Jim Harris: Razorbacks Respond In Big Way To Record Crowd For Spring Game

by Jim Harris  on Saturday, Apr. 21, 2012 6:15 pm  

A record 45,250 were on hand at Razorback Stadium for Saturday's Red-White game. (Photo by Mark wagner)

This story is from the archives of ArkansasSports360.com.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas sophomore cornerback Tevin Mitchel, who wasn’t on campus for last year’s Razorback spring game, wasn’t sure how many fans to expect for Saturday’s Red-White clash. He was hoping for 20,000, he said late Saturday afternoon.

UA senior quarterback Tyler Wilson said he almost felt choked up when he took the field and saw a record spring crowd in the Reynolds Razorback Stadium stands.

In maybe the most tumultuous time in Hog football history — with Bobby Petrino suddenly no longer guiding the program and who-knows-who taking over — a crowd of 45,250 fans watched Wilson, Mitchel and the first-team Razorbacks put on a dominating offensive and defensive performance, annihilating the backups 65-0.

Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, the former head coach’s brother, said, “I think it’s a credit to the Razorback Nation. It’s a credit to the fans and the passion they have for this football program. It’s also a credit to believing in the coaches and players. I think that’s a sign saying, ‘Hey, these players are leaders. They’re going to go out and give everything they’ve got. These assistant coaches have done everything they could this spring.’ ”

Acting head coach Taver Johnson was at Ohio State last year and went through a similar situation when Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel was fired, leading to an interim coaching situation during the fall. Johnson said he was amazed at his first time to run onto the field alongside recuperating running back Knile Davis, who sat out all but the game’s first play while being withheld from contact all spring.

“It was an awesome, awesome day,” Johnson said. “It was a great atmosphere and that is what our players needed. To feel that excitement from the fans is really rewarding.”

Johnson and the rest of the staff said they were splitting up the teams as the Red “ones” (first team) versus the White “twos,” but the backups were more like “twos-and-a-half.” A couple of would-be starters were mixed into the White team’s offensive line in the first half, or it could have been downright dangerous for the quarterbacks, even if the whistle blew before actual sacks occurred. The backup signal callers, Brandon Mitchell and Brandon Allen, were given a chance to quarterback with the Reds in the second half after Wilson had put up astronomical numbers.

Most of that record spring-game crowd quickly dispersed after Wilson and the Reds had established a 30-0 halftime lead. The quickness displayed by the Red defense, which included the top two defensive lines, top four linebackers, top three corners and four safeties, was too much for the backups to muster much against offensively, even with the likes of junior All-SEC guard Alvin Bailey blocking.

Wilson wrapped up a spring in which he totaled 1,600 yards and a 77 percent completion rate in all scrimmages — “I want it to be 80 percent,” he said later — and didn’t suffer an interception. He recalled only one interception even in non-scrimmage drills during the 15 days of spring work. Wilson had a ridiculous 404 passing yards by halftime Saturday on 26 of 34 passes with one bad drop by the usually sure-handed Chris Gragg.

Gragg still had nine catches for 130 yards and, on one 60-yard scoring play, looked as fast as any tight end in the SEC.

Wideout Cobi Hamilton started as Wilson’s favorite target and ended up pulling in 11 passes for 156 yards. Sophomore Marquel Wade looked a lot like the departed Joe Adams with his quick feet while snaring six passes for 136 yards.

Might this trio be the next “big three” receiving corps, now that Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs are headed to NFL camps soon?

And, speaking of Wright, who was among last year’s seniors on hand Saturday, the Warren product said, “I was real impressed when I came out here and saw how many fans supported us. This is another reason I came to be a Razorback. Getting a chance to be out here and be reminded why I chose Arkansas, this is a great feeling.”



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