Best and Worst of 2011

Unlike some years, it wasn't hard to find some exciting plays and entertaining moments in a successful 2011 football season. The Razorbacks had plenty of "bests."

Best and Worst of 2011

There have been some years in the 20-year history of Hawgs Illustrated that it's tough to do a Best-Worst feature. The first game in the life of the magazine was the Arkansas loss to The Citadel. There were some great lines from Joe Kines that year that made the Best Quote segment fun, but it was otherwise lots of bad stuff.

Writing a Best-Worst feature the last two years has been entirely different. There's so much Best in back-to-back 10-win seasons that the feature writes itself in a fun way.

It's certainly more fun when the worst games are only to No. 1-ranked teams and the Hogs finish sixth in the BCS standings after a 10-2 regular season.

As far as losses to No. 1, that's been the case the last two years except for the Sugar Bowl loss to Ohio State last season. Otherwise, the worst is more like back-to-back quarters than games. And there have even been some highlights in the losses to the top dogs. That would be LSU and Alabama this year.

We'll get to some of those, but first let's recognize some of the best players of the 2011 football season, the All-SEC list that contains a bunch of Razorbacks. Quarterback Tyler Wilson, defensive end Jake Bequette and wide receiver Jarius Wright were all named to the first team coaches All-SEC squad.

Joe Adams was the SEC's special teams player of the year as selected by the league, along with the coaches all-purpose player. Adams was also a consensus All-America as a punt returner. Linebacker Jerry Franklin, offensive guard Alvin Bailey and punter Dylan Breeding were selected to the coaches All-SEC second team.

Wilson also was the Associated Press' first team All-SEC quarterback. It's the first time a Razorback has been first team all-league since Quinn Grovey made All-SWC in 1988.

Wilson leads the SEC and ranks 14th nationally with an average of 285.2 passing yards per game. Wilson has a passing efficiency rating of 148.66, which is second in the league and 21st in the country. Wilson ranks second on Arkansas' single-season completions list with 257 completions, third on the UA single-season passing yards list with 3,422 yards and fourth on Arkansas' single-season passing touchdowns list with 22.

Bequette, despite missing four games with a hamstring injury, led the Hogs with eight sacks, second best in the SEC and seventh nationally. He has 21.5 in his career, most among active SEC players.

Wright leads the SEC with 93.5 receiving yards per game, 5.7 receptions per game and 11 receiving touchdowns. He ranks 12th nationally in receiving touchdowns. Wright has set the UA single-season record with 63 receptions and 1,029 receiving yards during the 2011 season and has tied the Arkansas single-season record with 11 receiving touchdowns.

Wright is also Arkansas' all-time career receptions leader with 165 catches in his collegiate career. Wright set a new Arkansas single-game record with 281 receiving yards in Arkansas' win against Texas A&M. He also tied the school single-game record with 13 receptions in the win over the Aggies.

Arkansas also had a trio of newcomers named to the SEC's all-freshman team in defensive end Trey Flowers, cornerback Tevin Mitchel and receiver Marquel Wade (return specialist). In addition, the late Arkansas tight end Garrett Uekman was named the honorary captain of the SEC's freshman team. Uekman, a redshirt freshman, died Nov. 20 from an undiagnosed heart condition. Here's what the Hawgs Illustrated staff turned out for the 2011 Best-Worst story:

Best Kick Return

There were a lot of choices. Joe Adams had three punt returns for touchdowns. Dennis Johnson and Marquel Wade combined for two kickoff returns for TDs. But Adams outdid himself against Tennessee. It was plastered on Sports Center as the play of the day.

"That might rank up there pretty high," Adams said on where it might fit on his own personal list of greatest plays.

"I caught it and a guy was in my face, so I went backwards and made him miss. Then I saw about five guys when I went that way. So I came back the other way."

Adams admitted he tries to come up with just that kind of a run for himself when he plays the "NCAA video game. I try to make up a new move on the game, then try to bring them to the game."

Told he broke five tackles, Adams said, "I thought maybe three. I'll go home, watch and see for myself."

Offensive coordinator Garrick McGee was wowed. "I've seen some pretty good ones by Joe," McGee said. "Joe is pretty special, this one was pretty special. That was a reverse pivot and an explosion. It was right on our sideline and you could see what he saw open on the sideline.

"I've seen him make all kinds of plays and I've seen good ones by other players during the years. But that one was pretty special."

Adams said he's not done. In fact, that's what he has been saying since last winter. He was disappointed with his drops in the BCS Sugar Bowl and looks forward to another bowl chance.

"I could have gone on to the (NFL) after last year, but I didn't like the way last year finished," he said. "That's why I came back. We have to finish this better than last year. That's why I came back."

Head coach Bobby Petrino was amazed by Adams on his Tennessee punt return.

"I've watched it quite a few times," Petrino said. "I saw it pretty good in the game and then in the highlights. It was pretty amazing. It reminded me of when I played basketball and I would move way out to shoot three pointers. The coach would say, ‘No, no.' Then they go in and it's good shot. When I watched him, I was saying please don't run backwards. Then, when he turned back, I thought maybe he had a chance. Then it was pretty unbelievable. Then, it was oh, wow."

Best Half

There were several to consider, but the wrapup to the Texas A&M game had to trump everything. The Hogs — after playing their worst half to start the game — outscored the Aggies 25-3 in the last two quarters for a 42-38 victory.

Worst Half

There were none worse than the opener against Texas A&M when the Aggies rolled to a 35-17 lead. The Hogs gave up 404 yards of total offense in the first half, including 225 on the ground. Tackling was at a low point for the season.

Most Accurate Quote

"We've improved a lot there the last three weeks. Certainly, we've become more physical. We controlled the line of scrimmage today. When you control the line like that, good things happen."
— Bobby Petrino after impressive three-week span beating South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi State Most Honest Quote I

"Good, because I'm not a Boise fan. That's all I can say about that. Read between the lines. I'm glad they lost."
— Jake Bequette after learning TCU had knocked off Boise State

Most Honest Quote II

"I'm proud of our guys. There have been a ton of distractions. Our fans have called us out. There have been a lot of people saying that we were not really a top 10 team. Maybe we proved we belonged tonight."
— Jake Bequette after a 44-28 victory over No. 9 South Carolina.

Funniest Quote

"Does anyone want some ice cream?"
- Bobby Petrino following the first preseason practice of the year when an ice cream truck drove by during an interview session.

Most Impressive Stat

There were so many impressive numbers. The Texas A&M game provided some records, including most passing yards when Tyler Wilson went for 510 yards, including 13 strikes to Jarius Wright for 281 yards. Wilson set the single game completion mark with 32 against Mississippi State. There were other incredible single plays, like the 92-yard TD run by Joe Adams against Auburn. Dylan Breeding had a 70-yard punt against LSU.

Most Important Defensive Play

It had to be Jerry Franklin's 94-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Vanderbilt. The Commodores were trying to punch it in from inside the 5-yard line for what could have been a 35-20 lead when Franklin came up with the scoop and score. Tyler Wilson dazzled with a two-point pass to Jarius Wright to tie the score at 28 following Franklin's rumble.

Most Important Offensive Play

It had to be Tyler Wilson's 68-yard TD pass to Jarius Wright against South Carolina. Wilson had thrown a "pick six" on the previous play, throwing a pass as he spun away from a defensive end. The ball was grabbed by Devin Taylor and returned 48 yards for a touchdown. Wilson's pass to Wright gave the Hogs the lead for good at 17-14.

Best Play in a Loss

The game was pretty much decided, but it was still spectacular. Tyler Wilson's 19-yard pass to Cobi Hamilton came with 8:54 left in the third quarter when Alabama was cruising with a 31-7 lead. But Wilson stood in with a fierce rush about to nail him and delivered a strike to the back of the end zone to Hamilton for a catch above tight defense.

Worst Play in a Loss

It had to be in the same game. Just after the Hogs made a goal line stand against the Tide, Tyler Wilson looked for Greg Childs on a quick slant with a blitz coming. The pass was off the mark and DeQuan Menzie grabbed it and gave the Tide a 17-7 lead with a 25-yard TD return.

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