Arkansas won the battle in total offense, but made mistake after mistake to help Kentucky dominate the third quarter in a 29-17 SEC victory. The Hogs outgained the Wildcats, 515 to 332, but a muffed punt by the Hogs and Wildcat punt returns of 37 and 86 yards more than made up for that difference.
Arkansas led 10-9 at the half thanks to mistakes in the kicking game by the Wildcats. Kentucky missed a chip-shot field goal of 23 yards and had an extra point blocked that would have tied the score with 1:15 to play.
The Hogs might have made a strategical mistake in Kentucky's scoring drive late in the half when they took a holding penalty and gave the Wildcats a second chance at converting a third down. The Wildcats probably would have gone for a field goal when Jared Lorenzen passed incomplete on a third-and-6 play from the UA 32. The Hogs took the penalty to set up third-and-16 at the 42, perhaps out of field goal range. But, Lorenzen found Aaron Boone for a 19-yard completion. A pass interference penalty moved the Wildcats to the 7-yard line. Lorenzen passed 4 yards to Tommy Cook for the touchdown. That allowed the Wildcats to trim the halftime deficit to 10-9 when Jeb Huckeba blocked Taylor Begley's extra point. The drive started in favorable field position when Derek Abney took advantage of a clip for a 37-yard punt return to the UK 49-yard line.
Kentucky opened the scoring with a 9-play, 49-yard march with the opening kickoff to Begley's 49-yard field goal. Lorenzen found Boone on a bubble screen for 20, and hit Abney for 11 for the big plays in the drive.
The Hogs had a chance to answer when they marched to the UK 31-yard line with their first possession. The drive stalled when Jason Peters dropped a perfect throw from Jones. David Carlton's 51-yard field goal try was partially blocked and fell well short.
Lawrence Richardson forced a fumble aftger a 41-yard screen pass and then recovered to give the Hogs their second possession. It took only two plays, both of them long runs, for the Hogs to take the lead. Talley circled right end for 52, then Mark Pierce rambled through a big hole over left guard for the final 34 yards. It was a two-play, 86-yard march. It was 7-3 Arkansas with 7:49 left in the first quarter.
The Hogs made it 10-3 on Carlton's 26-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter. Tarvaris Jackson quarterbacked the first five plays of the drive, then gave way to Matt Jones for the final seven plays after Kentucky gave the Hogs a second chance when it had 12 men on the field on a punt. The Hogs lost a chance at a TD when Jones fired a strike to Peters in the end zone, but the big tight end had it bounce off his hands.
The Hogs saw their next possession fizzle despite a 29-yard draw by Talley when Jones found himself with one man to beat on the option. Instead of pitching to a wide-open Mark Pierce, he tried to beat the lone defender and then fired a bad pitch high and behind Pierce. That wasted a brilliant chance on a third-and-11 play and forced a punt.
The Wildcats took advantage of a block in the back on the punt return to start them on their way for their lone touchdown in the first half. Caleb Miller was in position to make the tackle early in Abney's 37-yard return, but two officials near the play missed the call. Boos rang from Reynolds Razorback Stadium on the replay as Hog fans saw the officiating error, too.
The Wildcats outgained the Hogs, 247-229, in total yards behind the solid play of quarterback Lorenzen. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 217 yards. Jones was 4 of 8 passing for 81 yards, but had a couple of passes dropped by his tight end. Fred Talley made 92 yards on 8 runs.
The Hogs lost defensive end Justin Scott to an ankle sprain in the first half. They gave playing time to Peters, Brandon Holmes and true freshman Wes Murphy at end in the first half.
Arkansas made two kicking game mistakes and a turnover to allow the Wildcats to take control of the game in the third quarter. The Wildcats won the third quarter, 20-7, and really didn't need much offense to do it.
Matt Jones was intercepted on the first play of the half, and the Wildcats needed just one play to convert. Artose Pinner bounced outside and through Elliott Harris for a 12-yard touchdown run. Kentucky had the lead at 16-10 after just 23 seconds of the third quarter.
Arkansas converted one first down on three straight runs, but had to punt when three more runs produced just three yards. Abney took Butler's 47-yard punt at his 14 and sailed through the heart of the coverage team for an 86-yard touchdown return. The extra point failed to leave the UK lead at 22-10 at 11:17 of the third quarter.
Jones engineered a 9-play, 65-yard TD march with Howard bouncing outside for the final yard. The big play was the first one, a 19-yard completion to Richard Smith with UK giving the Hogs 15 more on the play for a late hit. It was 22-17 with 8:03 left in the quarter.
The Hogs forced a punt on Kentucky's next try, but Birmingham's attempt at an on-the-move catch backfired. He had the ball slip through his hands and UK recovered at the Arkansas 17-yard line. The Wildcats beat the blitz with a screen to Cook for an 18-yard touchdown play to make it 29-17 at 3:56 left in the third quarter.
The Hogs failed on downs to end their next two drives. Jones dropped the snap out of the shotgun and was tackled for a 6-yard loss on a fourth-and-3 play from the UK 18-yard line on the first play of the final quarter. Tarvaris Jackson got the next UA try. After Talley ripped off a 21-yard burst and Jackson passed to Thomas Crowder for 14, Jackson was sacked on a fourth-and-5 play from the Arkansas 40-yard line with 8:41 left.
That gamble didn't cost the Hogs any points when the defense came up with a three-and-out series. But, the Hogs had to start at their own 6-yard line after Lorenzen's pooch punt. Jones returned to lead the Hogs four first downs before they faced fourth-and-10 at the UK 20-yard line with 4:30 left. After taking a timeout, Jones had to scramble before throwing the ball up for Birmingham. The UA wideout made the catch, but it was good for only 5 yards and the Hogs had their third straight drive fail on downs.