University of Arkansas sophomore Ryan Mallett threw for 405 yards, a career-high tying five touchdowns and broke two school records as the Razorbacks routed the Trojans 56-20 Saturday night in front of 66,442 fans at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas became bowl eligible with the win.
Seven different players scored for the Razorbacks (6-4) as the UA notched its first 3-game winning streak since the 2007 season and surpassed last year's win total during a 5-7 season.
"I thought we really played hard," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "Offensively we executed most of the game. We got a lot of guys involved and we had guys making plays all over the place."
"We had a great plan going in," Mallett said. "We studied the film and knew what they were doing. They were bringing a lot of zone pressure and we usually see man pressure. Our system is built to beat zone pressure so once we saw that, we've been waiting two years to make that play."
He set school records with 2,882 yards passing in a single season and passes without an interception (141) before throwing one on a bomb right before halftime.
Both of those were held by Clint Stoerner before Saturday night, but Mallett shrugged them off afterward.
"We got the win," Mallett said. "I'm always going to tell you that we got the win and that is the most important thing. We're bowl eligible and we're ready to go bowling, but we've got to play Mississippi State first and then go to LSU and we are trying to win out so we've got to go to work tomorrow and Monday."
Mallett has 23 touchdowns this season to just four interceptions and has a shot to overtake Stoerner's single-season mark of 26 scoring tosses by season's end.
The win came without the services of Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson, who was taken by ambulance from the Broyles Center and hospitalized Friday with an infection.
Linebackers coach Reggie Johnson took over the defensive play calling, Petrino said.
"I think the entire team had to rally," Petrino said. "We're missing Willy Robinson, which is unfortunate. Word is that he is home and doing well, which is great. Everybody just pulled together and we had two reasons to win the game – one for the seniors and one for Coach Robinson, who we dedicated the game to."
Troy (7-3) had its seven-game winning streak snapped with the loss.
It was one that had begun after a 56-6 loss to SEC Eastern Division champ and defending national titlist Florida.
"There is a gap between the conferences," Troy coach Larry Blakeney said. "The Sun Belt is improving. We as a team are improving. The gap will always be there because the SEC is the best."
Troy quarterback Levi Brown, who came into the game with the nation's longest streak without an interception, threw three picks on Saturday night.
He had that streak up to 265 passes before Matt Harris picked him off in the second quarter.
"It was not a smart throw," Brown said. "I wasn't thinking about the streak because if I had been I wouldn't have thrown that ball. I was just trying to make a play."
Brown was 29-of-50 passing for 321 yards, but left the game in the third quarter after being battered by the Razorback defense.
"Defensively we just battled," Petrino said. "They are a very good offense. They were very impressive to me. Their quarterback, the way he can throw it and get his receivers the ball, but our guys kept hitting them and I think the hits started to wear on them."
Mallett tossed touchdown passes to Joe Adams, D.J. Williams, Greg Childs, Jarius Wright and freshman tailback Ronnie Wingo, who also scored on the ground.
"He played well," Blakeney said of Mallett. "He has a big arm and he is very proud of it. He was throwing the ball 60 yards, 10 to 15 times before game. He's a great and passionate player. He's very astute in what they do."
The Wingo reception – on which he took a screen pass and covered the rest of the 83 yards himself – capped the scoring on the night.
"Ronnie took it all the way however long that was and nobody touched him," Mallett said. "We've got guys that can do that. It's fun to play in an offense when you've got guys that can do that."
Broderick Green (8 carries, 45 yards) and freshman Knile Davis (4 carries, 13 yards) also scored via the run while Dennis Johnson didn't find the end zone but led the way with 58 yards on just 4 carries.
Johnson also broke the school's record for kickoff return yardage with 1,799 yards, 50 yards more than Felix Jones had during his three years with the Razorbacks.
The Razorbacks rushed for 187 yards while piling up a 592-455 yard total offense advantage.
"They are getting better each week," Blakeney said of Arkansas. "They play with a lot of passion. I thought we would do better on offense coming in and I think we could have done better than what we did. Their defense played well against us."
Arkansas got right to work on its opening possession with Mallett hitting Adams on a 23-yard scoring strike.
Alex Tejada's first of eight extra points on the night was true on a night and the Razorbacks had an early 7-0 lead.
Tejada's last PAT of the night – the 125th of his career - tied him with Bill McClard on the UA's all-time list. He passed Steve Little (121) during the game.
That lead grew to 14-0 early in the second quarter when Green – who now has a team-leading nine touchdowns runs this season – banged in from a yard out at the 13:55 mark.
"The game was frustrating," Troy linebacker Bear Woods said. "We kept fighting to the end and kept our heads high, but we could have played better."
The Trojans got on the board on Brown's 3-yard toss to Jason Bruce, but the Razorbacks would answer with two more scoring drives before the half.
Wingo's 16-yard run capped the first with 3:42 left in the second quarter and then Mallett hit Childs on a 13-yard touchdown pass with 1:26 before intermission to make it 28-7.
"He's a great passer with a big arm," Woods said. "Being big and tall definitely helps him in the pocket. He played a great game."
Michael Taylor's field goal for Troy with 37 seconds left before halftime cut it to 28-10.
Taylor then added a 20-yard field goal to start the scoring in the third quarter to cut Arkansas' lead to 28-13.
"We kept settling for field goals in the red zone and you can't do that against an SEC school and hope to win," Brown said. "We didn't make plays in the red zone. There were some positives for us, we moved the ball, but we just couldn't get any points."
Mallett marched his team right down the field, connecting with Williams on a 28-yard touchdown pass to make it 35-13.
Williams had four catches for 62 yards in the game and has caught 11 passes for 199 yards in his last two outings.
Andrew Davis caught a 17-yard pass from wideout Jonathan Chandler on a trick play to cut the lead to 35-20, but that was the last points the visitors would score.
Mallett hit Wright on a 9-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter before Wingo's 83-yard catch-and-run and Davis' 9-yard run capped the scoring.
Arkansas will host Mississippi State next Saturday in Little Rock at 11:21 a.m.
"We're happy about that (being bowl eligible), but now we need to win the next game," Petrino said. "That's the biggest thing to us, to go and do a good job and beat Mississippi State."
Ryan Mallett illustrates at the end of Saturday night's win that the Razorbacks are now ready to go bowling.
Ronnie Wingo looks back as he races untouched 83 yards with a screen pass for a score.
Jerico Nelson, who had 12 tackles, lowers the boom on Troy running back DuJuan Harris.