BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU lost and did not find a new quarterback.
True freshman Garrett Nussmeier replaced sophomore starting quarterback Max Johnson in the first quarter and threw an interception to cornerback Montaric Brown in overtime to set up the winning field goal by Cam Little from 37 yards for a 16-13 Arkansas victory at Tiger Stadium Saturday night.
Nussmeier completed 18 of 31 passes for 179 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in all. His first interception to safety Myles Slusher led to a field goal by Little and a 13-10 Arkansas lead in the third quarter.
Johnson started but played only two series, completing 3 of 7 passes for 21 yards.
“Garrett made some good plays, then he didn’t make some good plays,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said.
After a 13-13 tie in regulation, Arkansas won the toss before overtime and deferred. LSU got the ball at the Arkansas 25-yard line. Following a sack for a 10-yard loss, Nussmeier completed a 24-yard pass to wide receiver Malik Nabers for a first down at the Arkansas 11 yard line.
One play later, cornerback Brown intercepted Nussmeier’s pass in the end zone.
After three short rushes by Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson from LSU’s 25, Little came on to kick the game winner.
“It was a great play call,” Nussmeier said. “That is on me. I have to make the play and be smarter in overtime. I can’t turn the ball over. We kick a field goal, and we keep playing. That is on me, and I’ll take it any day of the week.”
The Razorbacks (7-3, 3-3 SEC) won their third straight game under second-year coach Sam Pittman, who was 3-7 a year ago.
“Hard fought game,” Pittman said. “It was ugly and beautiful and all in between. It wasn’t pretty, but when that ball went through the uprights, it was one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen.”
LSU (4-6, 2-5 SEC) lost its third in a row under lame duck Orgeron, who was fired last month effective at the end of the season. The Tigers outgained Arkansas, 308 yards to 281, and took a 10-3 lead early in the second quarter on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Nussmeier to wide receiver Jack Bech.
“Credit LSU for playing so hard with Coach O not being their head coach and how hard they played,” Pittman said. “You have to give credit to their kids and their coaching staff to continue to coach and do their job.”
Orgeron announced last week that Nussmeier and Johnson would be in a quarterback competition during the week, with both playing against the Hogs.
“It was awesome,” Nussmeier said. “I’ve dreamt of that moment my whole life. It did not go the way I wanted it to, but all it is going to do is make me hungrier.”
Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to running back Dominique Johnson to tie the game 10-10 with 6:01 to play in the third quarter. Jefferson finished 18-of-25 passing for 142 yardsand rushed 15 times for 41 yards.
The Hogs took a 13-10 lead with 37 seconds left in the third quarter on a 27-yard field goal by Little. LSU’s Cade York tied the game at 13 with 10:53 still to play on a 45-yard field goal.
Orgeron said he considered putting Johnson back into the game as Nussmeier was inconsistent.
“We felt like we wanted to give Garrett a shot, and he made some big plays,” he said. “I don’t think we can put it all on the quarterback.”
LSU tailback Tyrion Davis-Price led all rushers with 106 yards on 28 carries.
“We have to call better plays,” Orgeron said, again criticizing his rookie offensive coordinator Jake Peetz. “We have to do better things, and that’s obvious. It was obvious last week (in a 20-14 loss at Alabama) when we were 1 of 3 in the red zone. We have to be smarter with the football in there.”
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