FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ 24-0 third quarter beat Tennessee’s 13-0 first half for a 24-13 Razorbacks SEC victory over the slightly favored Volunteers Saturday night at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
First-year Coach Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks advance to 3-3 in the SEC and visit nationally No. 8 SEC East leading Florida, 4-1 next Saturday night in Gainesville, Fla.
“I’m sure if you were home on TV or whatever on the sideline it was fun to watch,” Pittman said of Arkansas’s comeback. “Really great for our program to be 13 down at half and come back and win it.”
Third-year Coach Jeremy Pruitt’s Vols, ranked 16th nationally when they started 2-0, now struggle 2-4 going into next Saturday’s game vs. nationally seventh-ranked Texas A&M.
Tennessee’s struggles seemed over with the game’s first 30 minutes.
The Vols’ huge offensive line, the main cause for Tennessee’s early season ranking now long gone, dominated.
Arkansas defense generally bent but didn’t break. Twice it limited the Vols scoring to 50 and 48-yard field goals by Brent Cimaglia.
Cimaglia’s first field goal capped a game-opening 12-play 42-yard drive. The second capped an 8-play 49-yard second quarter drive.
They sandwiched the 16-plays 81-yard touchdown drive. Vols running back Eric Gray (31 carries for 123 yards) scored the 1-yard standing up touchdown at 13:35 the second quarter.
Arkansas’ only first-half scoring threat ended with A.J. Reed, later to kick a 48-yard field goal and 3 of 3 PAT’s, missing a second quarter 21-yard chip shot wide right.
The Hogs’ halftime mood reflected their scoreboard.
“At halftime you could see they were kind of down,” Pittman said. “So I told them, ‘No!. No! No! No! No! We’ve got nothing to be down about. We get the ball. We’ll go score. We’ll be one touchdown down and everything will be fine.”
And they were.
“They went on a four score run there quick, fast in a hurry in the third quarter,” Pittman said.
It started with the 17-play 75-yard drive opening the second half.
Arkansas’ defense “fed off” that scoring drive, safety Jalen Catalon (12 tackles and a game-ending interception) said, and pitched a second-half shutout.
While the Hogs gained momentum, the Vols lost their quarterback.
Airborne then hitting his head on the ground upon hit by Arkansas nickel back Greg Brooks, Tennessee senior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano (5 of 8 passing for 42 yards and 5 carries for 31 yards missed the second half after that last play for him in the first half.
Sophomore backup Brian Maurer struggled 0 for 4. then heralded freshman Harrison Bailey, 6 completed for 9 but was intercepted twice. Defensive end Eric Gregory corralling Greg Brooks’ deflection, picked off the first. Catalon’s pick in the end zone ended the game.
Tennessee’s pounding running game, so first half effective, lost second-half steam with Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom’s crew making adjustments and intimidating the Vols’ quarterbacks .
Meanwhile Arkansas’ offense went electric charged by quarterback Feleipe Franks (18 of 24 for 215 yards and three touchdowns). The Razorbacks rushers, led by running backs Trelon Smith, 9 for 72, and Rakeem Boyd, 19 for 65, netted 198 yards.
“That’s kind of what they did to us in the first half,” Pittman said of the running game rolling.
Franks, receivers Treylon Burks and Mike Woods and tight end Blake Kern certainly torched Tennessee passing and catching.
Burks (5 catches for 95 yards), Woods (3 for 64)) and Kern (3 for 40) logged a touchdown each from Franks.
Woods scored the first, this 1-yard catch capping that second-half opening drive at 9:46 that included two passes to Burks and one to Kern, with receiver John David White recovering Kern’s fumble of a 10-yard reception at the Tennessee two.
Following the first of Tennessee’s three third-quarter three and outs, Arkansas scored in three plays. Boyd ran for five. Woods at first credited with a 62-yard touchdown before review showed he stepped out of bounds tightroping the sideline for a 56-yarder to the six. Kern then caught his 6-yard touchdown.
Arkansas needed but two plays, Smith’s 22-yard run, and Franks and Burks improvising for a 59-yard touchdown bomb, for its next drive.
“He (Burks) saw Feleipe scramble,” Pittman said. “We have scramble rules. He ran hitting the sideline and he ran across the field and hit in that middle of the low-middle-high on the scramble rules. Feleipe saw him and got it to him and he (Burks) did the rest.”
“We do those type of things like scramble rules and you never know when you’ll need it until you need it,” Franks said. “Burks did a great job of redirecting with me, going back out and I tried to get him the ball and he made a great play.”
Quarterbacking a second Arkansas turnover free game saved by right tackle Dalton Wagner recovering Franks’ lone fumble, Franks logged a 24-yard run before Reed kicked his 48-yard field goal with seven seconds left in Arkansas’ third quarter bonanza.
Catalon’s pick preserved the second half shutout of a scoreless fourth quarter following Arkansas’ third quarter scoring 24 points and yielding but 16 Tennessee yards those 15 minutes.
“I mean, 24 points and 16 yards,” Pittman said. “You know what momentum is and we had it. And we rode it at least all the way through the third quarter.”