Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
ARKANSAS 19, TULSA 15:
Hogs defense strong late in win
4th-quarter stops quell Hurricane
Running back Dennis Johnson (33) scores Arkansas’ first touchdown, an 8-yard run in the first quarter, as tight end Alex Voelzke (46) and wide receiver Javontee Herndon (19) celebrate. Johnson, who rushed for 109 yards on 22 carries, also scored Arkansas’ final touchdown from a yard out to seal the 19-15 victory over Tulsa. Johnson, a fifth-year senior from Texarkana, has consecutive 100-yard games for the first time as a Razorback.
FAYETTEVILLE On a bright homecoming afternoon that featured a revival of the Arkansas defense, it was fitting defensive end Chris Smith finished off Tulsa with a sack and a forced fumble.
Smith beat an offensive tackle one-on-one, crashed into quarterback Cody Green and Arkansas tackle Byran Jones recovered the loose ball to seal the Razorbacks’ 19-15 victory over Tulsa before a crowd of 64,451 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday.
“We always talk about finishing ever since I’ve been here ... and we finished up today,” said Smith, who also broke up two passes and led Arkansas with eight tackles.
The Razorbacks (4-5) came from behind to win for the first time this season and extended their winning streak against Tulsa to 18 games dating to 1976. Arkansas must win two of its last three games to be bowl eligible.
“There were some games this year where we found a way to lose,” Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said. “Today we found a way to win.”
Cobi Hamilton had 11 catches for 177 yards and broke Ar- kansas’ one-year-old singleseason record for receptions held by Jarius Wright, and Dennis Johnson rushed for 109 yards and scored two touchdowns for the Razorbacks, who finished 2-2 in nonconference games.
The much-maligned Arkansas defense had to protect a four-point lead three times in the fourth quarter after Johnson’s second score, a 1-yard run, put the Hogs ahead 19-15 with 10:08 remaining. Each time the Razorbacks responded, with Tulsa (7-2) unable to muster even a first down on its last three possessions while gaining just 23 yards on 14 plays in the fourth quarter.
“It feels awesome, finally to be able to do that, especially with a turnover,” Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said.
Arkansas held the Golden Hurricane, the nation’s No. 9 rushing team to 106 yards on the ground, to 142 yards less than their season average, and 22 in the second half.
“It was a big task for us, a big goal for us, to hold them below [their average] and we did that,” said Arkansas linebacker Terrell Williams, a Tulsa native. “So I’m very pleased with that.”
Tulsa sent wave after wave of blitzes at Wilson.
“We thought it was the way to win the game,” Tulsa Coach Bill Blankenship said. “We felt like we were outplaying them, but we didn’t outscore them. Credit Arkansas for making the plays they had to make.”
Arkansas, which had not won a game decided by a touchdown or less since last Oct. 29, pulled through at crunch time unlike last week’s 30-27 loss to Ole Miss in Little Rock.
“About the four-minute mark you get that feeling, we don’t want a flashback to last week,” said Hamilton, who has 69 receptions this season to set a single-season school record. “We’ve got to find a way to pull this one out, which we did. There’s 80,000 people out there that are nervous, me included.”
Arkansas took a 10-0 firstquarter lead, scoring a touchdown — on Johnson’s 8-yard run — on its opening drive for the second time all season. But the Razorbacks again went into a mid-game lull, gaining 109 yards in the second and third quarters as Tulsa took a 15-13 lead into the final period.
The Golden Hurricane capitalized on a roughing-thekicker penalty against Tevin Mitchel, taking their field goal off the board and making it 10-6 on Alex Singleton’s 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal early in the second quarter. Tulsa’s Daniel Schwarz missed the extra point, setting the tone for a bad kicking day for both sides, which included a missed 26-yard field goal by Arkansas’ Zach Hocker late in the game and D.D. Jones’ blocked extra point for the Hogs.
Trey Watts pulled Tulsa within 13-12 with 2:49 left in the second quarter on his 29-yard scoring run over the left side, but that’s where the score stayed as Jones snuffed Schwarz’s extra point try.
Tulsa extended its lead to 15-13 on Schwarz’s 29-yard field goal in the third, but Coach Bill Blankenship passed up a field-goal try on fourth-andgoal from the Arkansas 5 moments later. Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers leaped up to knock down a pass from Green to 6-4 wideout Keyarris Garrett to end the series.
Arkansas’ game-winning drive opened with Tyler Wilson’s 20-yard pass to Demetrius Wilson, and the next play Wilson took a pounding while completing a 41-yard throw deep down the right sideline to Hamilton, who cut underneath cornerback Lowell Rose to make a sliding catch.
“We threatened them with something deep and we hadn’t done that all game,” said Wilson, who finished 21 of 31 for 272 yards with no touchdowns and 1 interception. “All we talked about all week is teams have really exposed them throwing balls downfield against their secondary and we hadn’t done that all game.”
Hamilton grabbed an inside screen on the next play, racing 14 yards to the Tulsa 1 on the next snap. Johnson, who posted his second consecutive 100-yard game, bulled in on the next play, though it took a ruling from the replay official to grant the touchdown.
Arkansas went for a twopoint conversion, and even got to try from inside the Tulsa 2 after a pass interference penalty on John Flanders, but Wilson’s knee hit the ground when he tripped while executing a bootleg turn.
The fourth quarter offered Arkansas an opportunity to put the game away with its offense, but the Razorbacks came away with no points after twice pushing inside the Tulsa 20.
The Hurricane stopped Johnson at the 3 on third and 6, and Hocker misfired on a 26-yard field-goal try. Tulsa went four-and-out from its 25 with three consecutive incomplete throws, and Arkansas reached the Golden Hurricane 16. But Coach John L. Smith passed up a field-goal try on fourth and short, and Tulsa stopped Johnson in the clutch.
The Golden Hurricane, held to 23 yards on 14 fourthquarter plays, got only two more snaps, however, as Smith bolted through to wrap up Arkansas’ victory, giving players a chance to celebrate with fans, something they had not done since the season-opener against Jacksonville State.
“The last one here was against Kentucky, which was a rain delay, so we didn’t get to run around the field afterwards and give everybody high-fives, so the last time we did it was against Jacksonville State,” Wilson said. “It’s always good to walk around and give everybody high-fives and feel like you’re on top of things when you leave the building.”
Sports, Pages 25 on 11/04/2012