But in the last 15 minutes, Arkansas had no solution for Rutgers punt returner Janarion Grant or, for the second straight season, quarterback Gary Nova.
After limiting Grant with combo punt looks from Sam Irwin-Hill and Zach Hocker, each of those diverse punters gave up a big return, then Nova, beat up for three quarters, put the hammer down on the Arkansas linebackers and secondary to the tune of 21 straight points in a 28-24 victory.
The Razorbacks got their 24-7 lead with a relentless pass rush. They sacked Nova five times, twice from Darius Philon. They forced a fumble on a Trey Flowers sack and Tevin Mitchel got his first career pick six.
But in the end, Arkansas could not muster enough of a passing attack and Rutgers snuffed the Arkansas running game by stacking the box with eight defenders.
The Hogs could not find what new coach Bret Bielema and his staff has worked so hard to develop, a fourth-quarter running game. They made only three yards on six rushes. Rutgers out-hit the Arkansas offensive front and solved the pass rush for just long enough in the final quarter.
There was no running game to close out the game and backup quarterback AJ Derby had no consistent accuracy until finally giving up a sack on his last possession.
"They kept punching at us and they finally got us," said Chris Smith, UA defensive end. "Nova is a great quarterback. He threw it around on us at the end. We hit him and got to him, but he kept coming back.
"He's a tough player. I've seen him for two years. I'll call him a helluva player."
Safety Eric Bennett said it was a matter of not putting away the Scarlet Knights.
"We had our chances," Bennett said. "We had some chances at interceptions and we have to capitalize. Then in the fourth quarter, they ran some routes that we had not seen on tape.
"They had not really thrown a lot of balls to the tight ends and (safeties) were helping on wide receivers. In the second half, we gave up a lot of big plays."
Center Travis Swanson didn't have many answers for what the Scarlet Knights did to the UA running attack. The Hogs had put Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams both over 100 yards in each of the first three games. The Hogs netted just 101 total this time.
"It's disappointing," Swanson said. "I would have to see the tape to know. I'm not sure. We didn't expect that. We do know they are good on defense and that wasn't a surprise.
"It didn't go our way at the end. I don't know exactly where we fell apart. I thought AJ did a good job and he obviously had a week to prepare with us and I respect the way he stepped up. But somewhere along the way, we fell apart."
The Hogs hit a halfback pass for a touchdown, converted a fake punt for a field goal and got the Mitchel pick six to build the lead. But, they committed key penalties to aid the Rutgers comeback, something players say was emphasized by the head coach afterwards.
"You can't have those kinds of penalties," Swanson said. "It's free yards. We have to be better than that."
Jonathan Williams, stoned otherwise by the Rutgers front, did come up with the halfback pass, a soft toss to Hunter Henry for a touchdown to convert a turnover.
"We've been practicing that play since the spring," Williams said. "Hunter has great hands and I knew all I had to do was throw it up for him and he'd come down with it. It was a play we were going to use on a sudden change.
"Rutgers has a good team, but we feel like we gave the game away. Our quarterback did a good job. He made the right checks. He did everything with confidence.
"But to not be able to run the ball kinda hurt us in all areas and made it tougher on our passing game. They are a good team and give them credit. They can fly around. We knew they had a good defense."
Wide receiver Javontee Herndon said it was a case of not putting away the Scarlet Knights.
"We needed one more touchdown and we knew it," Herndon said. "You have to put those guys away.
"AJ Derby did his best. We knew we needed a spark coming out of halftime and we got that. I'm proud of AJ.
"We knew Rutgers would try to stuff the run, so that was no surprise. We just have to keep working on that phase of the offense.
"I give credit to Rutgers. They have a great team and they knew what they were doing on defense."
Now the job is to regroup with the monster SEC stretch of Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama staring at the Hogs.
"We know what's ahead and the job is to refocus," Herndon said. "But this one hurts. It's quiet in the locker room like it should be."
Swanson said, "We have to get our heads back up."
Bielema said nothing really changes, though.
"It's somber, yes," he said. "But it's just a process. I enjoy the hours daily with this team and how they go about it.
"We came here with a few things and tried to steal a few plays. We wanted to rally around AJ. We had the fake punt and some other things. We were up three scores and we needed one more break.
"Otha (Peters) had a shot at one, but, God bless him, he's got that cast on his arm. To win on the road with this personnel, we have to get that break."
The penalties did bother Bielema.
"I have to be held accountable," he said. "Everything in the week matters, every detail.
"The penalties, they were insane. There was a critical penalty right before the half and we may set the world record at cornerback for face mask (penalties) if we don't learn to knife them down or wrap them up.
"AJ Derby had a good understanding of what we wanted to do. We have to run the ball better. We have to protect, catch it and put him in a better position."
Hunter Henry cradles a touchdown catch.
Chris Smith recovered a fumble after a Trey Flowers sack.
Javontee Herndon makes a touchdown catch.
Julian Horton's try at a reception was batted away.
Photos by Jason Ivester, Hawgs Illustrated