LSU vs. Arkansas: Top 10 Moments in the History of Battle for the Golden Boot
Helmet-jarring hits and one-handed touchdown catches are just the tip of the surface when it comes to LSU and Arkansas battling for the "boot." With lessons learned in the past decade, LSU vs. Arkansas this Friday afternoon is expected to deliver another instant classic, regardless of both teams' records.
Dating back to 1996, the Tigers and Razorbacks have played for this boot-shaped trophy, outlining both states. Nearly two decades in, classic ballgames, mesmerizing athletic feats and heart-wrenching finales have summed up this SEC West rivalry.
That leaves us with a daunting task four days before these two teams take the field once again, and that is: What's the best moment since the inaugural "Battle for the Boot?" Is it a performance by an individual player? Is it a Hail Mary (we've had plenty between these two)? Or is it simply a game?
From classic performances by LSU greats to a triple-overtime classic to unbelievable last-minute touchdowns by Arkansas, this is the best of the "Battle for the Boot."
10. The Toe Is Loose (2001)
The Battle for the Boot has existed for 17 years, but the battle for the trophy did not ramp up until the new millennium.
The 2001 contest between both clubs set the pace for years to come. In a contest that was more back-and-forth than anything other than a see-saw (because come on, who likes that cliche?), LSU and Arkansas traded scores for four quarters.
It was the performance of one that outshined everyone else in the contest, though.
LaBrandon Toefield, who highlighted his 173-rushing-yard performance with a 62-yard touchdown run for the first score of the game, finished the contest with three rushing touchdowns. Indeed, the "Toe" was loose in Tiger Stadium that Black Friday.
9. The Safety That Decided the Game (2005)
LSU defeated Arkansas at home in 2005 by a microscopic margin—two points. In a 19-17 victory for the Tigers, the game was ultimately decided by two little points. Those points were laced with expensive wrapping paper and an exquisite bow before being handed over generously by Arkansas.
With 15 seconds left to play in the second quarter, the Hogs had to punt out of their end zone. It's all coming back to you now, isn't it?
Due to a low snap, Jacob Skinner found himself being chased in the back of the end zone by Early Doucet, who ran right through him to gain the Tigers a safety. With great defense in the second half, the Tigers held on to the tight victory.
8. Tyrann Mathieu Takes over (2011)
The message boards for their respected fanbases are quick to claim a current player as the "greatest of all time."
In Tyrann Mathieu's case, he might've been the best LSU player ever. Want a reason why? You could choose from a plethora of games in his two seasons with the Tigers, but the Arkansas game in 2011 might have been his finest performance at LSU.
With the Tigers down 14-7, Mathieu did what Mathieu always did—made a play. He took a punt from the LSU 8-yard line and returned it 92 yards for a touchdown. He finished the game with a punt returned for a touchdown and two forced fumbles. Indeed, Mathieu was the best stripper any LSU fan ever laid eyes on. Quite the accomplishment, I know.
7. Chad Jones Levels Joe Adams (2009)
Like a car wreck.
Chad Jones suffered one of the worst injuries a drafted player could have ever suffered on June 25, 2010. His leg was a shredded piece of meat in a single-vehicle accident, and though he fought hard for his NFL career, he never fully recovered from the accident.
Before the horrific car wreck took place, Jones made a habit of wrecking opposing players crossing the middle of the field—none more forceful than him launching himself at Joe Adams in 2009. Though his helmet-to-helmet hit on Adams was penalized, it stands as the hardest hit ever thrown in the rivalry.
Thankfully for Jones, his tragic tale had a happy ending, as the dual-sport athlete was later drafted by the Cincinnati Reds.
6. Trindon Holliday Vanquishes Hope for Hogs (2006)
Eat your heart out, Arkansas fans. It's lying lifeless on the floor after Trindon Holliday stalled a 2006 rally.
After Darren McFadden willed his team back into the ballgame with an 80-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, pulling the Hogs within five points of the Tigers with 10:31 left to play, the Hogs had to kick off to LSU.
Holliday did what he now does in the NFL on a regular basis—took it to the house.
"Pig Sooie!" As the words left the mouths of the fans in attendance, the Little Rock crowd watched in anguish as Holliday took the kickoff from the 8-yard line and marched it into the end zone, giving LSU a 31-19 lead. The Tigers would hold on to win it 31-26.
5. Ryan Mallett's Hail Mary to Cobi Hamilton (2010)
I know what you're thinking—"this is No. 5!?"
The "Battle for the Boot" has had so many special moments that Ryan Mallett's 80-yard touchdown pass to Cobi Hamilton with six seconds remaining in the first half of this 2010 contest comes in midway through the list.
As the CBS announcer said, "you have to see it to believe it."
Hamilton was freed on the reception when Morris Claiborne was mowed down by Karnell Hatcher, and Hamilton's speed allowed him to take it the distance. The final score saw Arkansas defeat LSU 31-23. Like most of the moments on this list, that one defining play was the difference between winning and losing.
4. Hands of Velcro (2012)
Jarvis Landry entered the 2012 season as the Robin to Odell Beckham's Batman.
His one-handed grab against Arkansas in the end zone had many fans wondering just which of the two receivers were Batman.
Like the Caped Crusader himself, Landry soared in the air and snagged a one-handed Zach Mettenberger pass for one of the best plays of the 2012 season.
Furthermore, it was one of the greatest catches in LSU football history.
3. Miracle on Markham II (2008)
So nice, they had to do it twice. This was the 2008 game that reproduced a classic, as it copied the formula of a 2002 clash that was dubbed the "Markham Miracle," because Markham Street runs adjacent to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
With 2:14 left to play in the 2008 contest, Arkansas had an opportunity to take the lead and win the ballgame.
Down 30-24, Casey Dick, who defeated the Tigers his junior and senior seasons, mounted a drive.
The drive was capped off by a 24-yard touchdown pass to London Crawford with 22 seconds left, tying the game 30-30. The PAT gave the Hogs the victory, while LSU fans suffered deja vu...
2. Miracle on Markham (2002)
The original is always better than the sequel.
In 2002, Nick Saban had his LSU football team overcome a season-ending Matt Mauck injury quite formidably.
With an 8-3 record, the Tigers traveled to Arkansas, where Marcus Randall had one of his better games that season with 203 passing yards and two total touchdowns.
His play gave LSU a six-point lead late, as John Corbello added three points with 40 seconds left. Then it happened. Matt Jones found DeCori Birmingham behind two LSU defenders in the end zone with nine seconds left to play. The extra point gave Arkansas the 21-20 victory.
1. The Thriller (2007)
LSU. Arkansas. 2007. Enough said.
This was truly the greatest game ever played between both teams. Actually, this is one of the best games ever played in Tiger Stadium. It tends to get overlooked because LSU failed to emerge as the victor, though.
This contest isn't a classic because of the three overtimes. It isn't special because Darren McFadden cruised for 206 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. And it isn't memorable for the visual of Matt Flynn's arms crossed over his knees in the fetal position at the game's conclusion.
It was the sickening drama that made every LSU fan queasy and every Arkansas fan hopeful throughout the game that made this one extraordinary. With seemingly an opportunity to play for the national title riding on the line (LSU still played for the championship despite the loss), LSU and Arkansas battled for four quarters and three overtimes, exchanging leads.
A 54-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Jacob Hester and a tying two-yard touchdown run by Flynn with one minute to play in the game were both negated by a penalty and an Arkansas timeout, respectively. Yeah, the tension was at a maximum.
Crazy conversions happened as well. A tipped pass through the hands of Early Doucet found its home in the hands of Richard Dickson in the fourth quarter to set up the Tigers' tying score , and later in overtime, Dick converted a 4th-and-10 to keep his team alive.
The game ultimately came down to a two-point conversion, where Flynn misfired in the back of the end zone and Arkansas sealed the victory with an interception, beating No. 1 LSU 50-48.