Veterans solid as Razorbacks finish disappointing season

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Arkansas Razorbacks’ final possession of the season ended with an overthrown incompletion in the LSU end zone.

It was an effort to extend the season and set up an overtime in the Hogs’ season finale against the Tigers at Reynolds Razorback Stadium Friday afternoon.

But in the end, the
overthrown pass sealed the Tigers’ 20-13 victory and put a bitter end on one of the most disappointing seasons for the Razorbacks in recent history.

“It was as season where it did not go like we had hoped, but the kids played hard and they did everything we could ask of them,’’ Arkansas coach John L. Smith said. “I am proud of every one of those kids in the locker room. I told them to fight in life — whatever they do — like they did out there today.

“This year has been a tremendous year. I loved being with these guys. They did all they could do. It was a step in my life. You can’t turn your back on those guys and vice-versa.’’

Most Razorbacks fans came into this season with dreams of a national title because of the return of quarterback Tyler Wilson, receiver Cobi Hamilton and running back Knile Davis. Wilson and Hamilton, who both finished with school records, turned in another strong showing against the Tigers, while Davis, who has struggled most of the season coming back from an ankle injury, turned in one of his best showings of the season.

“In a lot of ways, what happened out there today was like our season,’’ said Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, whose brother, Bobby, was fired as Arkansas’ head coach in April. “We drive down the field and we fumble at the 2. We missed a couple of field goals. That seems to be the way the season went. But these guys fought all the way to the end.”

Another reason for optimism among the Razorbacks fans was having LSU and Alabama on the home schedule. On their way to a 4-8 finish, the Hogs were blown away 52-0 by Alabama but had some fight left for the Tigers.

“I thought our defense played their tails off,’’ said Smith, who was named the team’s interim coach after Bobby Petrino’s dismissal. “We challenged them at halftime and told them they needed to step up and give us a chance.’’

The Tigers had just 141 yards offense in the second half.

“It was a game of big plays, and they made some big plays,’’ said Smith. “They have some very good athletes on the other side, too.’’

For most of the season, Wilson and Hamilton carried an offense that struggled at times.

“The way we played defensively was incredible,’’ said Wilson. “Offensively, we gave them a lot to look at and executed pretty well. We just didn’t execute those defining plays.

“It’s been a fun ride. ... It’s been a life lesson for me, not only the records and that stuff, but it’s been a wonderful time, and I’m glad I got to spend it at Arkansas.”

Wilson, playing his final game with the Hogs and the holder of 27 school records, completed 31 of 52 passes for 359 yards and a touchdown. He also scrambled for 38 yards on nine carries and was sacked just once. Hamilton, who set the record for career receptions with 175, caught 10 passes for 98 yards.

“I just went out there and had fun,’’ said Hamilton, a 6-foot-3 receiver from Texarkana, Texas. “I was just glad to go out there and get to play with my teammates one more time. I was not down. I was just enjoying playing as a Razorback one last time.’’

Hamilton, who caught passes in 34 straight games, went down with an ankle injury in the final quarter, but returned for the Razorbacks’ final drive, on which he caught an 8-yard pass.

Wilson holds the record with 7,765 yards in his career and turned in his seventh career 350-yard passing game and his fifth this season, both school records.

Davis, one of the Southeastern Conference’s top rushers in 2010, missed last season with a broken ankle and never regained his form this season. His 86 yards of offense, 31 rushing, was his best performance of the season.

One of the bight spots for Arkansas was place-kicker John Henson, who got his first playing time after Zach Hocker missed two first-half field goals. Henson hit field goals of 25 and 17 yards.

“I thought about it last week. I felt John deserved a shot. He is very accurate,’’ said Smith.

It was the first time the teams have played in Fayetteville since 1992.