Arkansas was sluggish at the outset, but took charge with a wonderful third quarter before hanging on at the end for a 27-20 victory over Central Florida before 61,527 Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Fred Talley rushed 27 times for 189 yards with touchdown runs of 81 and 38 yards to pace the Arkansas attack. Zak Clark fired a 9-yard TD pass to Richard Smith. Brennan O'Donohoe booted field goals of 24 and 36 yards to complete the UA scoring.
The Arkansas defense gave up a 52-yard TD bomb with 3:35 left, then had to hang on as UCF fired four passes (the last actually was ruled as a lateral) from inside the UA 25-yard line in the final minute. The final play, a fourth-and-4 from the UA 16, was a throwback to the quarterback, but the lateral to start the play was dropped and recovered by UA safety Ken Hamlin in the backfield with 22 seconds remaining.
Hamlin got the only other UCF turnover, a pass interception in the end zone in the first quarter when UCF held a 7-3 lead. The Hogs got the lead just three plays later when Talley burst up a crack at right end for an 81-yard TD run early in the second quarter.
The Knights tied the score at 10 at halftime when Jason Beorlegui booted a 21-yard field goal with 3:55 left in the second quarter. Eddie Jackson broke up a pass in the end zone on third-and-goal from the UA 4-yard line. Lawrence Richardson threw Alex Haynes for a 3-yard loss on second-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
The Hogs dominated the third quarter, mainly with crisp blocking up front. Josh Melton took over at center at halftime for the hobbled Kenny Sandlin, and his blocking with guards La'Zerius White and Scott Davenport helped spark the Hogs to a three-play, 83-yard TD march to take the lead for good. Clark found Mark Pierce for a 36-yard pass, before Talley burst up the middle for a 38-yard romp behind the clearing blocks of the three interior linemen.
Clark guided the Hogs to an 8-play, 57-yard touchdown march with the next UA possession. He passed down the middle to Gerald Howard for 33 yards to convert the initial third down. On third-and-7 at the UCF 9-yard line, Clark looked for Pierce before looking back to the right to find Smith on a curl just beyond the goal line. He fired a rocket to his numbers to make it 24-10 with 4:31 left in the third quarter.
Central Florida rolled to a 41-yard field goal with 9:18 left, pulling within 24-13. The Hogs stiffened at the UA 19 with solid play from Tony Bua, Jermaine Petty and Jeb Huckeba.
The Hogs answered with a Matt Jones led drive that made it to the UCF 19-yard line before O'Donohoe booted a 36-yard field goal to put the UA lead back to 27-13 with 4:32 left.
It took only three plays for the Knights to make things tight again. Ryan Schneider hit passes of 11 and 11, before finding Luther Huggins behind the UA secondary for a 52-yarder strike down the middle of the field. It was 27-20 with 3:35 left.
The Hogs were three and out, but they did use 1:38 in their possession to leave the Knights just 1:47 left when they got the ball back at the UCF 45-yard line. UCF used its last timeout with 32 seconds left to set up its final two plays, a third-and-4 that was incomplete and then the lateral pass that was fumbled back to the Hogs on a lost yardage play.
Houston Nutt was happy afterwards, leading off his media briefing with, ""Oooh Me! That was a quality win. We knew in August when we saw Central Florida on the schedule, that we had our work cut out for us. They go to Clemson, Virginia Tech, Syracuse; they are not intimidated by big stadiums or big crowds.
"They run a lot of pro style offense with kids we tried to recruit. We beat a quality team and we are 6-3. This game may not be pretty to some folks, but it was sure pretty to me. We're very fortunate. We played good together. They persevered and found a way.
"Scott Davenport really stepped up. Josh Melton was really a warrior in the middle. Carlos Hall may not have had a ton of sacks, but he had a lot of hurries and his big arms in the quarterbacks face the whole agme. I'm glad he won the Crip Hall award. Fred Talley isn't quite back to full speed, but he's fast enough. George Wilson and Richard Smith make huge plays again and again.
"I appreciate all the bowl people here, but we don't talk about it. We still have two tough weeks ahead."
On whether Weber State will count for the bowl eligible list, Nutt said, "Take a look at our schedule. They should give us that one. I think we're bowl eligible."
"I had my overtime playbook ready and thought, 'Here it comes again.' But it was a great job by our defense."
Tony Bua makes a tackle against UCF.
Fred Talley looks for running room.
Matt Jones tries to turn the corner.
Dean Weber checks on linebacker Caleb Miller.
The UA defense prepares to rush the Knights.
The Hogs prepare to run a play.
Mike Markuson instructs the offensive line.
Markuson talks to Scott Davenport and Shawn Andrews.
Matt Jones calls a play.
Houston Nutt talks with the defense.
John Thompson works with the defense along with Dave Wommack.
The secondary gets some instruction from Thompson and Wommack.
Homecoming Queen Jennifer Brooks during the halftime ceremony.
Josh Melton zeroes in on a block.
Jim Tran and his buddy (we don't know his name, but we know his game ... digging for gold) were the winners of the Excedrin hit of the game. Unless you were there, you don't know what we are talking about. I'm looking for Tran's buddy.
Photos by Lance Davis.