ARLINGTON – Arkansas' trio of senior wide receivers have had some wow moments in their careers the last four years and Friday night at the Cotton Bowl was no exception.
Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs all came up with big moments in their last game to help the Razorbacks down Kansas State 29-16 before an Arkansas bowl record 80,956 fans inside Cowboys Stadium.
Adams had a 51-yard punt return for a score that jump-started his sluggish squad, Wright had 3 catches for 88 yards and a touchdown and Childs had a season-high 5 catches for 48 yards – including a trio of first downs.
"We wanted to go out on a big note," Childs said. "We wanted to go out 11-2. We wanted to leave this program better than we found it. I think we did that.
"When we first started playing, we weren't very good," Childs continued, "now we're 11-2 and ranked number six and hopefully next year when the polls come out we will be in the top five."
Adams' dazzling punt return – his fourth of the season for a score and the team's ninth non-offensive score of the season - gave Arkansas a 10-0 lead even though the Razorbacks did not have a first down at the time.
While he believes his one against Tennessee in which he broke a plethora of tackles remains his best, Adams knows how important Friday night's one was in winning the Cotton Bowl.
"The Tennessee one is number one, but I would probably rank this as the second because it jumpstarted the team," Adams said. "It was in the second quarter and we really needed the boost."
Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino loved it.
"It was another one of those where you just go Wow!," Petrino said. "It was a great punt. He hit the ball really hard. You could see when he made the catch he had in his mind what he was going to do. We got some great blocks…Joe showed great acceleration, made another spectacular play for us."
Adams talked about being able to size up his route with the ball in the air.
"I could see the guys coming, but I knew that I had a chance to catch it and return it," Adams said. "I took a double glance, caught it and then took off. My teammates blocked great. The return was to the right. One guy came too far up field so I stepped in behind him and just circled. The last guy that had a chance to make a tackle was the punter and Jevontee Herndon just blew him up."
It was beautiful according to new Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, who coached at Illinois during the season.
"That was huge," Petrino said. "It got us going. Got the momentum going. Joe is hard to tackle out in space and just made a great play. A lot of guys had great blocks on it and it was great to see."
Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder did not agree.
"Well, it obviously made a major difference," Snyder said. "How did I like it? I didn't like it a bit.
"But you know, we knew he's a talented player," Snyder added. "We knew he could make you miss him. We knew that he could make you miss him. We knew that we had to contain the football."
Snyder said he preached to his team all week about how they could not let Adams get outside.
"Sure enough he bounced outside," Snyder said, "which just tells you saying things, asking certain things to happen doesn't make it happen."
Among Wright's three catches was a 45-yard TD one that pushed Arkansas ahead 19-0 with 4:10 left in the half.
Wright ends his career with a school-record 168 catches with Adams' 164 good for second and Childs finishing seventh on the all-time list.
Wright also notched the Arkansas career receiving yards record with 2,934 to best Anthony Lucas' 2,879.
He did so in style on the touchdown catch – the 24th of his career, which leaves him second.
"I think as seniors we are leaving behind a team that knows how to work, a team that is committed to the program and I think we are going to be able to get some big-name wide receiver recruits in here," Wright said. "I think we helped with recruiting, I think we helped build the program from the bottom coming in.
"We weren't that good when we first came in, but we continued to be dedicated to what we wanted to do," Wright said.
Childs was injured last season and was not the player as a senior that he was a junior.
But he battled through the injury and had his best night of the season on his last night as a Razorback.
"You have got to continue to believe in yourself when you go through certain things," Childs said. "You just have to keep pushing and keep playing and praying and know that things are going to go your way."
Wright said there was a vast difference between walking off the field this season after a Cotton Bowl win and walking off the field last season after a Sugar Bowl loss to Ohio State.
"This is completely night and day," Wright said. "Walking off the field last year and knowing that you didn't send your seniors off the right way, especially considering the way they played so hard all season.
"We feel like we have got something started here now and this was the way to go out – with a win and all of us making something happen to help our team win."
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