Arkansas 30, No. 18 Tulsa 23

Senior quarterback Casey Dick passes for a career-high 385 yards and freshman Dennis Johnson breaks a deadlock with a 96-yard kickoff return as Arkansas downs No. 18 and unbeaten Tulsa 30-23 Saturday afternoon before 70,021 fans at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

It was senior day at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, but it was a University of Arkansas freshman that ended up turning in the game-changing play that spoiled unbeaten Tulsa's dream season.

Dennis Johnson returned a kickoff 96 yards late in the third quarter of a tie game and the Razorbacks went on to down the No. 18 Golden Hurricane 30-23 Saturday afternoon in non-conference action before 70,021 fans.

"It killed us," Tulsa head coach Todd Graham said afterwards. "It was the difference in the game."

Arkansas' defense preserved the win by stopping the nation's most prolific offense on a 4th-and-5 from the Razorback 7 with less than a minute left when senior Jamar Love locked down the intended receiver.

"We did need the win," Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino said. "Our players played extremely hard, fought, started fast. I liked the way we started the game and then we just held on and won it at the end."

Ironically former Arkansas offensive coordinator and current Tulsa co-OC Gus Malzahn called for the Wildcat formation - one he highlighted with the Razorbacks - featuring former Nashville star A.J. Whitmore on second and third down of the goal line stand.

Whitmore gained just one yard on his first direct snap and then was dropped for a three-yard loss on third down - with both tackles being made by Matt Harris, who had a game-high 12 stops.

"We almost popped it," Malzahn said. "We felt like the Wildcat had been working for us all day, so we figured it gave us the best chance shot to punch it in. That wasn't the real difference in the game, though. The difference was all those missed scoring opportunities we had in the third quarter."

Senior quarterback and Crip Hall award winner Casey Dick passed for a career-high 385 yards, Alex Tejada kicked three field goals and receivers D.J. Williams (6 catches, 129 yards) and Jarius Wright (5 catches, career-high 112 yards) both topped the century mark.

Dick, who was 25-of-38 passing with a touchdown and a pick on the day while winning the homecoming game's ouutstanding senior award, was just two yards off Clint Stoerner's single game passing mark of 387.

His only big mistake was an interception in the end zone, going for freshman wideout Greg Childs with 3:10 left in the game.

"He (Dick) did a nice job, distributed the ball well," Petrino said. "We mixed it up and got a lot of receivers involved, receivers made big plays, made runs after catch. D.J. had a great game. It's a good thing because we couldn't run the ball very well."

Arkansas (4-5) snapped a two-game losing streak while Tulsa (8-1), the nation's most productive offense, saw its BCS bowl hopes dashed.

"Obviously our BCS hopes are wounded, but we still want to finish up the conference undefeated and win the Liberty Bowl," Tulsa defensive end Wilson Garrison said. "We need to practice hard and band together as a team. This is just a bump in the road."

The loss happened despite Little Rock native Charles Clay catching 7 passes for 131 yards and rushing 2 times for 31 yards for the Golden Hurricane.

Whitmore had 8 carries for 38 yards and had his double reverse pass intercepted by Jerry Franklin.

"Arkansas came out and played very aggressively on both sides of the ball," Graham said. "Hats off to Coach Petrino and his staff. They had their guys ready to play today. The crowd was unbelieveable. This is a very difficult atmosphere to come into and play."

The fourth quarter was a scoreless one, the first quarter all season that Tulsa has failed to score in.

The game featured 953 yards total offense with Tulsa – averaging 601 yards and 55.6 points per game coming in – piling up 528 yards to Arkansas' 435.

"Our defense did an excellent job," Petrino said. "They had a great game plan going in, our players just kept playing hard and kept pass-rushing and made some huge plays that really were the difference in the game."

Razorback junior tailback Michael Smith rushed 23 times for 69 yards, but sacks limited the home team to just 50 total yards rushing.

"During preparation we thought we would be able to run the ball, which we soon found out we couldn't," Petrino said.

Right after Jarod Tracy's 22-yard field goal tied it 23-23 all, he booted the ball to Johnson.

Kick off man Cory Jefferis was the last man of defense and he whiffed as Johnson roared 96 yards for the score.

"it was huge," Petrino said. "He did an excellent job. We had some good blocks, but he made a great cut and broke a tackle and then showed his speed. It was a great job."

Tejada's PAT surged Arkansas ahead 30-23 with 22 seconds left in the third quarter.

"I think we did a nice job understanding and preparing all week, understood the game plan," Petrino said. "We just went out there and competed very hard."

Arkansas scored on its first three possessions in the opening quarter.

The Razorbacks covered 80 yards in 9 plays on the game's opening drive.

The jaunt included a 34-yard pass to Wright, a 16-yard one to Williams and a 13-yard TD toss to Andrew Davie.

Tejada, returning as the kicker for the game, booted the PAT for a 7-0 lead with 10:42 left in the first quarter.

He boosted that 10-0 at the 5:57 mark with a 30-yard field goal at the end of a 6-play, 44-yard drive.

"Tejada had a great game today," Petrino said. "He had a great week of practice. He is more relaxed and more confident. He really is staying focused, too. His day was today. After a good week of practicing and doing all the little things to prepare, it ended up really helping Tejada in the long run."

It grew to 17-0 when Smith bulled his way in from 7 yards out with Tejada's extra point with 2:22 remaining.

He had covered 27 yards on the previous play and the drive also a 10-yard, 3rd-down conversion to Lucas Miller and a a 20-yard toss to Joe Adams – with Miller and London Crawford both throwing decleating blocks on the play.

That was a 7-play, 65-yard effort and at that point the Razorbacks had a 189-6 advantage in total offense.

"It was exactly how you would like to play it," Petrino said. "Go down and score, the defense get after them with a couple of three and outs. I think we had the ball almost the entire quarter."

Tulsa was not deterred and hung in there.

"We knew we had some work in front of us," Graham said. "Oure guys battled back with tremendous character and gave themseleves a chance to win the game."

Tulsa cut it to 17-7 on a drive that was sparked by a 47-yard pass from David Johnson to Clay.

That set up David Johnson's 22-yard scoring strike to Trae Johnson with 47 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Golden Hurricane had a chance to close that deficit more, but Ramon Broadway's hit on Tarrion Adams caused a fumble deep in Razorback territory.

But Tulsa was back on the attack quickly and Clay's 28-yard run cut it to 17-13 with 8:09 left before halftime.

It stayed that way because Tracy missed the ensuing PAT.

Tulsa had jumped ahead in the total offense battle 214-181 by that time.

Dick's short pass to Williams turned into a whopping 44-yard gain when he stiff-armed a pair of defenders.

Arkansas, as it has had trouble doing all season, could not get into the endzone from 1st-and-goal at the 6.

The Razorbacks settled for Tejada's 22-yard field goal to push the Razorbacks ahead 20-13 with 4:39 showing before intermission.

Damarius Johnson's 81-yard kickoff return stole back the momentum and David Johnson's 2-yard touchdown pass to Clay and Tracy's PAT tied it 20-20 with 3:08 left.

Arkansas took a 23-20 lead into the break on Tejada's 22-yard field goal with 17 seconds left. After 43 points in the first half, only 10 were scored after the break. "That was a lot of fun," Dick said. "We tip our hats to the defense. They played a heck of a game."

Arkansas returns to SEC action next week when it travels to South Carolina for a noon game on Saturday.

The Razorbacks, who need two wins to be bowl eligible, will then have an open date and visit Mississippi State before closing out the regular season with a game in Little Rock against LSU.

"We want to have a defense that is hard-nosed and tough," Harris said. "We dedicated this game to the seniors and we got it done for them. We want to go bowling."

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