The quarterback guided the Razorbacks to wins in the two longest games in college football history. Jones has rewritten Arkansas quarterback rushing record charts. He also led the Hogs to a last-minute, miraculous win against LSU that pushed them into the 2002 Southeastern Conference Championship Game.
But Jones was responsible for Arkansas' heartbreaking, 22-20 loss to bitter-rival Texas on Saturday night.
The Razorbacks' all-everything senior carelessly lost a fumble deep inside Texas territory with two minutes, 42 seconds minutes remaining, killing Arkansas' hopes of a monumental upset against No. 7 Texas in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. A record crowd of 75,671 watched in shock when defensive tackle Larry Dibbles poked the ball from the Jones' left hand and safety Phillip Geiggar recovered at the Texas 7.
Arkansas (1-1) had one more chance to score with time running out, but Jones' last-second pass was intercepted Geiggar.
Jones, who typically takes disappointment in stride, stood frozen on the Texas 35 with his hands on his hips while Texas celebrated.
"Just keep your head up and keep going," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said he told Jones after the game.
But that'll be hard for the Hogs after the stunning loss. The Longhorns (2-0) snapped a three-game losing streak against the Razorbacks and improved to 17-3 all-time in Fayetteville. More important, they avenged last season's 38-28 home loss and the teams closed out the home-and-home series with one win apiece.
Texas did so by dismantling the "soft" label attached to them the past few years. The run-oriented Longhorns grinded out 259 rushing yards behind tailback Cedric Benson and forced four Arkansas turnovers with their hard-hitting defense.
Benson, a Heisman Trophy candidate, ran for 188 yards and a touchdown. He also added the game-winning touchdown in the third quarter, when he caught a screen pass from quarterback Vince Young and marched into the end zone from 13 yards.
The elusive Young was responsible for the touchdown, shaking four Razorbacks in the backfield. He looked up and found Benson alone in the flat and gave Texas a 22-17 lead it wouldn't relinquish.
"A game like this, whith all the hype, takes a lot of preparation and it's a relief to come away with a win," Benson said.
But the Longhorns came close to another loss to the Razorbacks.
Arkansas placekicker Chris Balseiro helped the Hogs move to within 22-20, hitting a 35-yard field goal with 9:58 left. He began preparing for another when the Razorbacks took over at their own 48 with 6:11 left.
Tailback De'Arrius Howard started the drive with a 7-yard run. True freshman Peyton Hillis gave the Hogs a first down with a 1-yard gain on third-and-1. Jones found receiver Cedric Washington on the next play for a 27-yard completion that gave Arkansas a first down at the Texas 15.
The Hogs soon faced third-and-8 at the Longhorns 13, but were within Balseiro's range for a game-winning attempt.
Jones' decisive fumble started as a designed pass for an Arkansas tight end. But Nutt said the receiver fell down and Jones began dodging Texas defenders. He got to Arkansas' 7, but was holding the ball out with his left hand when it was poked free.
But it didn't take long for Arkansas to come to Jones' defense despite the mistake.
"You can't point a finger at anybody," Hillis said minutes after the game ended. "Matt's won us a lot of games, too. It was a team effort so it was a team loss.
"He's human. He's going to make mistakes."
The 76th installment of the Arkansas-Texas rivalry might've ended in heartbreak for the Razorbacks, but the game provided plenty of fireworks.
Jones completed 9 of 17 passes for 169 yards, but threw two interceptions. His counterpart, Young, completed 10 of 18 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns and added 56 rushing yards.
Texas -- intent on wiping away a "soft" label that has been handed to them the past few seasons -- kept the ball on the ground between Young and Benson for 16 of its 18 plays in the first quarter. A year after gaining 62 yards on the ground against the Razorbacks, Texas pounded the ball on the ground for 154 yards in the first half and scored touchdowns on its first two possessions.
The only pass play in that stretch was the Longhorns' first score.
After pounding the ball for two first downs on six rushing plays, Young found tight end David Thomas streaking past Arkansas strong safety Lerinezo Robinson. Thomas caught the ball at Arkansas' 25 and the 49-yard touchdown catch gave Texas a 9-0 lead.
Benson squirted through Arkansas' front seven one possession later, winding his way 60 yards to the Arkansas 4 before being brought down by free safety Vickiel Vaughn. Benson finished the seven-play, 70 yard drive two plays later with a 3-yard touchdown plunge that bumped Texas' lead back to nine at 16-7.
While Texas rolled, Arkansas struggled because of costly miscues.
The first came early, when long snapper Brett Goode vaulted the ball over punter Jacob Skinner's head. It skipped out the back of the end zone and gave Texas an early 2-0 lead.
Tailback DeCori Birmingham fumbled at the Texas 33 in the second quarter, killing a drive that started at the Arkansas 32. True freshman Weston Dacus bumped into Texas punter Richmond McGee on fourth-and-3 and the 5-yard penalty gave the Longhorns a fresh set of downs.
But Arkansas did get on the board in the first quarter behind a big play from receiver Chris Baker. The sophomore found a seam in Texas' zone defense and caught a 46-yard pass from Jones at the Texas 17. Hillis scored his third touchdown of the season from eight yards out to make it 9-7.
Nutt dipped into his bag of tricks later to help the Razorbacks close a 16-7 deficit in the second quarter.
On second-and-7 from the Texas 34, Jones flipped a lateral out to senior receiver Carlos Ousley. Ousley, who played some quarterback at Jacksonville Englewood (Fla.) High, tossed a tight spiral in Birmingham's direction near the goal line. Birmingham used his experience at receiver to shield off Geiggar and defensive back Tarrell Brown to haul in the ball for a 34-yard score to make it 16-14.
Backup tailback Dedrick Poole replaced Birmingham after the senior's fu
mble and also made a big contribution.
The junior, who has seen little playing time in his first two seasons, caught a screen pass from Jones on third-and-7 from Arkansas 40 and sprinted through the Texas defense. Poole was reeled in by Geiggar and defensive back Michael Huff at the Razorbacks' 10, but set up Balseiro's 27-yard field goal with 2 minutes, 8 seconds left in the first half.
After trailing by 10 points, Arkansas went to the locker room with a 17-16 lead.
But it was one the Razorbacks couldn't hold.
"Our guys played their guts out," Nutt said. "We turned the ball over and gave away eight points. We gave them some gifts."
Hawgs Daily Top Stories
Arkansas On Game Days | Tailgate TravelsAs much fun as it is being at an Arkansas football game, the pregame can be just as enjoyable, especially if you have an RV. Head out to Fayetteville to see what makes the…
Scout CFBFriday at 9:20 AM
Cats Picked To Win SEC CrownThe voters at SEC Media Days are convinced: Kentucky has reloaded.
AllWildcatsWednesday at 10:13 AM
Scout 2017 Rankings DirectoryThe Scout positional, state, regional, national and team rankings for the Class of 2017...
Scout Football7:00 AM
"They Are Playing Really Good Football"Arkansas Coaches Bret Bielema and Dan Enos talk about facing Auburn this weekend and the challenges that presents for the Razorbacks.
Inside The AU TigersWednesday at 9:26 AM
Scout's Top 25 Recruiting ClassesScout has a new top school in the recruiting rankings. Take a look at capsules for the top 25 classes in the country, including a new number one.