract following Petrino's firing.
"That's the right call,'' Smith said of the field goal attempt. "I mean, you have to score twice to win it, don't you? At least, I think you had to score twice to win it unless my math was wrong. So do you take it there? You have to take the sure points and then come back you have to score again anyway. So that was the thought, and I think that's the right call.''
The Razorbacks had one final chance in the closing seconds, but Wilson's second-down attempt from the LSU 18 was over the head of McKay as time expired.
LSU's final score came on a 27-yard field goal by Drew Alleman with 1:26 remaining, giving it a 20-13 lead. The score came after a key 47-yard third-down completion from Mettenberger to Odell Beckham, who finished with eight catches for 112 yards.
The Tigers led 10-0 at halftime in their first game in Fayetteville since 1992. They did so despite gaining the same 165 yards of total offense as the Razorbacks, whose season-long series of miscues continued in the half.
Arkansas, next to last in the SEC in red-zone offense, squandered three scoring opportunities in the half. Dennis Johnson fumbled near the LSU goal line on the game's opening drive, and kicker Zach Hocker misfired on a pair of field goal attempts before being benched in favor of Henson in the second half.
LSU's first touchdown came late in the first half when Mettenberger found Landry in the back of the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown. Landry had to reach back over his wrong shoulder to stretch out and snare the ball with his right hand, landing well in bounds.
"I felt that the throw kind of kept me in bounds,'' Landry said. "I felt that if he had led me any, there was a possibility I could have been out of bounds.
"It's just one of those throws where Zach trusted me, and I just went up and made it.''
Hamilton finished with 10 catches for 98 yards in his final game at Arkansas, finishing his career with 175 catches. His record broke the former mark of 168 catches, set last year by Minnesota Vikings' rookie Jarius Wright.