FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – On a day that the nation turned its attention to Fayetteville, the team with the most powerful offense indeed carried the day.
It wasn’t, however, the 19th-ranked Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
Behind the career-high 385 yards passing from senior Casey Dick, the University of Arkansas Razorbacks ended the perfect season of the Golden Hurricane with a 30-23 thriller at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
The win moved Arkansas to 4-5 overall while Tulsa drops to 8-1 overall.
Dick threw went 38-25-1 with one touchdown, and was voted by the assembled media as the annual Crip Hall Award winner for the most outstanding performance by a senior in the Homecoming game.
"We thought we could do a lot more running the ball, but Casey had to throw it. He distributed the ball and he really understood the coverage and progression," Razorback head coach Bobby Petrino said. "In the fourth quarter, Lucas [Miller] made a great catch and he was number three in the progression.”
The game went to the final possessions as Arkansas looked ready to ice the game with a final drive before throwing an interception in the TU endzone. The Golden Huricane came back with a drive the length of the field before stalling at the Arkansas eight.
On a day that was touted as the coming out for Tulsa’s high-powered offense, it was Arkansas that flexed its passing might. Dick’s 385 yards was the second most in the school’s 100-plus year history as the Razorbacks racked up its best passing day of the season.
For the first time since 1997, Arkansas had two receivers with over 100 yards in the same game as D.J. Williams finished with 129 and Jarius Wright 112.
“It was a great momentum boost to come out and score early in the game," Williams said. "Everybody thought we would be down after those two losses, but we said we were tired of this and we wanted a win.”
The contest saw the two offenses roar in the first half, then the halftime adjustments kept the second half scoreless for all but a 30-second spurt at the close of the third quarter.
“It really took our players’ positive attitudes to win this game today," Petrino said. "We just came out of two tough losses, and Tulsa is a very good team. I was really proud of the defense for holding their offense to 23 points when they are usually making 50-to-60 points a game.”
The Razorbacks had lost their previous two games in the final minute by a combined three points. On Homecoming in Fayetteville, over 70,000 fans were eager for a win.
“Arkansas came out and played very aggressively on both sides of the ball," Tulsa head coach Todd Graham said. "Hats off to Coach Petrino and his staff. They had their guys ready to play today. The crowd was unbelievable. This is a very difficult atmosphere to come into and play.”
After a first half that saw 43 combined points, the two defenses choked off the scoring for the first 14:30 of the third quarter. Both sides had drives halted on four down tries, but Tulsa finally broke the scoreless drought by capping an 80-yard drive with a 22-yard field goal from Jarod Tracy with 36 seconds left in the quarter.
Cory Jefferis’ kickoff was fielded at the four by Dennis Johnson. The 5-7 freshman headed up field, then cut to his right through a seam in the Golden Hurricane coverage near the 35 yard line. Johnson angled for the sideline and outsprinted a trio of Tulsa pursuers to the end zone for a 96-yard touchdown to put Arkansas back ahead, 30-23.
The kickoff return proved the game winner for Arkansas as neither team could find the end zone in the fourth.
The Razorbacks took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards on nine plays to score first. Dick was 4-of-4 on the drive, including a 34-yard deep route to Jarius Wright and a 13-yard touchdown strike to Andrew Davie.
Arkansas’ defense held Tulsa to back-to-back three and out performances. The offense turned both into points, first with a 30-yard field goal from Alex Tejada, the first of the season for the sophomore.
“The defense really set the tone for the game today," Petrino said. "We couldn’t have asked for a better first quarter. We were fast and strong. [Tulsa] has a lot of really great players and plays. They threw a lot of deep balls, which you never see. It was a great game, but tough.”
The next possession, Dick moved Arkansas upfield for a 65-yard drive, capped with a pair of power runs by Michael Smith. Smith carried in for the last four on the touchdown, giving Arkansas a 17-0 lead with just over two minutes left in the first quarter.
The 17 points scored by Arkansas in the first quarter was more than the previous eight first quarters of the season combined.
The Golden Hurricane got its high-powered offense on track at the close of the first quarter, getting its first first down of the game. Tulsa got its first score of the game with 47 seconds left in the quarter, a 22-yard score from backup quarterback Jacob Bower to Trae Johnson.
The teams traded for the opening part of the second quarter before the Golden Hurricane put together a four-play drive capped with a 28-yard touchdown run by Clay. Tulsa’s Tracy missed the PAT to make the score 17-13 with 8:09 left before halftime.
Williams had a 42-yard reception on Arkansas next drive to help advance the Razorbacks to the Tulsa six-yard-line. Arkansas settles for the second Tejada field goal of the game, a 22-yarder, to move the score to 20-13.
Tulsa evened the score after Johnson returned Tejada’s kickoff 81 yards to the Arkansas 15 yard line. Four plays later, Johnson found Clay for a two-yard touchdown to tie the score at 20-20.
Arkansas drove to the Tulsa five before settling for another field goal, this time a 22-yarder, to head into the locker room leading, 23-20.