LEXINGTON, Ky. – Mike Hartline’s two touchdown passes in the final five minutes rallied Kentucky to a 21-20 victory over Arkansas in Southeastern Conference action on Saturday.
Leading 20-7 and with the ball at its 41 with 4:56 to go, an Arkansas fumble on first down let the Wildcats back in the game. Hartline found Randall Cobb for a 32-yard score in the right corner with 4:15 remaining, pulling UK within 20-14.
Arkansas failed to pick up a first down on its following possession and was forced to punt from its 12.
Kentucky took over at its 35. Following a 14-yard completion to Alfonso Smith to the 21, Hartline hit Cobb in stride on a slant pattern from the right slot position.
Arkansas was unable to move the ball on its final possession. Following a motion penalty and three incompletions, Casey Dick’s fourth-down pass was intercepted at the Arkansas 47 by Marcus McClinton to seal the comeback for Kentucky.
The loss drops Arkansas to 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the SEC. Kentucky is 5-2 and 1-2.
The loss offset a career night by Razorback running back Michael Smith. He ran for a personal-best 192 yards and a touchdown on 35 carries. He also had three receptions for 33 yards.
Dick finished 11-of-29 for 94 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Hartline was 17-of-32 for 239 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Smith had five receptions for 108 yards, including a 71-yard score, and Cobb had five catches for 73 yards and two touchdowns.
Arkansas appeared to be in control midway through the fourth quarter.
Leading 20-7, the defense stopped Kentucky on fourth-and-two at the UK 48 with 8:33 left. A little more than three minutes later, Ramon Broadway’s interception and 26-yard return gave Arkansas the ball at its 41 with 4:56 to go. Arkansass fumble on first down put the Wildcat offense back on the field and led to Hartline’s 32-yard scoring pass.
Following an Arkansas field goal, Kentucky cut a 17-point deficit to 17-7 in the third quarter on a 71-yard pass from Hartline to Smith. Smith took the swing pass in the right flat and outraced the defense down the right sideline.
Arkansas answered with its longest and possibly strangest drive of the year. The Razorbacks moved 87 yards in 20 players and took 9:45 off the clock before settling for Shay Haddock’s 23-yard field goal. The kick gave Arkansas a 20-7 lead with 10:00 remaining.
The drive included seven penalties. Arkansas overcame a block below the waist and a holding penalty to pick up a first down on second-and-27 on a pass interference penalty. Arkansas later benefited from a 15-yard face mask penalty and a 15-yard roughing the passer call to pick up a first down on third-and-11 at the UK 25. After getting to the Wildcat two, an illegal shift penalty against Arkansas pushed the ball to the seven and Haddock made his second field goal of the game three plays later.
A turnover helped Arkansas take a 17-0 lead midway through the third quarter. The Razorbacks began the period by driving to the Kentucky 36 before the drive stalled. Jeremy Davis punted, but the ball bounced off DeMoreo Ford and was recovered at the UK seven by Shedrick Johnson.
A five-yard second-down run by De’Anthony Curtis put the Hogs on the two, but a third-down pass was incomplete. Shay Haddock’s 24-yard field goal hit the left upright but bounced through for a 17-0 lead with 9:45 left in the third.
Arkansas led 14-0 at the half, scoring its most points in the opening half this season and recording a shutout over the first two periods for the first time since leading Ole Miss 21-0 at the break on Oct. 20, 2007.
Wendel Davis’ hit and forced fumble on running back Derrick Locke helped the Razorbacks take that lead. Freshman linebacker Jerry Franklin scooped up the fumble and returned it 14 yards to the Kentucky 18. Following an illegal motion penalty, Dick hit Smith coming across the middle for a 22-yard touchdown with 1:15 left in the half.
Arkansas scored its first first-quarter touchdown of the season following free safety Elton Ford’s interception. Ford returned the pick 23 yards, but a personal four penalty put the ball on the UK 24
Smith did the rest himself, getting all 24 yards on five carries. His 10-yard run to the two set up the score on the following play for a 7-0 Hog lead at the 8:09 mark.
The Razorbacks had a chance to add to the lead after driving from their 21 to the Kentucky one. After getting stopped from the one on first and second downs, Smith, who had a 53-yard gain on the drive, had the ball knocked out of hands with trying to stretch across the goal line.
The Wildcats had a chance to get on the board late in the second quarter. Kentucky pinned Arkansas deep in its territory and a punt gave UK possession at the Hog 37. Locke had carries of six and nine yards, but the defense forced incompletions on second and third down from the 11, and Ryan Tydlacak’s 30-yard field goal was wide right.
Arkansas returns home to play host to Ole Miss on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.