Wilson saves Arkansas' season against Texas A&M
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) - Tyler Wilson took the final snap, his first signature victory as Arkansas' quarterback in hand.
The junior may very well have saved the Razorbacks' season as well in a 42-38 comeback win over Texas A&M on Saturday.
No. 10 Arkansas (4-1) overcame an 18-point deficit, equaling the largest rally in four seasons under coach Bobby Petrino. The Razorbacks also rallied from 18 down again Louisiana-Monroe during Petrino's first season, but that team didn't have nearly the expectations this one entered the season with.
That team also wasn't coming off a confidence-crushing 38-14 loss against No. 2 Alabama like this one, and the Crimson Tide hangover was evident for Arkansas as it fell behind 35-17 at halftime Saturday.
Wilson, in only the fifth start of his career, stepped out of the shadow of predecessor Ryan Mallett for good after that - finishing with 510 yards passing on 30-of-51 passing. He found senior Jarius Wright 13 times for 281 of those yards, and Broderick Green returned from a knee injury sustained in spring practice to complete the comeback with a 3-yard touchdown run.
"What a day's work,'' Petrino said. "It took a full day's work to win that one.''
Wilson and Wright rewrote the school's record book during the win, setting marks for passing and receiving yards. Wilson passed Mallett's mark of 409 yards set against Vanderbilt last season, and Wright topped Mike Reppond's record of 204 yards set against Rice in 1971.
Despite the aerial show, it was Green who provided the biggest surprise and second-half lift. The senior tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during spring practice in April and was expected to miss the entire season.
Green made faster-than-expected progress in his recovery, and Arkansas' coaches mentioned the possibility of his return last week. He did just that in the first half - scoring on a 1-yard touchdown that brought the Razorbacks to 21-14 in the second quarter.
His biggest runs came in the final minutes. They included the go-ahead touchdown and a 10-yard run on third-and-8 that gave Arkansas its final first down and allowed it to run the clock out on the emotional win.
"I never saw this happening at all,'' Green said. "I thought I'd come back next year. I feel amazing. I was pumped. I kept telling myself, `I can do this.'''
As excited as the Razorbacks were following the win, the Aggies (2-2) were on the complete other end of the spectrum.
The loss marked the second straight second-half collapse for No. 24 Texas A&M, which blew a 20-3 halftime lead against Oklahoma State the week before and lost 30-29. It also dropped the Southeastern Conference-bound Aggies to 0-7 against its future SEC colleagues since the inception of the Big 12, though coach Mike Sherman was more concerned with this season than any historical significance.
"Certainly a disappointing second half of football,'' Sherman said. "... But again, pretty much the same plate as last week. Too little too late, and we came up short.
"I do think that we're contributing to our demise in the second half. We definitely have to play better, coach better and be better in order to win football games.''
The win was especially satisfying for Wilson, who had spent much of his first SEC start against Alabama on his back due to the Crimson Tide's relentless pass rush. The Razorbacks entered this season with three new starters on the offensive line, and Texas A&M continued Wilson's harassment in the first half.
Despite the deficit and hits, Wilson threw for 271 yards in the half and continued to believe Arkansas could rally in what he had called a "must-win'' game.
"You can't get up in how many passing yards you've thrown for or what the score is,'' Wilson said. "It's just chipping away. We had success spreading `em out in an empty formation. I knew we'd have success in the second half if the defense could hold `em a few times and I thought we had a really good shot.''
While Wilson cemented his place in the hearts of Razorbacks fans with the dramatic win, Arkansas' offensive line might have also grown up in the process. The group gave Wilson more time in the second half, and Green said it was "tearing'' the Aggies' defense up.
The win also allowed a collective sigh of relief for Wright and the rest of the Razorbacks playmakers, who offensive coordinator Garrick McGee called out for a lack of competitiveness against Alabama.
McGee had no complaints on Saturday.
"I thought our performance last weekend was not acceptable at all,'' McGee said. "They were going to compete like crazy and leave it all on the field. I'm really proud of the way they came back.''
AP Sports Writer Jaime Aron in Arlington, Texas, contributed to this report.