Best of the 2010 Football Season

Clay Henry and Matt Jones provided the "bests" for this story, one of the favorite features we do for our print version each year. Here's the best of the 2010 football season.

Best Quote I
"I love New Orleans. I've never been there, but I know I love it." — Jake Bequette on team's potential trip to the Sugar Bowl

Best Quote II
"I lost a job answering that question once." — Willy Robinson on whether first down was the most important for a defense

Best Quote III
"I've never been a part of anything like this game. It felt like it took forever." — Jerico Nelson on Arkansas' 4 hour, 53 minute game against Ole Miss.

Best Quote IV
"Errors and incorrect calls from the game could have possibly been avoided with better vision." — Fayetteville-based McDonald's Eye Associates on controversial calls during the Auburn game.

Best Quote V
"See how old I am? They don't have 15-round title fights anymore." — Bobby Petrino after comparing Arkansas' game with Auburn with a 15-round prize fight.

Best Quote VI
"You know that show that's on TV, ‘Hoarders'? That's kind of how I am with football. I try to hoard anything I can." — Bobby Petrino

Best Quote VII
"You've got to tear off the rearview mirror and go forward." — Ryan Mallett following a 3-interception performance against Alabama.

Most Complete Victory
That had to be a 41-20 victory over soon-to-be SEC East champ South Carolina in Columbia. The Hogs dominated the second and third quarter by the tune of 34-3. The Hogs shut down USC freshman phenom Marcus Lattimore with just 30 yards in 11 carries. "It was our most complete team performance," Bobby Petrino said. "We played well in all three phases."

Best Quarter
It was the second against Vanderbilt — unless it was the second at South Carolina. Against Vandy, the Hogs won that quarter, 26-0, after trailing, 14-6, in the first quarter. The Hogs got two touchdown passes from Ryan Mallett to Jarius Wright, each for 15 yards. Knile Davis had a 2-yard TD run. There was also a defensive safety and a Zack Hocker field goal as the Hogs took control of what would be a 49-14 victory. Arkansas won the second quarter at Carolina, 17-7, in one of its best performances against a good team on the year.

Most Revealing Quotes
They came after the loss to Alabama. Arkansas coaches had preached throughout the offseason about winning the fourth quarter. Head coach Bobby Petrino and offensive coordinator Garrick McGee both pointed to the future after that fourth quarter. Petrino said, "It's going to be tough, but we have to get over it. It's going to be hard. We put a lot into this, a lot of emotion and a lot of adrenaline. One thing I tell our players anytime you have ... adversity, it doesn't build character. It reveals it." McGee added, "We were not mentally tough enough to finish the game. We had dropped balls. We had penalties. We made turnovers. We didn't finish the game. Alabama played best when the game was on the line. That's why they are good. That's where we have to get." Ultimately, the Hogs got there, winning the fourth quarters down the stretch, including running the ball at the end to beat LSU.

Best Evaluation
Jerry Franklin and Jerico Nelson won it, hands down. They were asked to describe Auburn's Cam Newton in the week before game that eventually decided the SEC West title. Franklin said, "I think he'll hunt you up and try to deliver a blow. He's not like a regular quarterback in that respect. He's so big that he likes the contact. He'll try you. He wants to challenge the defensive players. There ain't no slide to him." Nelson added, "It just looks to me like Newton wants to be the man. He's a physical runner who can also throw. He's not going to turn down any contact, either. He wants to deliver the blow, be the man. What I say about a guy like Newton, he can ball."

Sweetest Victory
Most will point to the victory over LSU to end the regular season, but one of the big keys to the season was the thumping of Ole Miss in a nearly five-hour game with two weather delays in Fayetteville. The Hogs had to play without several key performers in the second half, including Ryan Mallett, Joe Adams and Greg Childs. They turned it over to an improving offensive line and rode Knile Davis to a 38-24 victory. D.J. Williams saw it coming early. He said, "Yeah, (Ole Miss defensive tackle Jerrell Powe) was really doing the talking in the first half. He was going on and on, talking to Ryan (Mallett) and our offensive line about what they were going to do. Not one of our guys backed down from him. I liked that. We had seen on film that they had a physical defense. But our guys got after them today. Hey, I got a chance to watch some of our guys up front on a few replays. The blocking was really good. I have to compliment our offensive line. They got them today."

Best Promise
It came from Bobby Petrino after the Hogs struggled to run the ball early in the season. Speaking before the Texas A&M game, the Arkansas coach promised to run the ball more to take pressure off the passing game. Petrino said, "I'm going to have to force it more. We have really worked hard on the running game this week. We've had physical practices. But it probably just comes down to me calling more runs, especially with the game on the line."

Best Promise II
Again, it came from Petrino. The current Razorbacks coach told former Arkansas coach and player Ken Hatfield the Razorbacks would return a punt for a touchdown this season. Joe Adams looked to have fulfilled the promise early in the year, but a 62-yard touchdown return against Georgia was called back. Adams atoned for that, however, with a 97-yard return for a score against Ole Miss. It broke Hatfield's long return record of 95 yards set in 1963.

Best Defensive Stop
That had to be LSU's first three possessions of the second half. Given the ball at the UA 46, UA 9 and the LSU 49, LSU managed just 17, 6 and 3 yards and netted only two field goals. The first possession ended when Zach Stadther and Jerry Franklin stopped LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson for a 1-yard gain on third-and-5. Tramain Thomas made the play on a third-and-goal pass into the end zone from the UA 3-yard line. Tenarius Wright sacked Jefferson on third-and-5 to end the last LSU drive of the third quarter with the lead at 21-20. And the Hogs never looked back.

Best Offensive Call
There was one or two in every game. Bobby Petrino's reputation as a fantastic playcaller was there everywhere you looked. But where he worked his best magic might have been at South Carolina when he used his wonderful collection of tight ends, fullbacks and H-backs to pound the Gamecocks small ends and linebackers for 140 rushing yards. The Hogs always seemed to control the edge in their perimeter running game against the South Carolina front that had been the best against the run in the SEC coming into the game.

Best Play to End a Half I
Cobi Hamilton's 80-yard catch and run with a Ryan Mallett pass to end the first half against LSU. Hamilton eluded two Tigers at the point of the catch, then sprinted to the end zone, making a nifty cut to setup the clinching block from Jarius Wright.

Best Play to End a Half II
It didn't end the half, but Zach Hocker's 48-yard field goal with four seconds left in the first half at Georgia was big. It sent the Hogs to the locker room with a 17-7 edge. More than anything it signaled that the Hogs had found their kicker. The true freshman from Russellville missed only three field goals for the season.

Best Clutch Offensive Play
There were so many, but the fourth-and-3 pass from Ryan Mallett to Joe Adams for a 39-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter against LSU gets first place. Bobby Petrino said he talked with his staff on whether or not to punt during a timeout before the call. He said, "There was a lot of thought that went into that play. I called over Coach (John L.) Smith to ask him what he would do. I worked for him a long time ago. He's always had a saying, you didn't come here to paint. You came to win."

Best Clutch Defensive Play
Jerico Nelson had his hand in many clutch plays all year, but one of the biggest came at the end of Mississippi State's possession in the first overtime period at Starkville. State halfback Vick Ballard was sailing down the sideline on what looked like a touchdown run, but Nelson hit him from the side at the 2-yard line, knocking the ball loose. The fumble rolled into and out of the end zone for a touchback to end that possession for the Bulldogs. The Hogs ultimately won it in the second overtime when Tenarius Wright sacked quarterback Chris Relf on fourth down.

Best Clutch Hit
Jake Bequette sacked Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray on third-and-4 with 54 seconds left to force a punt. The Hogs then scored the winning points on a three-play, 74-yard march with Ryan Mallett finding Greg Childs for the final 40 yards with 15 seconds left. Bequette crushed Murray from the blind side after eluding a cut block by the Georgia running back. Murray's helmet flew off upon contact. Bequette said, "I thought the ball came loose, but it was his helmet. I don't know how he didn't fumble. That's as hard as I could have hit him. Hats off to him to hanging on with that hit."

Best Offensive Surprise
It had to be the stretch drive from Knile Davis in the running game. The sophomore running back took control of a four-man battle in preseason to run the Hogs right through some of the league's best run defenses in the last month of the season. Davis had 1,183 yards on just 178 carries, including 889 yards and 12 touchdowns in the final six games. He was the starter for the final seven games of the year. His turning point game was a 176-yard effort against Ole Miss. Afterward tight end D. J. Williams said, "Knile Davis looked like a great player today. We had seen that in practice. But he was a different guy today. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy. He kicked it in. I've been telling him all he needed was a breakout day. He exploded today."

Best Defensive Surprise
Anthony Leon moved from safety to outside linebacker two weeks before the season opener and was a rock for most of the year. He was ejected against Mississippi State and a non-factor in the finale with LSU after sitting out the first half with a suspension. But he gave the Hogs good play in an area that seemed like a void in preseason. His come through there allowed Jerry Franklin to move to middle linebacker and become the team's leading tackler.

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