BATON ROUGE, La. - LSU let its second chance slip away.
Twice the Tigers were No. 1 and in control of their national championship hopes.
Twice the team with a flair for the dramatic couldn't pull out a triple-overtime victory against a Heisman Trophy contender.
Darren McFadden rushed for 206 yards and three touchdowns, and even threw for another score to lift Arkansas to a 50-48 victory yesterday, likely eliminating another team from the national title chase.
"Certainly, he had a Heisman performance today," LSU coach Les Miles lamented. "Right now, there's a goal of our football team taken off the board and it's sad . . . Tonight, we'll be sick."
LSU may very well play a bowl game in New Orleans, but the one they were hoping to play - the BCS championship game Jan. 7 - now looks out of reach.
That had to devastate most of the 92,606 fans who filled Tiger Stadium with earsplitting roars throughout this classic, then quietly filed out while the Razorbacks stormed the field in triumph after snapping the nation's longest home-winning streak at 19 games.
The Tigers (10-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) had already clinched the SEC West Division and will move on to the conference title game in Atlanta Dec. 1, but will do so feeling a little hollow.
Winning the SEC title will put LSU in the Sugar Bowl. No team with two losses has ever played in the national title game. A few more upsets could put LSU back in the debate, but it could've been so easy for the Tigers. All they had to do was win two.
"It's a sick feeling, losing another tough game that we played our hearts out," tight end Richard Dickson said. "We can think about it for a while but we have to come out next week and win an SEC title."
McFadden's rushing touchdowns went for 16 yards in the second quarter, 73 yards in the third period, and 9 yards in the second OT. His TD pass was a flawlessly executed 24-yarder over the middle to Peyton Hillis after McFadden froze the defense with a play-action fake.
Heisman voters will have to think twice about leaving McFadden off of the top of their ballot.
"However you want to put it, numbers speak for themselves," said McFadden, who has 1,725 yards rushing this season, breaking the school record he set last year.
Hillis scored four TDs, the last in the third overtime. Felix Jones ran for the critical 2-point conversion to make it 50-42 for the Razorbacks (8-4, 4-4).
LSU responded when Matt Flynn found Brandon LaFell for a 9-yard TD, but Matterral Richardson intercepted the 2-point conversion attempt.
"Hey, we were the best team in the country today," boasted Houston Nutt, who is rumored to be on his way out as the Razorbacks' coach. "To come down here in Baton Rouge and win is huge."
Hillis ran for 89 yards and Jones had 85 as Arkansas finished with 385 yards on the ground against one of the best run defenses in the country.
Now that the Tigers have fallen as No. 1 a second time, the winner of tonight's game between No. 2 Kansas and No. 3 Missouri will likely take over the top spot in the rankings and the BCS standings. No. 4 West Virginia, which was third in the BCS standings, has a chance to sneak up to at least No. 2 in each with a win over Connecticut.
LSU had made a habit of pulling off dramatic second-half comebacks in victories over Florida, Auburn, and at Alabama. Their only other loss also came in triple OT at Kentucky, with quarterback Andre Woodson putting on a Heisman-worthy performance.
This time, Arkansas and the embattled Nutt walked away holding the "Golden Boot," a trophy shaped like the states of Arkansas and Louisiana.
"This league's the toughest league in America and that's why it's hard for a lot of people to understand that every Saturday, anybody can beat anybody in this league," Nutt said.