Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Razorbacks took big swing vs. LSU for Nutt
Arkansas coach Houston Nutt (right) hugs running back Darren McFadden following a 50-48 upset of No. 1 LSU on Friday, Nov. 23, 2007, in Baton Rouge, La.
When Houston Nutt had baseball bats put in the lockers of his players before they played LSU in 2007, the message of bringing the wood smacked of brilliance and desperation.
Rumors had been running rampant that the University of Arkansas board of trustees felt it best for the program if Nutt moved on.
In 2006, the relationship between Nutt and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn — a marriage forced upon Nutt — had been one of the most tumultuous in Razorbacks’ history.
It was a successful season on the field. The Razorbacks won 10 games and the SEC West before losing 17-14 to Bret Bielema and the Wisconsin Badgers in the Capital One Bowl.
Malzahn wasted no time getting a job at Tulsa.
The fan base was divided about who should have gone. Winning cures a lot, but sometimes not everything.
The Razorbacks rolled into Baton Rouge in 2007 unranked with a 3-4 SEC record, but the idea of bringing the wood inspired the team, especially Darren McFadden, who brought his bat onto the field before the game.
Nutt was coaching for his football life at Arkansas, and a national audience watched a classic game.
The Tigers were ranked No. 1 in the nation, and their only loss had been to Kentucky in three overtimes.
LSU had the only scores of the first quarter, two field goals, but McFadden sent the Razorbacks into intermission on a 16-yard touchdown run.
He gave them a 14-6 lead on a 73-yard run in the third quarter, but two minutes later the Tigers scored and added a two-point conversion.
An unsung hero, and practically a secret weapon, than came into play.
After McFadden and Felix Jones got to campus, Peyton Hillis’ role diminished. But on this Friday afternoon, he was heard.
Hillis had a 65-yard touchdown run to put the Hogs up 21-14, and in the fourth quarter with the score tied Hillis, caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from McFadden for the lead. The Tigers tied it at 28-28 with 57 seconds left, and the teams headed to overtime.
LSU scored first on a 12-yard run by quarterback Matt Flynn, but Hillis caught a 10-yard pass from Casey Dick to send it into a second overtime.
The Razorbacks had the ball first, and McFadden scored on a 9-yard run, but the Tigers’ Jacob Hester tied it to send the game into the third OT.
Hillis scored his fourth touchdown, this one a 3-yard run, and Jones converted the two-point attempt, which was mandatory starting in the third overtime.
Flynn passed for 9 yards and a touchdown, but his two-point pass was incomplete. Death Valley suddenly was like a cemetery.
McFadden finished with 206 yards and three touchdowns rushing. He passed for 34 yard and a touchdown, and had 49 yards on three kickoff returns.
Hillis rushed for 89 yards and 2 touchdowns, and had 62 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. Jones added 85 yards rushing as the Razorbacks ran for 385 of their 513 yards, 100 more than LSU totaled.
The Cotton Bowl was waiting with an invitation.
But just three days after beating the No. 1 team in the country, Nutt resigned. He was given a $2 million “Golden Handcuff” handshake by then chancellor John White.
The next day, Nutt was introduced as the new football coach at Ole Miss.
He didn’t coach the Razorbacks in the Cotton Bowl, but he won the next two for the Rebels. Two years after those, Nutt was fired and paid more than $5 million by Ole Miss.
LSU bounced back from the loss to Arkansas, beat Tennessee for the SEC championship and defeated Ohio State in the Superdome for the BCS national title.
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