LITTLE ROCK — In the state of Arkansas, black bear hunting season typically does not begin until the winter. Second-year head coach Bobby Petrino and the University of Arkansas Razorbacks got a head start with a 21-point first quarter to begin a 48-10 rout of the Missouri State Bears before a sellout crowd at War Memorial Stadium.
The Razorbacks, 1-0, passed for a school record 447 yards behind the efficient work of sophomore Ryan Mallett and freshman Tyler Wilson. Both quarterbacks had sustained touchdown drives for the Razorbacks as Arkansas combined to hit 30 of 41 attempts with a lone interception. Missouri State drops to 0-1 in the season opener for both teams.
"We came down here and did what we set out to do," UA head coach Bobby Petrino said. "I was really happy with our preparation and the way that we traveled. We are a more mature team than we were a year ago and it showed in the game. There is a lot we have to learn, but first and foremost I want to emphasize the positive aspects. We will get to work and fix the negatives by next game."
The Razorbacks took control of the game at the kickoff as Dennis Johnson took Matt Hottelman’s opening kick off 91 yards for the first touchdown of the 2009 season. The PAT from Alex Tejada gave Arkansas a 7-0 lead 18 seconds into the game and led the way for the first 21-point quarter of offense in the Petrino Era at Arkansas.
"That kickoff return was demoralizing," Bear cornerback Cedric Alvis said. "College football is all about momentum and we started out without momentum."
Nearby Rogers, Ark., product Cody Kirby managed a first down after the Razorback kickoff, but under pressure from Freddie Burton hurries his pass and was picked by Wendel Davis. Mallett opened his Razorback career with a completion, and guided Arkansas to a short six-play, 46-yard drive capped by a 15-yard untouched draw from Michael Smith for the touchdown.
"The opening kickoff and the interception put us in a hole and we’re not a sure enough or good enough football team yet to overcome that," MSU head coach Terry Allen said. "I did see some things in the second half that showed me we were better this week."
Missouri State managed to get on the board when Hottleman connected on a career-long 53-yard attempt with 3:16 left in the first quarter. The Razorbacks responed before the end of the quarter with a one-yard touchdown run by Broderick Green, set up by a pair of receptions from Mallett to Jarius Wright.
Petrino went to his backup quarterback, Tyler Wilson, for the next series, and the 6-3 freshman led Arkansas to its fourth touchdown of the night. Wilson’s drive saw two fourth down conversions, including the two-yard TD pass to Van Stumon.
"I was happy with both of the quarterbacks tonight," Petrino said. "Ryan did a very good job showing a good demeanor and leadership. He got hit a couple times and it was a good thing. He stayed in the pocket and made good decisions. I was happy with the protection, timing, the way the ball came out of his hand and of course the accuracy."
Trailing 28-3, Missouri State put together its first touchdown drive of the night, aided by a fourth-down pass interference penalty in the Razorback end zone. After the flag, Jonathan Davis punched the two-yard run in for a 28-10 deficit.
Mallett returned to the game, and took his consecutive pass completions to nine before his first miss. Moving the Hogs inside the Bears’ four yard line, Tejada came on with 14 second left in the half to pick up his first field goal of the season with a 20-yarder to send the teams to halftime at 31-10.
“This game was everything I expected it to be," Mallett said. "It has been my lifelong dream to come out and play as a Razorback.”
Wright closed the first half with more receiving yards, 123, than the entire Missouri State offense as the Bears put up only 120 total yards. The Razorbacks had 290 yards in the first half, mostly through the air thanks to a 16-of-20 overall effort for 251.
Each time it appeared MSU could find life, notably three penalties that extended Bear possessions, Arkansas would deliver another crushing blow.
After an interception of Kirby at the Arkansas one yard line by Tramain Thomas, the Razorbacks proceded to march 99 yards in just 94 seconds to score. A 40-yard rambling weave through the Bear secondary by Joe Adams facilitated by key downfield blocks by his fellow receivers ended the lighting drive, and put Arkansas up 38-10 early in the third.
Missouri State couldn’t even win a video challenge from the Razorbacks, as a late fourth quarter punt was ruled to not touch an Arkansas player, giving the ball back the Hogs.
Arkansas’ offense was almost perfect, going until the final 1:43 of the game before a turnover as Wilson was picked off by Antonio Brown of MSU. The Bears could muster no further offense, closing the game with only 205 total yards.
Arkansas racked up 591 as a team, adding 144 on the ground. Ronnie Wingo, Jr., led the team with 50 net yards, but Smith used his four carries to rack up 43 yards and a touchdown, a 10.8 yards per carry average.
Wright closed with 139 yards on six receptions to lead the Razorbacks. Three other Razorbacks — Joe Adams, Cobi Hamilton and Greg Childs — had four catches.
On the evening, Mallett finished his first start for the Razorbacks by hitting 17 of 22 for 309 yards and one touchdown. Wilson was 13 of 19 for 138 yards. By comparison, MSU’s Kirby managed only 13 of 22 with two interceptions and just 205 yards.
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