Two-Minute Drill: Arkansas Tramples Texas 31-7


Pick your poison here: an amazing, active defense that allowed Texas just 59 total yards for the game; an offense that solidly piled up 191 yards rushing and 160 passing with no turnovers; a punting game that three times pinned Texas inside the 10-yard line (and another time just outside the 10), once leading directly to a defensive touchdown; playing clean with just two penalties on the night for 15 yards. The fact is, Arkansas was well-prepared and played like a team determined, while Texas barely wanted to be there in the Advocare Texas Bowl and was somewhat pathetic. It all added up to a 31-7 Arkansas victory and a 7-6 record for Bret Bielema’s second season at the helm of the Razorbacks. It was far from vintage Texas that older Arkansas fans remember seeing, and the Razorbacks are still on the road to recovery after Bobby Petrino’s dismissal and John L. Smith’s interim year, but the Hogs  were much the better team from start to finish. Arkansas trampled Texas.

Even Brandon Allen, ever critical of his own play, would say later that his game left a lot of room for continued improvement, but the fourth-year junior steadily guided the Hogs’ offense to a balanced attack totally 351 yards. Allen connected on 12 of 23 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns. His first scoring throw was a rainbow to the middle of the end zone that senior receiver Demetrius Wilson tracked down and caught behind two Texas defenders for a 36-yard play that put the Hogs up two scores early in the second quarter. Allen was at his very best, however, on a three and a half-minute drive right before intermission, directing the Hogs 61 yards in nine plays with his feet (a 10-yard scramble on third down) and with his arm, completing the march with another third-down conversion, a 5-yard strike to an open Keon Hatcher in the back of the end zone. Texas’ safety jumped to help on Hunter Henry just inside the goal, and that let Hatcher get open near the end zone as Allen stepped up into the pocket for the throw. The touchdown answered Texas’ only score,  restored a 17-point lead with just 24 seconds left in the half, and pretty well convinced Texas that the cause was lost. With six rushes for 13 total yards and his 160 yards passing, Allen was named the game’s most valuable player.

Fans may recall Arkansas’ overwhelming effort against Texas in the 2000 Cotton Bowl, when a barrage of sacks led to a negative 27 yards rushing for the Longhorns in the Hogs’ 27-6 victory. The Razorbacks didn’t get as many sacks Monday night in Houston, but they constantly had sophomore Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes on the run from trouble while still throttling the Texas running game from its tandem backs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray. The result was TWO yards rushing on 18 carries, while Swoopes completed 13 of 25 passes for 57 yards and a late interception by Arkansas freshman Henri Toliver. Texas’ 59 yards of total offense reportedly was the worst output by any Football Bowl Subdivision team this season. Until a final possession by the Longhorns that pushed out from inside the 10-yard line, Texas was sitting at 25 yards total offense. The ‘Horns had begun the second half at 46 yards, showing the futility of the second-half effort.

Jonathan Williams, who announced last week his intentions to return to Arkansas for his fourth season instead of turning professional, noted after the game that Texas had failed to recruit him out of powerhouse Allen High School north of Dallas. He gave the Longhorns something to regret passing up by running for 105 yards on 23 carries, leading the Hogs running game. His backfield teammate Alex Collins, who was wanted by nearly everyone coming out of high school, added 76 yards on 17 carries. Williams averaged 4.6 yards per carry and Collins totaled 4.5 per rush.

The 71,115 fans filling NRG Stadium marked an all-time best for the Texas Bowl, and at least half of those appeared to be in red and white. And all the Hog fans were still hanging around, it appeared, as a podium was quickly assembled following the game’s conclusion to present trophies to Bret Bielema for the bowl win and Brandon Allen for the MVP award. Meanwhile, Texas fans were slowly streaming out by the midpoint of the third quarter. It was the best turnout for a bowl game period in Houston’s history (the long-gone Bluebonnet Bowl was once played in 75,000-seat Rice Stadium).

Texas still holds a substantial edge in the all-time series that dates to 1894, 56-22, but the Hogs have won 4 of the past 7 games with Texas, including both bowl matchups, since Arkansas announced its intentions to join the SEC in the summer of 1990.

One reporter seemed sure that Arkansas coach Bret Bielema had given a downward “Hook ’em” sign during a photo op with Texas head coach Charlie Strong earlier in the run-up to the bowl game, and he also detected that maybe there was some animosity between the two the way Strong met Bielema at midfield after the game. Strong, a native of Batesville, said he had no problems with the Arkansas coach and added bruskly, “What was I going to do after the game, stop and tell jokes?” Also, the majority of reporters have come to the conclusions that Bielema’s supposed hand-gesture where his two inside fingers flinch inside, leaving the index and pinky looking like an inverted Hook ’em, was just a tic or a flinch. Nonetheless, there was no outward Hook ’em display by the coach after the game the way then coach Houston Nutt did after the 2000 Cotton Bowl.

Sam Irwin-Hill deserves a little credit for the second Arkansas touchdown, pinning the Longhorns at the 4-yard line following a stalled drive near midfield. On the next play, Texas running back Johnathan Gray ran slightly away from quarterback Tyrone Swoopes and the intended handoff hit him in the right hip and dropped to the ground at the goal line. After a scramble, Hogs nose tackle Taiwan Johnson claimed the football for a touchdown. “Trey [Flowers] said he got it and that I took it away, but that one was mine,” said Johnson later, adding it was his first touchdown ever. The score gave Arkansas a 17-0 lead, and although Texas answered with a 44-yard scoring drive on the ensuing possession, the game was basically done then. Arkansas made sure of it with its own answer of Texas in the marvelously scripted and executed drive before halftime. Johnson’s scoring recovery was the Arkansas defense’s third touchdown of the season.

Arkansas barely did anything wrong, but the biggest quibbles would be about the kicking game outside of Sam Irwin-Hill’s deft punting exhibition and the punt coverage. Arkansas’ first-half kickoffs and the coverage were haphazard, even comical at times. After Adam McFain booted a 32-yard field goal to give the Hogs a 3-0 lead, he kicked off with a hook out of bounds to start Texas on its 35. Things only got worse for McFain and the return team, especially after the Taiwan Johnson fumble recovery for a 17-0 lead. Whatever McFain was attempting in terms of a “pooch” kickoff, the ball barely traveled 30 yards and wasn’t high enough, and Texas’ Jacorey Warrick nearly took it back to the house through the stunned coverage for McFain made a tackle at the UA 44, a 30-yard run. Texas used that field position, its best of the game, to drive 44 yards in 8 plays to Tyrone Swoopes’ 9-yard run around left end. Swoopes hit three straight passes, all catches just above the turf, on the scoring drive. In the third quarter, Arkansas botched terrific field position after Jared Cornelius’ 27-yard punt return to the Texas 35 when McFain missed a 32-yard field goal from the middle of the field. Arkansas did get the kickoff coverage and kicks corrected at the break, however. And the defense only got tougher, holding Texas to minus 17 yards in the third quarter, even while the Hogs’ offense struggled to finish off the Longhorns. In fact, Arkansas held Texas to negative yards on the first four possessions of the second half.

Arkansas has now won three of its past four bowl games – the only loss was later vacated by Ohio State due to NCAA sanctions … With 24 points in the first half, Arkansas scored the most points it has scored in the first half of a bowl game since the Razorbacks scored 28 points in the 1980 Hall of Fame Bowl against Tulane … The Razorbacks set a school bowl record by allowing just 59 total yards, breaking the mark of 168 yards allowed to Nebraska in the 1965 Cotton Bowl … Arkansas forced six 3-and-outs, the eighth time in the past nine games the Razorbacks have forced three or more 3-and-outs.

“It’s been a season that’s been up and down. You go out here tonight and you play against a good Arkansas team. You would have thought that we would have come out and just been better prepared. It falls on the head coach and the coaches, but at some point too, we’ve got to develop and we’ve got to get the pride back in this program. Texas has got to mean something. Right now, it doesn’t mean much.” — Texas coach Charlie Strong

“A lot of really good things happened tonight, but tonight didn’t just happen by chance. I think from the time the seniors knew they were going to be a bowl eligible football team, they knew they were going to try and close this thing out with a winning season. To have Texas be the opportunity we got is absolutely outstanding for us. To come in here and play the way we did and now recruit the state of Texas, a lot of really good things happening for us.” — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema

And the TOUGH Dan Skipper

Arkansas went enter the off-season program on an upswing from a season-ending win for the first time since 2011, and the Razorbacks will open the 2015 season on Sept. 5 against Texas-El Paso in Fayetteville.

Arkansas tramples Texas in 2014 Texas Bowl

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