2:30 PM ET, November 28, 2003
Tiger Stadium (LA), Baton Rouge, LA
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- LSU is feeling confident, maybe even a little cocky.
The No. 3 Tigers beat Arkansas 55-24 to earn a trip to the Southeastern Conference title game. After that they might have a chance at Oklahoma.
"We've got one more game to make a dream come true," said LSU wide receiver Michael Clayton. "I feel like we've got what it takes to win an SEC championship, because I've won one before and it was one of the best moments of my life."
LSU will play either Georgia, Tennessee or Florida for the conference championship next Saturday in Atlanta. Not knowing which team the Tigers will face annoyed LSU coach Nick Saban. It's unfair for the other teams to know who to prepare for while LSU has to guess, he said.
"Sunday is our coaches work day," Saban said. "They need to make a decision if they all win. We need to find out who we're going to play."
With a win, the Tigers could have a chance to play for their first national championship since 1958.
The Tigers (11-1, 7-1) trail USC of the Pac-10 Conference by less than three points for second place in the Bowl Championship Series standings.
A victory in the SEC Championship plus a USC loss to Oregon State makes up just one of several scenarios that could send LSU to a national championship matchup in the New Orleans Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma.
"I'm pleased with where we are," Saban said. "It's like climbing a mountain. The closer you get to the top, the more treacherous it gets."
Matt Mauck kept LSU on track with four touchdown passes against Arkansas. Mauck, who left after the third quarter, completed 12 of 19 passes for 186 yards to give the Tigers their second 11-win season ever.
LSU took advantage of sloppy play from Arkansas (8-4, 4-4), which fumbled six times and lost three. Matt Jones struggled, going 4-for-12 for 100 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
"There were so many bad plays on our part that I could not really tell you a turning point," Arkansas free safety Tony Bua said.
Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones completed 4 of 12 for 100 yards. He threw for two touchdowns and two interceptions.
DeCori Birmingham scored on a 53-yard swing pass from Jones to put Arkansas up 7-0 after its first possession.
LSU got on the board with a 38-yard field goal by Chris Jackson. The Tigers took advantage of two Arkansas fumbles and an interception to score 21 points, including a 25-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Eric Alexander that gave LSU a 10-7 lead.
The Razorbacks tied it with a 40-yard field goal with 2:01 left in the first quarter.
Mauck hit Clayton with a 10-yard touchdown pass that made it 17-10. It was Clayton's 20th career touchdown reception.
Arkansas running back Cedric Cobbs had early success against the nation's top-rated run defense. He tied the game at 17, running past and through the LSU defensive line for runs of 61 and 20 yards, the latter for a touchdown.
Cobbs' rushing touchdown was only the third against LSU this season. He also became the second 100-yard runner against LSU in 2003. Cobbs finished with 169 yards.
LSU scored 17 points in the final 6:35 of the half. The Tigers went back up 24-17 on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Mauck to Skyler Green.
They stretched their lead on Jackson's 47-yard field goal that made it 27-17. Corey Webster's interception gave LSU another shot and Mauck hit Devery Henderson with a 20-yard scoring pass to make it 34-17 at the break.
"The second quarter was the key, there at the end," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "Things were going good in the first quarter. We jumped on them early. It was a good start, but boy, I'll tell you that second quarter really, really hurt."
LSU scored on all three possessions of the third quarter -- a 37-yard touchdown pass from Mauck to David Jones and touchdown runs of 23 and 2 yards by Justin Vincent to make it 55-17 with 41 seconds left in the quarter. Vincent finished with 112 yards.
Arkansas got a final touchdown on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Birmingham.