No. 15 LSU defeats Arkansas 31-27

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU cornerback Jalen Mills (28) intercepts Arkansas tight end Jeremy Sprinkle (83) in the end zone during the first half in LSU's Tiger Stadium. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU cornerback Jalen Mills (28) intercepts Arkansas tight end Jeremy Sprinkle (83) in the end zone during the first half in LSU's Tiger Stadium.

Receiver Jarvis Landry begged and pleaded his coaches to run “Tsunami.”

Finally, they agreed.

“Tsunami” washed away what would have been a stunning loss. It crashed the upset hopes of a floundering opponent and brought another electric, unforgettable play to a football cathedral that’s seen it all.

Backup quarterback Anthony Jennings fired a 49-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Travin Dural in the final seconds – using a play dubbed “Tsunami” – and No. 15 LSU mounted an improbable comeback to beat Arkansas 31-27 on Friday night in Tiger Stadium.

“It’s the spirit in that stadium,” an emotional LSU coach Les Miles said afterward.

Jennings, a true freshman playing for injured starter Zach Mettenberger, did what seemed impossible: He marched the Tigers 99 yards after taking over at his own 1 with LSU trailing by three points and 3 minutes left in the game.

From his own end zone, Jennings hit tight end Dillon Gordon for 16 yards and then Landry for 11. On the next play, he scrambled 21 yards to the Arkansas 49 to set up that winning score – “Tsunami.”

On the play, Landry ran a short out route and Dural ran a go route straight down the field and along the LSU sideline. Arkansas cornerback Jared Collins bit on a possible short throw to Landry, and Jennings lofted a perfect pass to a streaking Dural on third down and 10 with 1 minute, 15 seconds left.

Throughout the game, Landry saw the cornerback bite on his short routes. He kept telling receivers coach Adam Henry to dust off “Tsunami,” and that Dural would be open.

It’s “one of the things I noticed,” Landry said. “It’s one of those plays that hasn’t been in the playbook for two years.”

Said Dural: “Coach Miles called me to the sideline and was like, ‘We’re going to run a 9 (go route) your way. We need your speed.’”

The receiver blew past a faked-out cornerback and safety, catching what he called a “perfect” pass at the 10-yard line. With two defenders trailing him by at least 5 yards, he easily raced into the end zone to set off a wild celebration.

Like a real tsunami – the massive earthquake-induced tidal wave that washes ashore in Asia – LSU players flooded the field.

The crowd gave a deafening roar and Jennings flung up both arms as he raced to join in on the fun. Dural was mobbed in the end zone as a partially filled student section reigned down cheers.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life,” Dural said. “Had to make a play.”

On the ensuing series, LSU defensive back Dwayne Thomas sacked Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen, forcing a game-sealing fumble that LSU recovered.

Another wave of celebration ensued as the Tigers (9-3, 5-3) kneeled the ball to end a game it was expected to win in a blowout. Lowly Arkansas (3-9, 0-8) capped its worst season in decades. But the Razorbacks more than tested the sluggish and injury riddled Tigers.

Behind quarterback Brandon Allen’s season-best performance, Arkansas led 17-14 at halftime and 27-21 before Colby Delahoussaye’s field goal made it a three-point game with 4:56 left.

LSU’s defense forced a three-and-out and Landry let the Arkansas punt bounce around the 15-yard line and roll inside the 1.

It only set up “The Drive” and “Tsunami.”

“For me to say to you, I just expected that – ‘Yeah, Anthony’s coming in there, 99 yards, touchdown’ – not likely,” Miles said. “Tells you something about the guy.”

“Tsunami” started with a backup and ended with another.

Usually the third option at receiver, Dural’s game-winner was just his seventh catch of the season. Jennings had attempted only three passes this year before Friday.

Both were thrust into the heated situation by injuries. Odell Beckham Jr., LSU’s leading receiver, missed nearly the final three quarters with a hip injury, and Mettenberger suffered a left knee injury midway through the fourth quarter.

Mettenberger left the field using crutches moments before he sang the alma mater red-faced and teary eyed. He’ll have an MRI on Saturday, a team spokesman said.

The injury to the Tigers senior star didn’t completely quell the excitement of such a shocking ending and a win that keeps LSU’s hopes alive for a top-tier SEC bowl game.

“It’s crazy,” running back Terrence Magee said.

What – a true freshman quarterback driving a team 99 yards for the win?

What – a redshirt freshman receiver making a game-winning catch on a play that hadn’t been run in years?

“Tsunami” was a play in LSU’s offense from two years ago, Landry said. They last ran it in practice in the fall and hadn’t run it in a game this season.

It’s called “Tsunami” because LSU “floods” the left side of the field with three pass routes. Dural said players drew up the play “in the dirt” at Tiger Stadium to remember the patterns.

“Jarvis threw it in in the huddle. Jarvis said, ‘We should run this.’ He’d been saying it two drives,” Dural said. “He was like, ‘We should run tsunami. We should run tsunami.’”

In the end, they did.

Like a powerful, unstoppable wave, LSU wiped out the competition with a stunning, crashing result.

“If you would have told me that was the scenario,” Miles said, “I’d say, ‘No way.’”