Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Wilson, Hogs hang in there
NWA MEDIA/SAMANTHA BAKER -- Tyler Wilson takes a snap in the fourth quarter of a 19-15 win over Tulsa on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
FAYETTEVILLE Tyler Wilson’s pass to Cobi Hamilton on Arkansas’ first play against Tulsa on Saturday was good 19 yards.
But the gain didn’t come without some pain.
A split-second after Wilson released the ball, Arkansas’ fifth-year senior quarterback absorbed a punishing shot from defensive end Cory Dorris.
“The first play we had max protection called, and they got through and hit me right in the mouth,” Wilson said. “So I knew it was going to be a tough game from the start.
“It was just a matter of gritting your teeth and getting through it and who wanted to win it more.”
The Razorbacks toughed out a 19-15 victory, but needed big plays from both sides of the ball in the fourth quarter to beat Tulsa for an 18th consecutive time and extend a streak that started in 1977.
Arkansas’ offense had a 76-yard drive - on which Wilson went 3 of 3 passing for 75 yards and Dennis Johnson scored on a 1-yard touchdown run - to take a 19-15 lead with 10:08 left.
Then the defense forced a punt and twice held Tulsa on downs - helped by an offensive possession that consumed 5:04 even though it ended in a missed field goal - and finally clinched the game with Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith’s sack that forced a Cody Green fumble that was recovered by Bryan Jones.
“You’ve got to be tough to win games,” Wilson said. “Bottom line. If you’re a soft football team, you’re not going to win very many games. Everybody had to step up their level of toughness.”
Arkansas Coach John L. Smith has praised the Razorbacks’ resiliency all season, but said it was “huge” for them to beat Tulsa.
“You go to the practice field and it will carry over and it will be a positive for us,” Smith said. “Our guys are positive.
“You want to believe in these guys. Honestly, they go work hard and they give us everything they can out there at practice. Sometimes we do a lot better out there than we do in the game.”
Green, Tulsa’s junior quarterback and a Nebraska transfer, had a different kind of pain after the game than Wilson felt from Dorris’ hit.
“We had it,” Green said. “It’s one of those that will set bad in your stomach for a while.
“We wanted this one. We wanted it bad.”
Tulsa (7-2, 5-0 Conference USA) had its seven-game winning streak broken, but the Golden Hurricane are bowl eligible and still have a shot to play for their conference championship.
Arkansas (4-5, 2-3 SEC) had its championship hopes crushed weeks ago, but the Razorbacks still have a shot to become bowl eligible.
It won’t be easy with Arkansas needing to win two of its remaining three games against three nationally-ranked teams: at South Carolina, at Mississippi State and LSU. But for the Razorbacks those odds are better than if they had lost to Tulsa and had to win out.
“Well, four wins is obviously better than three,” Wilson said. “It gives us a chance.
“We’ve got three tough opponents coming up. We’ve got two away and one at home to finish up. It gives us an opportunity to hit that six-win mark. Take it one game at a time. Next week is a big one against South Carolina.”
ARKANSAS AT SOUTH CAROLINA WHERE Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C.
WHEN 11 a.m. Central, Saturday TV CBS
Sports, Pages 20 on 11/05/2012