How Arkansas football seized its chance to bring Golden Boot back to Fayetteville
BATON ROUGE, La. — Sam Pittman doesn't make a habit of shouting out individual players in his postgame locker room speeches. But after a 16-13 overtime win against LSU that brought the Golden Boot back to Fayetteville for the first time since 2015, he had to credit a couple of players: Cam Little, who hit the winning field goal, and Montaric Brown.
"Busta" Brown, as the redshirt senior cornerback is called, was the game-changer. In overtime, Arkansas won the toss and played defense to start. Brown picked off LSU's freshman quarterback, Garrett Nussmeier, in the end zone on second-and-7.
"He’s an unbelievable corner, and they went at him," linebacker Bumper Pool said of Brown. "He made a play like we all knew he was going to make. Just an unbelievable moment for the defense to kind of end the game."
Arkansas (7-3, 3-3 SEC) just needed a field goal to win. They got it on a 37-yarder by Little.
It was a fitting end to a game that was led by Arkansas' defense, which held LSU (4-6, 2-5) to its fewest points all year and forced three turnovers, including Brown's pick. Brown said it was a top-five moment of his career.
Myles Slusher, who has been playing for the injured Jalen Catalon in the past four games, also intercepted a pass. It came just after Arkansas' lone touchdown, but Arkansas' offense failed to turn the opportunity into points.
The third turnover was a fumble recovered by Greg Brooks in the second quarter, but again, the Razorback offense couldn't capitalize on the opportunity its defense provided.
The Arkansas defense forced LSU to punt on six of 14 drives, including three three-and-outs, keeping the Hogs in the game despite their struggling offense. Arkansas was able to get Nussmeier out of rhythm in the second half.
"We were switching back and forth our fronts," Pool said of the defense's strategy against Nussmeier. "We just kept trying to switch up the looks, add pressure and disrupt him as much as we could, and I thought we did a good job of that."
Pittman said he knew LSU's plan would be to run the ball, and the Arkansas defense was prepared. It held the Tigers to just 108 yards rushing. LSU's only touchdown came through the air.
"This was probably ... the most we’ve blitzed all year," Pittman said. "But it’s also the most multiple that we’ve been as well. I thought we mixed it up well, and I thought the kids executed the plan. We tackled pretty darn good tonight."
The Boot was won by the defense, and, of course, Little's leg.
"Shoutout to (Brown) for the opportunity with the pick," Little said. "He gave me the opportunity to go out and make that kick, so I’m really appreciative of my teammates’ confidence in me. It feels great to finally bring the Boot back."
Christina Long covers the Arkansas Razorbacks. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @christinalong00.