FAYETTEVILLE - When University of Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino sat down to draw up the rosters for the Red-White game, he had in mind fashioning a highly competitive game.
In fact, he took four hours to get to the point he was happy with it – then kept the White team for himself and turned the Red over to Razorbacks offensive coordinator Garrick McGee.
It turned out to be a mission accomplished as the White team used 10 late points to pull away from the Red 31-21 Saturday night at Reynolds Razorbacks Stadium before a crowd announced at 30,000.
"I thought it was real competitive," Petrino said. "I thought the players were flying around and competing. We were sloppy at certain things, particulary putting the ball on the ground. That's something we don't do a lot of. Maybe it's because we were hitting hard and flying to the ball."
Alex Tejada's 37-yard field goal gave the White a 24-21 lead with 10:27 left, but the game was still in doubt until the last drive.
True freshman signal caller Jacoby Walker, who enrolled at the UA in January, ripped off a 24-yard run to get his White team to the Red 6.
He had to leave the game when he tweaked a hamstring and turned things over to Nick Petrino, the coach's son.
Petrino capped a 9-play, 58-yard drive with a 3-yard scoring run with 2:10 left – a play that left McGee feeling mixed emotions.
There might have been a bet between the coaches.
"I know it felt good for him (Coach Petrino) when Nick went and dove the ball in there," McGee said. "He was scrambling and looking for somewhere to throw it. He sold out and went out for the touchdown to close the game out.
"I am kind of caught," McGee said. "He is one of my players so I am proud of the way he did compete…but I was on the opposite side trying to get the ball out and he closed us out."
Petrino said, "It was a fun spring game. When you split the teams up, it becomes more fun. The competitive spirit came out of our players all week long. That was one of the things why I did split the teams because I felt like we would practice better and compete against each other in practice better.
"When you do split the teams, your execution goes down a little bit and we certainly did that tonight," Petrino added. "We certainly did execute as well as you would like tonight. It got sloppy a couple of times when we fumbled the ball and had turnovers, but for the most part it was a fun spring game.
"It was fun for the players and a good way to end our spring football."
It was two young quarterbacks – Walker and redshirt freshman Brandon Mitchell - that showed off the penchant for the big play in the first half.
"He did a real nice job on that run," Petrino said. "We caught a safety with his eyes in the backfield and jumping down on the fullback. I thought Brandon did a nice job with the ball-handling."
Cameron Bryan's PAT hit the upright before bounding through to give the Red a 7-0 lead with 2:24 left in the opening quarter.
Walker – the true freshman signal caller – came through on a third-and-16 from his own 38.
He loaded up his right arm and hit Lance Ray on a 50-yard bomb to the Red 12.
Ronnie Wingo - who led all rushers with 18 carries for 88 yards - carried the ball on the next six plays, finally bulling in from a yard out for the score.
Tejada's PAT tied it 7-7 with 13:16 left in the second quarter.
It was Mitchell's turn and he hit Greg Childs on a 69-yard bomb that led to Mitchell scoring himself on a 1-yard touchdown run.
Byran's extra point put the Red ahead 14-7.
Mitchell – who completed 2 of 5 passes for 80 yards and rushed 6 times for 71 yards - had missed almost a full week of practice because of the death of his uncle.
"Brandon's first two weeks, I thought he really made great strides, but when he had to leave for that funeral this week was hard on him because he had a lot of catching up to do," Petrino said. "I felt like he did a nice job of coming out tonight and executing."
Walker hit Wingo on a 31-yard scoring pass with 23 seconds left before intermission, but Tejada missed the extra point to leave it 14-13 at halftime.
Walker gave the White the lead in the third quarter when he connected with Jarius Wright (7 catches, 118 yards) on a 47-yard touchdown pass.
Walker was 6-for-11 passing for 183 yards with the two touchdowns and also rushed five times for 24 yards.
He also ran in the 2-point conversion to surge the White ahead 21-14 with 9:30 remaining in the third.
Redshirt sophomore Tyler Wilson (8-for-15, 133 yards) got in on the act by tossing a 44-yard scoring toss to Cobi Hamilton before the third quarter ended and the PAT tied it 21-21.
It was a game where there were eight fumbles, three of which that resulted in turnovers.
"I would say that today was successful," Wilson said. "Overall, though we have got to get better all around. The turnovers were the most frustrating part of today. I think all of the quarterbacks had a great day."
The two defenses combined for 11 sacks on the night.
"We struggled some times to complete some passes and some of that was the pass rush," Petrino said. "I thought the pass rush kind of took the quarterbacks out of rhythm at times early in the game.
"We came back in the second half and Jacoby hit some long runs and Nick did a nice job of executing the running game and getting us into good plays."
Petrino said some of that was to be expected what with the offensive lines split up.
"They get the advantage when you split the offensive front up," Petrino said. "You are not used to working with each other and the defense gets the advantage. They certainly put pressure on the quarterbacks and competed real hard."
McGee echoed that sentiment.
"I did know that when we split the teams that some of the communication would be off and a little different," McGee said. "The quarterback and the center were a little different. But I do think these guys competed hard. I think they came in every single day and really did what we wanted ask them to do. I think we are headed into the right direction."
While the Razorbacks got 15 spring workouts in, decisions on positions and just how good a camp it was will be made after watching the film.
"We will have a ways to go to identify everything because we have to go back and evaluate our cut-ups of spring," Petrino said.
Petrino feels like his team has its offense and defense installed and now just has to refine it.
"I think the easy part for our coaches is that our players understand the scheme and understand what the plays are," Petrino said. "Now the key is to being great with your technique and how you execute inside the scheme."
Brandon Mitchell scampered 88 yards for a TD.
Broderick Green rushed for 53 yards on eight carries.
Rudell Crim comes up with a fumble from wideout Greg Childs.
D. J. Williams rolls with a pass completion.
The defense closes in on Cobi Hamilton.
Photos by Marc F. Henning, Hawgs Illustrated