Heading into last Saturday's showdown with top-ranked and defending national champion Alabama, University of Arkansas junior wide receiver Jarius Wright had just three catches combined in three games.
The 5-10, 180-pound speedster had more than doubled that against the Crimson Tide by intermission in a sparkling, 6-catch, 131-yard performance in what turned into a frustrating 24-20 loss.
"I just felt like Alabama played a lot of man and I felt like my speed would play a big part in beating man coverage and come to find out it really did," Wright said.
While the former Warren standout is known as a team player, he did allow the fact it was getting frustrating not being able to help the team as much as he wanted or had in the past.
After all, he had caught 7 touchdown passes of over 40 yards and hauled in 60 passes his first two seasons in 25 games - including 41 for 681 yards and 5 touchdowns last season.
"It felt real good and it gives me confidence coming into the next game," Wright said. "Not that I already didn't have confidence, but I didn't get the ball as much as I would have expected the first three games. As a receiver not getting the ball as much as you expect – well, not getting the ball at all when you are a starter…it's just kind of discouraging.
"But everybody told me to keep my head up and keep working hard and I listed to what everybody said and came through for my team," added Wright, who had 4 catches for 90 yards and a touchdown while being named the Liberty Bowl's outstanding offensive player last January.
Razorback head coach Bobby Petrino praised Wright for keeping his cool about the situation.
"You could tell it bothered him," Petrino said. "That's ok. He didn't let anybody else really know. He never got down on his attitude. That's what I was so happy with."
It probably didn't help him any that his fellow former Warren standouts Greg Childs and Chris Gragg had already had long touchdown catches and fellow junior Joe Adams has twice had over 130 yards this season.
UA offensive coordinator said that the Razorback staff knew what was coming for Wright, who turned a short pass into a 43-yard pick up on the Razorbacks' first offensive play of the game.
"We knew that based on coverages (Alabama) was playing, there was going to be a chance for Jarius to get deep down the field," McGee said.
Arkansas' players have this weekend off before coming back to prepare for next Saturday's Southwest Classic showdown with Texas A&M in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Wright was proud of how his team responded in practice this week after the disheartening loss to Alabama.
"We came out and practiced hard like we were playing this weekend," Wright said. "I am proud of the guys and I am sure coach is proud of the guys in the way we just prepared for next week."
There was plenty of work this week dedicated to finishing the game and not inflicting damage on itself.
"…You have got to finish better and not have the penalties," Wright said. "Even when it was 24-20 we were moving the ball down the field and we had penalties that negated the drive and really hurt us. We have just got to work on not having penalties in key situation."
Wright is excited about returning to Cowboys Stadium, where the Razorbacks routed the Aggies 47-19 last season.
Both teams will come in 3-1 after Texas A&M coughed up a 21-7 halftime lead and ended up losing 38-35 at No. 24 Oklahoma State on Thursday night.
"It is a great atmosphere for us," Wright said. "There's always going to be a lot of Razorback fans that come to the game. We have a couple of players from Texas so they get to go home and a bunch of their family gets to come to the game.
"Everybody loves playing in the Dallas stadium," Wright said. "Who wouldn't want to play in Dallas stadium? Anybody in high school and college level who don't get to play in it, would love to be in our shoes and playing in it."
The Wright Path
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