Arkansas tops Tennessee 24-20 to end three-game skid
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Arkansas finally found a way to win a close game.
Alex Collins rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns Saturday as Arkansas defeated Tennessee 24-20 to snap a three-game skid. The Razorbacks (2-3, 1-1 SEC) entered the night having lost their last 10 games decided by seven points or less, with nine of those defeats coming since Bret Bielema took over the program in 2013.
”At some point in your life as a man, you’ve just got to finally take what the world wants to give you,” Bielema said. ”You can’t keep giving it away. Our guys really played well today. There wasn’t going to be anything but full throttle for four quarters.”
Arkansas erased a 14-0 deficit and hung on despite wasting a couple of second-half trips to the red zone on a blocked field goal and an unsuccessful fake field-goal attempt. Collins produced his third straight 150-yard game and put Arkansas ahead for good with a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
The combination of Collins and Rawleigh Williams helped Arkansas control the ball for nearly 22 minutes in the second half. Williams rushed for 100 yards on only 14 carries.
”Now everybody’s got it in their mind that we’re capable of finishing games, even when they’re close,” Collins said. ”I just wonder how the season’s going to from here on out, knowing if we’re ever in these close situations, now that we know how to, we can keep doing it.”
Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd ran for 90 yards, but he was held to a single yard on four carries in the second half. Arkansas’ defense overcame a broken leg to linebacker Josh Williams and held the Vols to three points and 90 total yards after halftime.
Tennessee (2-3, 0-2) has lost three of its last four games and has blown a two-touchdown lead in each of those setbacks. The Volunteers now find themselves at a crossroads with No. 8 Georgia and No. 13 Alabama looming as their next two opponents.
”Our competitive character is being tested,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. ”Our fortitude is being tested. All you can do is keep working – and work your way through it.”
Tennessee already had squandered a 24-10 fourth-quarter lead in a 31-24 overtime loss to No. 15 Oklahoma and a 27-14 advantage in the final period of a 28-27 loss to No. 25 Florida.
This time, the Vols didn’t wait until the fourth quarter to let a two-touchdown edge slip away.
Tennessee pulled ahead 14-0 when Evan Berry returned the opening kickoff 96 yards and Joshua Dobbs scored on a 7-yard keeper to cap the Vols’ first offensive series. The Vols were playing without injured receivers Alton ”Pig” Howard and Marquez North.
Arkansas tied the game in the second quarter and went ahead for good on its opening possession of the second half. Tennessee had just four possessions in the final two quarters.
This matchup between two preseason Top 25 teams attempting to bounce back from disappointing starts featured plenty of missed opportunities on both sides.
Arkansas’ Cole Hedlund had a 22-yard field goal blocked by Shy Tuttle in the third quarter. Arkansas also failed to convert a fake field-goal attempt from the Tennessee 10 with 8:32 left in the game.
The Vols fumbled in the red zone in the second quarter and had Alvin Kamara’s potential 71-yard touchdown on a punt return nullified by a block in the back later in the first half. Tennessee’s Aaron Medley had a 28-yard field-goal bounce off the left upright, though he later connected on kicks from 35 and 45 yards out.
”We just weren’t able to make big plays at big moments of the game,” Jones said.