HOUSTON -- Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen led Arkansas past Texas by the same famous score as the great Joe Ferguson did in 1971, then stood center stage clutching the MVP trophy to start a grand Hog Call to end the Texas Bowl festivities.
Then, in typical Allen style, was his own worst critic in finding a few plays he'd like to have back in a 31-7 thumping of the hated Longhorns before 71,115 Monday night at NRG Stadium.
No Arkansas quarterback could enjoy three straight kneel downs to kill the final minute of a Texas-based game clock as Allen did as the Hogs finished the game knocking on the Longhorn goal line in the victory formation.
That was the cue for ACC officials to scurry off the field with legendary Ron Cherry leading the way. The white hat referee made himself the story years ago when calling an ACC game he went on the stadium PA system to announce a personal foul, then explaining, "He was giving him the business."
Cherry's crew was as good as the Hogs on this night, never giving the Longhorns anything they didn't earn. And, they earned nothing. There was a no-call on the Tyrone Swoopes touchdown when the tight end held Mitchell Loewen. There was a no-call when Hunter Henry was grabbed twice on an incomplete pass in the end zone late in the first half.
But I enjoyed a wink from Cherry when he trotted off the field to my words, "Good job, Mr. Cherry." It was as if he was acknowledging that Arkansas had indeed given Texas the business in a most thorough way. Cherry's ACC crew called but two penalties for 15 yards on the Hogs, and there were no replays overturned, a pleasant thought after what an SEC crew did at Missouri in the season finale.
Translation, it was an SEC-style tail kicking to give the Hogs a 3-2 edge in the series since they left that defunct conference for dead in 1992 to begin their struggles in the dominant league of the mega conference era.
There were an estimated 25,000 red-clad Hog fans dancing in the stands with their SEC chants in the final minutes of this one, never in doubt. The Arkansas fans never sat down while their team gave the 'Horns the business. They had studied the scoreboard stat ledger throughout the night as the Longhorns held near zero total yards much of the night.
It was such a defensive smash by the Hogs that the 30,000 in burnt orange were streaming out of the stadium in the third quarter. Left behind were a sprinkling of Texas A&M Aggie fans who bought tickets thinking they would be the SEC team in this game, but still happy to cheer on the Hogs against their common rival, those hated 'Horns.
Arkansas led in total yards, 351-59. They were tops in first downs, 20-7. There was a neat balance to the UA attack, with 191 net rushing yards and 60 passing. Jonathan Williams rushed for 105, Alex Collins 76 and the oft-maligned Allen dazzling with 12 of 23 for 160 yards.
Even the UA punter dazzled. Sam Irwin-Hill boomed four punts for 39.8 yards, all of them downed inside the UT 10-yard line.
It should make for the best spring an Arkansas coach could imagine, packed crowds at Razorback Club events. I gave Bielema a little advice on the field afterwards. Do them all!
The Hogs held the Longhorns to a season low 59 yards by any FBS team, swarming quarterback Tyrone Swoopes from the opening kickoff. The UT offense got 29 of that in the final 5:48 and finished with 2 yards rushing, thanks to 48 yards in losses.
It was the a record for an Arkansas defense in a bowl game, topping the 168 by Nebraska by the Hogs' national championship team in the 1965 Cotton Bowl.
"It was so crazy how our defense plays," said Keon Hatcher, junior wide receiver with four catches and perhaps the momentum swinging touchdown catch with 24 seconds left in the first half.
Hatcher beat the Texas corner to the inside, then took advantage of extra attention for tight end Hunter Henry to cradle a 5-yard TD pass from Allen to send the Hogs to a 24-7 halftime lead. It completed a nine-play, 61-yard march that followed the lone Texas score with 3:59 left before halftime.
"That felt pretty good," Hatcher said, crediting offensive coordinator Jim Chaney for dialing up the perfect call.
"Coach Chaney knew the safety was going to bite up on Hunter Henry. He called it and they did exactly what he said they'd do. It was great to go into halftime with that touchdown. I just beat the corner to the inside and BA stepped up and delivered a great ball."
Hatcher praised Allen for a superb night, apologizing for missing a couple of other chances at touchdowns.
"I missed two catches, one of them in the inside," Hatcher said. "There was one early that I should have had. I told Brandon I was sorry and to keep coming to me and I'd make up for it. I didn't get them all, but there were a couple of decent catches."
Hatcher pointed to senior wideout Demetrius Wilson's 36-yard TD grab on the second play of the second quarter.
"That may have surprised you guys, but I've seen him do it over and over," Hatcher said. "That's my brother and I'm so happy for our seniors, like D-Wilson, to get a play like that in his last game. I'm so happy for him. It was a great play and a great throw.
"Brandon had a great game. The drive before halftime was really good. They had just scored, but Coach B always says it's not what happens, it's how you respond to what happens. We responded."
And, Texas did not. The best response of the night came from UT head coach Charlie Strong. He gave his team a scathing message in the post game interviews and promised "a strong message" when he delivered his next closed door visit. He called the game "an embarrassment to the program." He spoke of what Texas has become.
"You would have thought that we would have come out and just been better prepared," Strong said. "It falls on the head coach and the coaches, but at some point, too, we have to develop and we've got to get the pride back in this program.
"Texas has to mean something. Right now, it doesn't mean much. We have to play with passion. We got to play with energy. You have to have an edge to you. We don't have that right now."
“You don’t ever expect to go out and go get hammered 31-7 in a bowl game
when you had a month to go prepare.”
It started and ended with the way Arkansas controlled the line of scrimmage. Swoopes went straight to that area when he was asked to describe the difference in the game.
“I feel like we knew," Swoopes said, "that they were going to be physical and we just didn’t match how physical they were with us.”
Bret Bielema was emotional, too, but on the other end. He was beaming as he talked about "an incredible" series of motivational speeches by seniors the night before the game.
"It reminds me of a championship team we had, and a series of titles after a bowl win over Miami," Bielema said. "It catapulted us into the next season."
Bielema said there was "a lot of really good things happened" against Texas and "they were not by chance."
Bielema said defensive coordinator Robb Smith delivered a top notch talk on the keys to victory earlier in the day.
"He talked about when he got here on Feb. 8 and the meeting he had with the defense for the first time," Bielema said. "He said we'd do certain things and would not know what it would lead to but it would be a daily grind. Our players became player coaches. They could correct themselves because of what they had learned and the way they studied."
And, Smith gave them something that Texas does not have under Strong, the ability to vary coverages on the outside. The Longhorns played soft outside, not something the Hogs see in the SEC.
"We had watched a lot of tape, almost until it was getting old," Allen said. "What we saw was that they didn't come up. No press. We came out at the start thinking maybe they would have put that in with the last month. They didn't. We realized after the first few plays, they weren't going to press us."
Hatcher said, "They played off us and gave us easy releases. We are used to earning it. We knew they ran soft coverages and they did again tonight.
"They were off of us on the touchdown drive to end the first half. We knew we could execute our two-minute against them and we did."
Allen said, "I wasn't perfect. But that one felt good. We knew they had a really solid front four and they have a D-tackle that will be a No. 1 pick. It's just a credit to our offensive line for protecting me and blocking as well as they did. Our receivers -- may passes weren't always the best -- but they made some great catches."
Bielema felt the surge in play coming after the emotion that spilled out from fans lining the walk from the bus to the stadium in pre-game. And, the Hog Calls never stopped once they were in the stadium. And, it became obvious soon after the bowl pairing was made that this was a special game to the people of Arkansas and former players.
“I had a feeling that, just by judging by
the people that had come up to me and reached out to me since the announcement, it was very special," Bielema said. "When we
got off that bus and we walked through that modified Hog Walk, it was a
frenzy and it was just really fun to see
that energy. Then when we came out on the field, I told our guys before we took the field to start the game that
there was a lot of Razorback fans ready to go hog
wild, and we gave them every reason to do it. That’s
Bielema has been proud of the defensive turnaround all season.
“I think all the credit in the
world goes to the prep," he said. "Not just today’s plan, I think one of the things that we do is we talk about the three keys to
offense, defense, special teams. When Robb (Smith) got up and talked to the team today when he was
talking specifically to the defense about our three keys, he made a great point that he took this job Feb. 8 a year
ago. He met with our defense for the firs
t time and had the chance to tell them that they’re going to do certain
things over the next year that they don’t know it’s happening. It’s going to be a daily grind. Those guys got better,
so much better in the spring and the fall.
"They’ve gotten better a
ll year long. They’ve really become player
coaches where they were correcting each other out on the field before they even came to the sideline. Not just
Robb, but Rory (Segrest); you know, I lost three defensive coaches, three out of four. So those new gu
in, with the addition of Randy (Shannon), put together a plan and I just couldn’t be happier and our kids bought
into it 100 times over.”
The victory sets Arkansas up for some high expectations for 2015, something Allen and Bielema both embraced after the victory over Texas to push the Hogs to 7-6.
“I think this team is definitely ready," Allen said. "Like you said, we have high expectations for ourselves as well. We had them this year. We were in a lot of games and did a lot of things really well, and just weren’t able to capitalize on certain moments in some of those games.
"It just comes down to us being more clean and being able to capitalize in certain moments of certain games. We have played in a lot of big games. It’s not going to be anything new for this team coming back. I think just with a win like we got today is really going to excel us and propel us forward to the next season. I think it’s just going to keep this train kind of rolling.”
Bielema said the Hogs have just scratched the surface. He expects the Hogs to step up again next year, even in the nation's toughest division, the SEC West. He said he knew what he was getting into and in fact embraced it.
"What we need is a little more depth," he said. "That's what it is. It's adding a few more players and continue to push forward with what we have. We are losing some really good seniors, but we have good players coming and some of the ones we have already are going to be, maybe, better than what we are losing.
"We need to add some more receivers. We are recruiting two right now that can really make a difference."
Taiwan Johnson, sophomore nose tackle, was one of the unsung heroes all season of a solid defensive line. He split time with true freshman Bijohn Jackson in the bowl game and that may have paid dividends in the second quarter when he was fresh for a fumble recovery in the end zone for a defensive touchdown.
"The ball came loose and I saw it," Johnson said. "It was mine all the way. No one else was going to get it."
It was sweet for Johnson, who hails from Manvel, Texas, just half an hour from the stadium. Friends and family were packed in the stadium.
Johnson was not surprised by the defensive performance from the Hogs.
"We've been playing at this level for awhile, a championship level," Johnson said. "That's what we have a championship defense. We controlled the line of scrimmage."
That was what the Texas quarterback saw.
"We knew they had an aggressive, quick pressure defense and they were going to come after us with their ends," Swoopes said. "We expected it. We just didn't block them. They bring their ends and they did that in this game.
"It's a matter of matching them with your offensive line and we didn't. You have to make more plays than we did, but they have a very good defense."
Strong finished the night trying to decide whether or not to criticize or defend his quarterback. Definitely, he ripped him for the fumble that led to the Arkansas defensive score. But he said there was never a hint of blocking.
"We don’t block anybody either," Strong said. "If I’m sitting back there at quarterback and nobody blocking for me, that means you can lose a little bit of confidence."
And, with that, Strong slipped out the side door, still trying to figure out what hit his Longhorns. As Ron Cherry would describe it, it was the business.
Demetrius Wilson hauls in a touchdown pass.
Bret Bielema celebrates the victory.
Robb Smith gives instructions.
Bret Bielema and Brandon Allen discuss strategy.
Brooks Ellis makes a tackle.
D.J. Dean wraps up a receiver.
Alex Collins takes a handoff from Brandon Allen.
Brandon Allen passed for two touchdowns.
Martrell Spaight celebrates a tackle.
Alex Collins turns the corner.
Darius Philon closes in on a tackle.
Darius Philon pressures Tyrone Swoopes.
Jonathan Williams rushed for 105 yards and one touchdown.
Photos by Jason Ivester, Hawgs Illustrated
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