Arkansas looks to close strong in 2nd half
Tyler Wilson remembers the long walk to the locker room at halftime of the Texas A&M game.
Arkansas trailed by 18 points to the Aggies, and Wilson said the five-minute walk to the Cowboys Stadium locker room provided plenty of time to think about the 35-17 deficit. Once he arrived for the halftime meeting, the Razorbacks quarterback liked what he saw.
''There was no panic in there, and that's what's great about this team,'' Wilson said. ''There's always fight.''
Arkansas showed plenty of that fight in the second half against the Aggies, rallying for a 42-38 win. That carried over to the following week, a 38-14 win over Auburn.
The No. 10 Razorbacks (5-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) now hope to continue that momentum into the second half of the season, beginning when they travel to Mississippi (2-4, 0-3) on Saturday.
Arkansas used a strong finish last season to reach its first BCS bowl game, winning its final six regular season games to earn a spot in the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State. In order to do the same this season, the Razorbacks will likely need to win their final eight games, including a regular-season finale at No. 1 LSU.
The scenario seemed hardly possible after a 38-14 dismantling at the hands of No. 2 Alabama on Sept. 24. However, everything changed after that second half against Texas A&M.
''The team is pretty confident,'' Arkansas linebacker Jerry Franklin said. ''We came out in that half and really just (were) trying to see what we could do to win a game. `What can you do to do your job better?'
''... We're really just kind of carrying that on just starting to roll with it.''
Wilson threw for a school-record 510 yards in the win over the Aggies, and he followed that up with 19 straight completions at one point in the win over Auburn. The Razorbacks lead the SEC in passing (336.8 yards per game) and are second in scoring (39.2), both numbers that provide plenty of optimism as they prepare to face a struggling Ole Miss team and former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt.
Despite that, Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino sees room for improvement.
''You're never where you want to be, ever,'' Petrino said. ''You always want to be better.''
The Rebels enter the game in danger of losing their 10th straight SEC game, something that's never happened in the school's 79 years in the league. They are coming off a 52-7 loss to Alabama, one that isn't made any easier as their league-worst defense prepares to face an Arkansas offense that's averaging a league-best 466.2 yards per game.
''They're good,'' Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson said. ''Their offense is very fast. They've got two or three receivers who could be No. 1 receivers. We're going to have to come with it as a defense.''
The Rebels also lost two defensive starters to injuries last week.
Wilson closed out Arkansas' win over Ole Miss last season in Fayetteville after former quarterback Ryan Mallett was injured.
''I love his toughness, No. 1,'' Nutt said. ''... He is an excellent quarterback. He gets them to the right play. He has been so consistent. We played against Tyler last year at this time, and we know he has more confidence than he did last year.''
Arkansas opened this week at No. 9 in the BCS rankings, the schools highest spot in the initial release. The Razorbacks are also likely to be favored in each of their next five games, beginning the next two weeks against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt teams that are a combined 1-6 in the SEC.
After that, they return home for a three-game stretch that begins with a South Carolina team that's without its former starting quarterback in Stephen Garcia, who was dismissed from the team, and running back Marcus Lattimore, who is out of the season with a knee injury. That's followed by Tennessee, which is also without injured starting quarterback Tyler Bray, and a Mississippi State team that's 0-4 in the SEC.
Wilson isn't looking that far ahead, nor is he placing too much importance on the BCS ranking.
''Obviously, it's nice to be at that point,'' Wilson said. ''It's kind of an honor to say, `This is the first time in the school history that we've been ranked at that point this early.' But, obviously, we've got some work ahead of us and we've got a lot of goals that are much higher than even that.
''We're not gonna get too caught up in it. We're gonna come out and try to achieve the goals that are still ahead.''
AP Sports Writer David Brandt in Oxford, Miss., contributed to this report.