beats headphones in ear Arkansas survives opening scare

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The Razorbacks overcame a major scare to beat the Bulldogs 21 20 at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. It was Arkansas’ 10th straight win in a home opener, but much closer than expected. The Razorbacks were a 20 point favorite.

“I know everybody would have, including myself at the end of the day, would have liked to come out of here with a larger margin of victory,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. “But . I knew (the Bulldogs) were going to be a good football team, very well coached.

“I don’t know if my first three years here we would have won that football game, A, from the way we called it to B, the way we rallied there at the end and were able to pull it out. A lot of times we were in that exact same situation and came away with defeat.”

Austin Allen’s 4 yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Sprinkle with 6:37 remaining gave the Razorbacks the lead. Louisiana Tech drove to its own 48 on the ensuing possession, but Deatrich Wise and Jeremiah Ledbetter teamed up to sack Bulldogs quarterback J’mar Smith for a 10 yard loss on what would end up being Tech’s final offensive play.

The sack forced Louisiana Tech to punt the ball back to Arkansas. The Razorbacks had a second and 2 after an offsides penalty, but the Bulldogs’ defense stuffed Rawleigh Williams on consecutive runs to force the decisive fourth down play.

“You make the fourth down decision looking to have success,” Bielema said. “The last one, it’s just a gut feel. I just had a feeling we were going to have a nice push, and it ended up sealing the game.”

Arkansas caught a break early in the fourth quarter when Louisiana Tech kicker Jonathan Barnes missed a 40 yard field goal attempt off the left upright. The kick would have given the Bulldogs a two score lead.

Barnes had made field goals of 43 and 20 yards in the third quarter to give Louisiana Tech a 20 14 lead.

He missed a 54 yard attempt to end the first half. The game was tied 14 14 at halftime.

The Razorbacks took advantage of Barnes’ fourth quarter miss with a 13 play, 77 yard drive that was capped by Allen’s fourth down pass to Sprinkle. Allen rolled to his right on the play then threw back across the field to Sprinkle behind the Bulldogs’ defense.

“I’m glad (Bielema) called it,” Allen said. “We’d been practicing that play all week, everybody knew what they were doing and we did it perfectly. It worked out for us.”

That was one of the few highlights for Arkansas’ pass game. Allen was sacked four times and hurried several more. He also threw two interceptions in the first half that Louisiana Tech converted into touchdowns.

Allen finished his first career start 20 of 29 for 191 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Arkansas’ run game also struggled at times. Aided by sacks, the Bulldogs held the Razorbacks to 109 yards on 40 carries.

Williams was Arkansas’ bright spot in the run game. Playing his first game since suffering a major neck injury last October, the sophomore finished with 96 yards on 24 carries and scored a touchdown.

The Bulldogs took a 7 0 lead on Smith’s 9 yard touchdown run with 9:11 to play in the first quarter, but the Razorbacks responded with two scores to take the lead.

Arkansas’ first touchdown of the season was on a 6 yard run by Williams with 2:52 left in the first quarter. The Razorbacks took the lead on a 13 yard pass from Allen to Jared Cornelius midway through the second quarter.

It looked as if Arkansas may extend its lead when Dre Greenlaw intercepted a pass in Louisiana Tech territory on the Bulldogs’ next possession. But Allen was intercepted by Prince Sam inside the red zone.

Sam returned the interception 34 yards and the Bulldogs put together a seven play scoring drive that was capped by Jarred Craft’s 1 yard touchdown run 1:40 before halftime.

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beats headphones in ear Arkansas survives opening scare