On Oct. 1, 2011, the No. 18 Arkansas Razorbacks took on Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It was the final time the two teams would face off as non-conference opponents.
A week before the Southwest Classic matchup, the Razorbacks made the trip to Tuscaloosa. Arkansas was coming off three consecutive home wins to start the season but they struggled and lost at Alabama.
First-year starting quarterback Tyler Wilson remembers leaving Tuscaloosa with one thing in mind.
“Most people, fans and players alike were very disappointed with our performance,” Wilson said. “We didn’t show up to play. We knew we could play better. We were excited to get back to Fayetteville and practice that week.
“As a kid, you dream about playing in an NFL stadium. It was a great opportunity to be able to play in the stadium that the Dallas Cowboys play in,” Wilson added.
The stage was set. Stakes were high. The pressure was on.
The Razorbacks got off to a challenging start and trailed the Aggies 35-17 going into the half. But Wilson never let doubt or the fear of losing enter his mind.
“I remember the locker room at halftime. It didn’t feel like we were down 18 points. We had some great drives right before the half that got our momentum going and there was no sense of panic. We all looked at one another like ‘we need to get this thing going now.’”
The Razorback defense stepped up in the second half and limited Texas A&M to just three second-half points. Offensively, the nation watched Wilson and wide receiver Jarius Wright dominate, as the two helped guide Arkansas to four second-half scoring drives.
Wilson set a new school record with 510 passing yards. Wright caught 13 passes for a school-record 281 yards.
The statement was made. Above bragging rights and breaking records, Wilson was happy to have his team back on the winning track.
“When you’re in the middle of a game you don’t realize how many yards you’re throwing for,” Wilson said, “I just remember being so motivated to move the chains. I didn’t even know I set the school record. I left everything I had on the field. The awards that came to me after that game were unmatched by the win as a whole. Confidence coming out of that game was sky high.”
That confidence carried into conference play as Arkansas went on to win the next six games, all against SEC opponents. Wilson believes winning in Arlington was the spark needed in the 2011 season.
“That game was the defining moment.” Wilson said. “We had high expectations for our season early on. Our running back, Knile Davis, was expected to be one of the biggest contributors. When he got hurt, no one knew if we could win games without him. When you lose key players so early, like this year’s team, you feel lost. We needed to find our identity. We found it in Arlington.”
The 2015 Razorbacks are hopeful to find their identity at 6 p.m. on Saturday against the same opponent and in the same stadium as the 2011 team. The first three weeks of the season brought adversity, but a new season, the SEC season, begins Saturday.