Posted 9/3/2011 09:54 pm
Updated 2 years ago
FAYETTEVILLE — Tyler Wilson got off to an efficient, if not spectacular, start at Arkansas.
Ryan Mallett's backup the past two seasons threw for 260 yards and a pair of touchdown to Jarius Wright to help the No. 15 Razorbacks beat Missouri State 51-7.
The junior had plenty of help in the form of a dominating defensive performance and a pair of punt returns for touchdowns by Joe Adams, who tied a Southeastern Conference record with his performance.
Wilson saw action on only four offensive possessions for Arkansas (1-0) while splitting time with sophomore Brandon Mitchell, but he made the most of his time. He guided the Razorbacks to 303 yards of total offense on 24 points in those opportunities, completing 18 of 24 passes and throwing touchdown strikes of 33 and 29 yards to Wright.
"My focus was there and it really didn't waver too much," Wilson said. "The jitters weren't as much as I thought going into the game, and after the first couple of throws, I was ready to go. I was on target."
While Wilson had his way with Missouri State, the Bears (0-1) struggled throughout behind true freshman Kierra Harris at quarterback. Harris, starting in place of suspended starter Trevor Wooden, gained just 18 yards of offense in the first half and were outgained 468-163 overall.
Missouri State went three-and-out on its first four possessions and never recovered, falling behind 30-0 at halftime. The Bears' lone highlight was a 33-yard touchdown pass from Harris to Jermain Saffold late in the third quarter, one play after a Mitchell fumble gave Missouri State the ball deep in Arkansas territory. Harris finished 8 of 14 passing for 70 yards, while Chris Douglas led the Bears with 72 yards rushing on 18 carries.
"We're going to be all right," Missouri State coach Terry Allen said. "I was disappointed offensively in the first half, but we probably held them back a little bit. We tried to huddle a little bit with Kierra, and that's not what we do.
"So we went out in the second half and went back and did the things we do and we obviously executed a little bit better."
The Razorbacks had no shortage of highlights, with Adams providing two of the best. The senior was sprung by a Marquel Wade block for a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter, though he later made that look pedestrian.
As the punt by Missouri State's Jordan Chiles rolled around loose on the ground with the Bears' special unit closing in, Adams picked up the ball and made his way to the right sideline. With nowhere to go there, he turned and made his way back across the field to the left — eventually cutting through the heart of Missouri State's special teams unit and down the right sideline for a 78-yard touchdown return, his second of the game.
The returns were the second and third of Adams' career, with his last being a 97-yarder against Mississippi last season.
"It was a lot of fun," Adams said. "Both time my group set it up well, and I just tried to do the best on the return. I didn't think the second one was going to go. I did a lot of shaking and baking. I was tired at the end."
Arkansas' offense didn't need much help as it began the Wilson era. Making his first start since his senior season in high school in 2007, Wilson led the Razorbacks on touchdown drives of 80 and 70 yards in the first half. After Mitchell saw action on two first-half possessions, Wilson then closed out the first half by directing a 10-play, 63-yard drive that resulted in a 32-yard field goal by Zach Hocker that put Arkansas up 30-0 at halftime.
Wilson continued his efficient play on his one possession of the second half, leading the Razorbacks on a 10-play, 90-yard drive. He finished the drive off with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Wright, who led Arkansas with 6 catches for 108 yards and planted one foot just inside the edge of the end zone to put the Razorbacks up 37-0.
The Razorbacks rushed for only 102 yards total in the absence of Knile Davis, who is out for the season after breaking an ankle during fall camp. Ronnie Wingo led the way with 43 yards on 11 carries, while freshman Kody Walker had 33 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 9 carries.
Mitchell also played well during his time under center for Arkansas, completing 10 of 11 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown pass to Chris Gragg, but Wilson showed why coach Bobby Petrino selected him as the starter last week.
"It's the way we're supposed to start," Petrino said. "It's what you'd say mission accomplished."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.