Cornelius' comeback game derailed

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, September 24, 2017
Arkansas wide receiver Jared Cornelius (1) catches a pass in the end zone for a touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Arkansas wide receiver Jared Cornelius (1) catches a pass in the end zone for a touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

— The Arkansas Razorbacks didn’t just lose to Texas A&M again Saturday at AT&T Stadium. They also might have lost senior wide receiver Jared Cornelius for an extended period.

Cornelius went to the locker room on crutches with his left foot in a medical boot after the Aggies beat the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville 50-43 in overtime.

“It probably doesn’t look good,” Coach Bret Bielema said. “We haven’t had the final tests yet, but he may have done something to his Achilles.

“Haven’t had any issues there, just one of those freak things.”

Cornelius, Arkansas’ most experienced receiver, was helped off the field without putting weight on his left leg with 14:36 left in the third quarter.

Arkansas was expected to lean heavily this season on Cornelius, a senior from Shreveport, with a nearly complete turnover at wide receiver. He appeared to be a solid player to build around.

He came into the season with 74 career catches for 1,020 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also had rushed 25 times for 188 yards and 3 touchdowns.

The next most experienced Arkansas receiver coming into the season had two catches.

But things haven’t gone smoothly for Cornelius since the end of last season.

He missed the Belk Bowl with a knee injury, missed much of spring practice with a hamstring injury and most of training camp due to a sore back, then dropped a short pass on Arkansas’ first offensive snap in a 28-7 loss to TCU two weeks ago and finished with 1 catch for 2 yards.

Cornelius was so disappointed in his performance he sent texts to his position coach, Michael Smith, Bielema and offensive coordinator Dan Enos.

“Immediately after that game, myself, Coach B and Coach Enos got a text from him saying that would never happen again,” Smith said last week.

Cornelius said he caught 200 passes a day from a ball machine during last week’s open date and lost 10 pounds over the course of two weeks.

“The receivers didn’t live up to what we’re supposed to do,” Cornelius said last week. “We let a lot of people down, let the team down, and that’s on me.”

Cornelius found a good groove Saturday in the first half with 3 receptions for 35 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown pass from Austin Allen.

The touchdown reception came at the end of a 65-yard drive that came about after Cornelius, fielding a punt at the Arkansas 20, endured a helmet-to-helmet shot from Travon Fuller.

Fuller first was called for interfering with Cornelius’ ability to field the punt, then was hit with the targeting penalty after a video review. Cornelius recovered from that hit, but he went down with a noncontact injury on the first play of the second half.

“He was a big part of our offense,” Allen said after the game. “I thought he was playing well, playing hard.

“We have other guys whose workloads are about to go up, so they better get ready.”

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