HOUSTON (AP) — Arkansas got a victory in the Texas Bowl to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2011.
Now coach Bret Bielema is looking for much bigger things from his program in the future.
“If they continue to have the growth they did this year, they’re going to be able to do some special things,” Bielema said.
Brandon Allen threw for 160 yards and two scores as Arkansas rolled to an easy 31-7 win over Texas in the Texas Bowl on Monday night, the Razorbacks’ first bowl appearance since 2011.
It was the first game between these former Southwest Conference rivals since 2008 and it ended a two-game skid in the series for Arkansas. The game was played in front of a sellout crowd that included Earl Campbell, who won the Heisman Trophy at Texas in 1977.
“To go through what we’ve been through and come back around and pull this program back together and beat Texas — it couldn’t have been set up any better,” Arkansas senior defensive end Trey Flowers said.
Arkansas (7-6) built a 24-7 lead by halftime and Jonathan Williams, who finished with 105 yards rushing, added a 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
Texas (6-7) was smothered by Arkansas’ defense almost all night and finished with a season-low 59 total yards to wrap up its first season under coach Charlie Strong. It was the second straight lopsided bowl loss for the Longhorns, beaten 30-7 by Oregon in the Alamo Bowl last season.
“At some point we’ve got to develop and get the pride back in this program,” Strong said. “Texas has got to mean something. Right now it doesn’t mean much.”
Tyrone Swoopes, hurried and harassed all night, finished 13 of 25 for 57 yards with an interception for Texas.
Allen credited his team’s performance on defense for helping the offense excel.
“Holding teams to zero points, to seven points is such a huge confidence boost to us on offense,” said Allen, selected the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Alex Collins added 76 yards rushing for the Razorbacks and Keon Hatcher had 41 yards receiving with a touchdown.
Flowers had a sack and two tackles for losses to give him 47 1/2 tackles for losses in his career.
The Longhorns had just 25 yards on offense in the fourth quarter before Swoopes went 5 for 6 for 34 yards on one drive. But just when things were looking up for Texas, Henre’ Tolliver intercepted a long pass by Swoopes and returned it 46 yards, and the Razorbacks ran out the clock.
These teams played for 60 straight years before the Razorbacks joined the SEC after the 1991 season. The Longhorns came in having won the last two meetings, including a 52-10 victory in 2008.
The touchdown run by Williams made it 31-7 early in the fourth quarter. Williams gained 5 yards on fourth-and-1 a play before the score to keep the drive going.
Texas couldn’t do anything offensively for most of the game, but things were particularly bad in the third quarter when the team lost 17 yards to enter the fourth with just 29 yards of total offense.
The Longhorns had minus-1 yard passing before Swoopes completed four passes for 31 yards on a drive capped by his 9-yard touchdown run that cut the lead to 17-7 about four minutes before halftime.
“We just didn’t execute,” Swoopes said.
Hatcher was wide open in the end zone on a 5-yard pass from Allen that pushed the lead to 24-7 just before halftime.
A punt by Sam Irwin-Hill pinned the Longhorns at their own 4 in the second quarter. Johnathan Gray fumbled a bad handoff from Swoopes and the ball rolled into the end zone where Taiwan Johnson pounced on it for a touchdown to make it 17-0 about 8 1/2 minutes before halftime.
It was the second fumble recovery of his career and his first score.
Arkansas pushed the lead to 10-0 early in the second quarter when Allen, under heavy pressure, found Demetrius Wilson in the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown. Wilson got behind a defender to make the diving catch. It was the second career touchdown reception for the senior and his first since 2012.
The Razorbacks took a 3-0 lead with a 32-yard field goal by Adam McFain with about five minutes left in the first quarter. That drive was helped by a lucky play, when Jared Cornelius grabbed a 12-yard reception before Mykkele Thompson caused him to fumble. The ball sailed into the air and into the hands of Hunter Henry for an 8-yard gain.
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