FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas sent its seniors out – at least out when it comes to Fayetteville – in a wave of glory and points on Saturday night .
Ryan Mallett passed for 215 yards and five touchdowns – and also ran for one – while Knile Davis rushed 11 times for 184 yards and two scores as the No. 14 Razorbacks crushed UTEP 58-21 before 67,330 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Arkansas (8-2) fell behind 14-7, but then reeled off 45 consecutive points to blow out its overmatched Conference USA foe in a game that was the last for 21 seniors on campus and maybe one or more juniors.
"It was a good win for us," Razorback head coach Bobby Petrino said. "It was a good way for the seniors to go out. I thought they did a real nice job all week long in preparation, and they came out hard tonight and executed and played hard and got a dominating win. It was good the the young players allowed the seniors to go out the the way they needed to go out."
"This might have been the first time all year that we rushed for more yards than we passed for," Petrino said. "Our offensive line has been getting better and better as the year goes on. I thought we did a real nice job with our running backs. When they took the lead and we came back with that long play on the reverse, it did a lot of us. It really energized us and was a terrific run by Knile and very well blocked."
UTEP head coach Mike Price, a former Petrino mentor, left impressed with what he saw from Arkansas.
"Knile Davis is a great player," noted Price, the one-time Alabama head coach. "Ryan is a great quarterback and they really have some great athletes. We had a tough time stopping them. I love Mallett. I think he is a great player. I think he is one of the top quarterbacks in the country."
Davis picked up 70 of those when he took a fake reverse yards to the house and combined with Zach Hocker's PAT tie the game 14-14.
He has now rushed for 550 yards and 10 touchdowns in the past four games and is up to 844 yards for the season.
"Knile is doing a nice job," understated Petrino. "He is hitting his tracks very hard, making the first guy miss, getting yards after contact and now he is at the point that whenever he touches the ball you think he might go the distance. He has improved a lot as the year has gone on."
Davis noted that his success is a group effort.
"The offensive line and I really have our timing down," Davis said. "I know what to look for and how they block. We are becoming comfortable with each other and that is what is improving our running game. It has everything to do with practice. We always come to practice with a great attitude and try and learn from the film and the coaches."
Davis slowed down on his big play to give him the opportunity to speed up.
"The long run was play action," Davis said. "I slowed down to make them think it was a reverse (to Cobi Hamilton) and from there it just opened up. The first run (39 yards on the first drive) wasn't blocked liked it was suppose to be, but I found a crease and got out there for a nice run."
Senior tight end D.J. Williams (5 catches, 68 yards) caught two TD passes before injuring what appeared to be his left shoulder in the third quarter and leaving the game.
"He got a little bit banged up," Petrino said. "That happens sometimes in the game of football. D.J. is a guy that we really have a lot of confidence in. When (the injured) Greg Childs is no longer with us, it is good to get him going and call more plays for him. He always answers the bell, is able to improve blocking weekly and he is a big part of our football team."
It was the last time he and Mallett will hook up at Razorback Stadium and could have been the junior quarterback's last game in Fayetteville as well since he is expected to declare for the draft.
"D.J. made some great plays," Mallett said. "Tpward the end of the game they started trying to hold him up at the line and we couldn't get him the ball as much but that opened up the game for others. He's the type of big-play guy you can always go to, especially on third down. When you have guys like that you can throw it anywhere and he'll go get it."
The Razorbacks (4-2 in SEC action) get back to league play next Saturday at 6 p.m. when they travel to take on Mississippi State (7-3, 4-3), who had its six-game win streak snapped with a loss at Alabama on Saturday night.
"We are really looking forward to that game," Petrino said.
Mallett, who was 19-of-26 passing on the night has now tied or broken 35 school or stadium records.
He appeared to throw an interception early that was returned for a touchdown, but that was wiped out because of a flag for interfernce.
"Ryan was very efficient," Petrino said. "He did a nice job again of being very focused, understanding what the coverages were. He probably had maybe two errant throws, but he was very good when we got in the red zone with his accuracy. He made some very accurate throws that resulted in touchdowns."
His newest one came Saturday night as his six scores tied Madre Hill's 1995 mark for TD responsibility.
"I saw Madre Hill play a lot," Mallett said. "He is good company to share a record with. The running game was explosive. The offensive line was really driving people off the ball. Knile Davis had what 10 plays for 180 yards?If you've got players like that, it's easy."
Leilyon Myers gave the Miners the lead on the first series of the game when he raced 51 yards for a score.
Arkansas answered right back when Mallett ran one in from 14 yards out and Hocker's PAT tied it 7-7 with 9:54 remaining in the opening quarter.
Marlon McClure took the ensuing kickoff and managed to elude all 11 Arkansas defenders for a side-to-side 100-yard return.
When Dakota Warren added the PAT, UTEP found itself 14-7 with 9:33 showing.
Not to be outdone, Davis raced 70 yards on the next play from scrimmage and Hocker's PAT deadlocked the game 14-14 just 19 seconds later.
The Arkansas defense shut UTEP down for the rest of the game.
He then tossed a pair of second quarter scoring strikes to Williams of 32 yards and Jarius Wright of 15 to send the Razorbacks to halftime with a 35-14 lead.
It ended with that score because after Arkansas freshmen defensive end Chris Smith dropped an interception he might have returned for score with 6 seconds left, the Miners botched another field goal attempt with a bad snap.
Arkansas got right back to it out of break with Mallett and Williams hooking up another scoring connection – this one a 6-yard that combined with Hocker's PAT to make it 42-14.
He then tied the touchdown responsibility and his own single game mark with a 5-yard scoring toss to Chris Gragg.
Hocker added the PAT and a 37-yard field goal with 10:46 left in game to push the Razorbacks ahead 52-14.
Back-up quarterback James Thomas' 60-yard pass to Adams ended the string of 45 unanswered points and cut it 52-21.
Broderick's Green 1-yard run capped the scoring because senior Alex Tejada's PAT was blocked.
Darius Winston got his first career interception with 23 seconds left.
Ryan Mallett scores on a 14-yard run.
Joe Adams pulls away from a UTEP defender.
Knile Davis heads for the end zone on a 70-yard touchdown run.
Anthony Leon breaks up a pass.
Bobby Petrino, with Garrick McGee in the background, shouts instructions.
Cobi Hamilton scores a touchdown.
Photos by Marc F. Henning