Stay thirsty my friends for that showdown with No. 1 LSU.
Jarius Wright, Joe Adams, Dennis Johnson Tyler Wilson and Tramain Thomas all had big plays as the No. 8 Razorbacks routed hapless Tennessee 49-7 on a windy Saturday night before 72,103 fans in the final game before 17 seniors at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
"It was a great way to send out our seniors," Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino said. "Those young men have meant a lot to this program and certainly have been very dedicated and made a great commitment to the University of Arkansas and to our football team.
"To win the game the way we did tonight was a great way to send them out for the last game here in Fayetteville," Petrino added. "I thought we played well in all three phases and it was a good team win for us."
Adams' dazzling 60-yard punt return for a score was ESPN's No. 1 play of the day while Wright's amazing catch was number two.
Adams also 40-yard touchdown reception, Wright set the school's career catch mark and Johnson ripped off touchdown runs of 71 and 15 while totaling 140 yards rushing and receiving.
Thomas – another senior had a game-high 10 tackles and also came up with his 11th career pick at the Arkansas 1 when Tennessee threatened to make a game of it late in the first half.
Johnson (who had 97 yards rushing and 43 receiving) and Wilson (16 of 26 for 224 yards and three TDs) are both red-shirt juniors who came in with those seniors back in 2008.
Wilson now has 2,727 yards passing this season.
"I liked the way we have put them (wins) back-to-back to the last two weeks," noted Petrino, whose team has beaten Auburn, South Carolina and Tennessee in its last three home games by the combined score of 129-49. "I really like the way we have played the last three times at home. I really like it when we start cranking up the running game."
With TCU's 36-35 win over Boise State Oregon's win over Stanford, the Razorbacks are likely to move up to at least six in the BCS standings.
The Razorbacks – who won all five of their games in Fayetteville this season - must beat Mississippi State next Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in Little Rock to set up the showdown with No. 1 LSU on Friday, Nov. 25 in Baton Rouge.
Tennessee head coach Derrick Dooley – whose team dropped to 4-6 overall and 0-6 in SEC play for the first time in the school's history – was impressed with the Razorbacks.
"Give Arkansas a lot of credit," Dooley said. "They put it to us. Not much you can say after a game like that. Very disappointing in how it ended, but we missed a lot of opportunities.
"There were a ton of missed tackles in space," Dooley added. "On the punt return we had about five guys right there and we've got to finish him off.
"And then we had some fourth-and-twos," Dooley continued. "You've got to make a play. We don't make a play, throw and interception right before the half and that hurt. When you miss those kind of opportunities against a team like this, you're going to play and that's what happened."
His team also came up empty on a fake field goal, had several short punts, did not score in the second half of a fifth straight game and looked like they were playing "middle school ball" according to Dooley.
"We are in the advanced school of beat-down learning," said Dooley, whose team played the first time all season before a crowd of less than 88,000 fans.
It is only the second time since Arkansas entered the SEC in 1992 that the Razorbacks have started a season 9-1 with the other time in 2006.
It was also the largest margin of victory in an SEC game since Arkansas routed Mississippi State 52-6 back in 2003 and guarantees the Razorbacks will have back-to-back winning league records for the first time in the SEC.
Wright took over the school record for career catches and now has 154 - breaking Anthony Eubanks' record of 153 and scoring two touchdowns.
"It's always good to break a record especially in your home state and a place that you have played for so long," Wright said. "It's great to know I broke a record and regardless of whether Joe passes me or not, I'll be in the record books."
The record-tying reception – on a night when Wright also closed within one of Marcus Monk's school record of 11 TD catches in one season - it was arguable one of the most incredible catches ever made by a Razorback.
The ball bounced off of one of Wright's hands, off his facemask and he finally gathered it in with two hands all with a Tennessee defensive back draped all over him.
"I was running up the sideline, Tyler threw the ball out there and there as some wind tonight so I think it got caught up in the air," Wright said. "I had to stop and go back to it. I actually caught it the first time, so I flipped it in the air, tried to catch it with one hand, it hit my facemask and then I got two hands out to catch it."
But that might not have even been the best play of the night seeing as how Adams ripped off a 60-yard punt return on which he made six tacklers misses and outran the other five.
"It ranks way up there," Petrino said of the best plays that he has ever seen. "That is like one of those where you said "oh, no, no, no – don't run backwards. Oh, ok, here we go. Oh, my gosh – touchdown.'
"It was an amazing play and you certainly saw his athleticism," Petrino added. "He's been making plays like that all year long for us."
Senior tailbacks Broderick Green and De'Anthony Curtis both got in on the act in the fourth quarter.
Green raced 40 yards to sit up his 10-yard catch from Wilson.
Curtis then ripped off a 26-yard touchdown run with 6:7 left that combined with Zach Hocker's PAT to cap the scoring.
Hocker missed a field goal in the windy conditions, but also had one of his kickoffs sail through the uprights 80 yards for where he booted it.
Arkansas won the game despite having Tennessee having the ball a whopping 37 of the 60 minutes.
That was in part to the big plays Arkansas had.
"Is that all we had the ball?" Petrino said. "I knew in the first half we didn't have the ball very much at all. You get a little bit concerned about that…but the thing that I liked at halftime was it was balanced - 14 passes, 12 runs. I felt like we were doing a good job of establishing the line of scrimmage.
"Then we came out in the second half and had a lot of big plays," Petrino added. "I guess when you don't have the ball as much when you have big plays."
Wright's 7-yard catch from Wilson got the scoring started and then Adams' punt return made it 14-0 with 17 seconds left in the first quarter.
Johnson's 71-yard run – which came after Wilson overthrew Adams deep – pushed it to 21-0 with 11:25 left before halftime.
Tennesse got on the board on Rajion Neal's 11-yard run and looked to be making a game of it when the Vols drove down near the Arkansas goal line just before halftime.
But Vols quarterback Justin Worley (15-of-29 for 208 yards) – starting since Tyler Bray got hurt in the fifth game – was pressured by Jake Bequette and Thomas picked it off to stop the threat.
"That was huge," Petrinos said. "It was a great momentum saver for us. I felt like we were in control the of the game and then they made that drive before half. That was a huge play for us and really helped us going into the locker room."
Johnson's 15-yard tackle-breaking run pushed it to 28-7 with 7:07 and then Wilson and Adams connected on the aforementioned 40-yard pass to make it 35-7 three minutes later.
Green and Curtis then got their scoring runs in the fourth quarter to the delight of their teammates.
Arkanas freshman wideout Marquel Wade did not play due to the breaking of a team rule according to Petrino.
Dooley said he wasn't surprised at the outcome.
"No, because these guys are good," Dooley said. "That's what they do and they've been doing it with a lot of teams."
Jarius Wright works on hauling in a spectacular catch on a night when he took over the top spot on the career catches list at Arkansas.
Joe Adams finishes off a simply amazing 60-yard punt return in which six Tennessee players missed tackled and he outran the other five on the field.
Dennis Johnson had touchdown runs of 71 and 15 in the win.
Jake Bequette pressured Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley all night long.
Ronnie Wingo had a 20-yard scoring dash nullified because of a blocking-in-the-back penalty at the 1.
Bobby Petrino's team is now 9-1 and 5-1 in SEC action.
Photos by Marc F. Henning