76TH COTTON BOWL: Triumphant return
Senior provides kick-start to No. 11
Posted: January 7, 2012 at 5:48 a.m.
ARLINGTON, Texas Arkansas showed only a glimpse of its flashy regular-season exploits, but it was good enough for the No. 6 Razorbacks to earn a Cotton Bowl victory Friday.
Joe Adams got his fourth punt return score of the season, Jarius Wright caught a 45-yard pass on go route for his school-record 12th touchdown catch of the year, and the Razorbacks fought off No. 8 Kansas State 29-16 before a crowd of 80,956 at Cowboys Stadium.
The Arkansas defense performed well in its first game with coordinator Paul Haynes, holding running quarterback Collin Klein and the Kansas State ground game to 86 yards.Arkansas outgained the Wildcats 345-260 in total offense.
The Razorbacks sacked Klein seven times, including two each by Jake Bequette and Chris Smith, and did not allowKansas State to get into its yard-churning mode.
“We had a good plan, and I thought we played very, very fast and our defensive front controlled the line of scrimmage,” Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino said.
Arkansas - Cotton Bowl Postgame
Jerico Nelson’s interception and 61-yard return in the closing seconds sealed the victory and gave Arkansas a 2-1 edge in the turnover battle.
Arkansas (11-2) achieved its third 11-victory season in school history, improved to 4-0 at Cowboys Stadium and totaled 21 victories in backto-back seasons for the first time since 1964-1965. The Razorbacks improved to 4-7-1 in their 12th Cotton Bowl appearance and improved their all-time bowl record to 13-23-3.
The Wildcats (10-3), who lost multiple players to injury during the game, could not keep up with the Arkansas offense and fell to 6-9 all-time in bowl games.
“We got off to an awfully bad start and couldn’t overcome the damage that we did,” Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder said.
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson completed 20 of 31 passes for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns and was voted the outstanding offensive player. The outstanding defensive player was Bequette, whose forced fumble against Klein at the Kansas State 13set up the game’s first points on the first of three Zach Hocker field goals.
Arkansas had not managed a first down when Adams added some pizzazz in the kicking game. The senior out of Little Rock capped a standout season with a 51-yard touchdown on a punt return.
Wright added a key 34-yard catch on third-and-2 early in the fourth quarter to his second-quarter touchdown, and Cobi Hamilton had a 9-yard touchdown grab to give Arkansas a 26-16 lead.
Paul Haynes - Cotton Bowl Postgame
The Razorbacks’ ground game showed some muscle late in the game after Kansas State’s Anthony Cantele missed a 43-yard field goal attempt with the Hogs ahead by 10. Broderick Green hurdled a defender on an off-tackle run and broke it 36 yards to the Kansas State 30, then churned for 18 yards on thenext snap.
Hocker’s 30-yard field goal made it 29-16 with 3:30 remaining.
The Wildcats moved past midfield and converted a fourth-and-7 to reach the Arkansas 47. But Smith sacked Klein on back-to-back snaps, and on fourth-and-16, Nelson snagged a desperation pass by Klein, who finished 16 of 30 for 173 yards and 1 touchdown.
After Arkansas pulled ahead 19-0 on Wright’s 45-yard touchdown catch with 4:10 left in the first half, Kansas State finally created some momentum.
Raphael Guidry broke through the middle and blocked Hocker’s extra-point attempt for his fifth blocked kick of the season, and Nigel Malone brought it back 98 yards for a two-point defensive conversion.
On third down of Arkansas’ next possession, defensive end Adam Davis jarred the ball loose from Wilson on a scramble and the Wildcats’ Ryan Mueller recovered at the 13.
Kansas State used misdirection to score, with Klein finding wide-open tight end Andre McDonald for a 3-yard touchdown pass that trimmed Arkansas’ first-half advantage to 19-9.
Kansas State drove easily for Klein’s 6-yard touchdown run to pull within 19-16 with 11:38 left in the third quarter. But the Razorbacks got rolling midway through the period, and Wilson’s 9-yard scoring throw to Hamilton - after he threw long to the junior from Texarkana on second down - pushed Arkansas’ lead back to 10 points.
Neither team could find its offensive rhythm early. The Razorbacks did not record a first down on their first four possessions but took a 10-0 lead anyway.
Bequette’s sack and forced fumble on Klein was recovered by end Tenarius Wright at the Wildcats’ 13. Hocker kicked a 26-yard field goal four plays later for a 3-0 Arkansas lead.
Early in the second quarter, Klein had what looked like open space to run for a first down from his 4, but he overthrew a receiver on the sideline. Forced to punt from his end zone, Ryan Doerr got off a 47-yarder that Adams fielded over his shoulder just across midfield. Adams wheeled quickly, picked up blocks from Ross Rasner, Nelson, Javontee Herndon and others and raced for the score.