ARLINGTON, Texas -- Certainly in these tough times Northwest Arkansas could use the economic boost the Razorbacks playing Texas in Fayetteville provides.
However, for the Razorbacks' well-being, this was a great year for the University of Arkansas to swap the game Texas still owes the Hogs in Fayetteville. Instead, they visited Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' football palace in Arlington, Texas for the first of 10 years of neutral site clashes with the Texas A&M Aggies.
Guaranteed had there been a 47-19 score against nationally second-ranked Big 12 power Texas in Fayetteville, the Hogs would have been on the 19 side.
But in Cowboys Stadium last Saturday night against these young not yet so powerful Big 12 Aggies, the Hogs won 47-19. They raised their record to 2-2 and raised Arkansas spirits flagged by successive 52-41 and 35-7 SEC defeats to Georgia and Alabama.
A&M is 3-1 but would be 1-3 replacing Georgia and Alabama with any two of their previous three non-conference lighweight foes that began last Saturday a combined 2-9.
It should be a more confident Arkansas team taking the Frank Broyles Field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium Saturday against unbeaten SEC West rival Auburn than the Arkansas team diffidently opposing Alabama, the nationally third-ranked defending SEC West champion, two Saturdays ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Compared to their bygone Southwest Conference days, these Aggies don't have game but they still have a name.
And some players with game. Aggie national sack-leading defensive end/outside linebacker Von Miller got his season's ninth sack in four games and also had another stop behind the line among his four tackles.
And Aggies athletic quarterback Jerrod Johnson resembled a former Dallas Cowboys quarterback. No, not Troy Aikman nor Roger Staubach.
Quincy Carter. Not good for the Aggies, but good for Arkansas' defense to make the athletic A&M quarterback resemble the former University of Georgia quarterback like he was the Cowboys' quarterback. As a Cowboy, Carter scrambled too much and accurately threw passes too little during some of the Cowboys' abyss between quarterbacks Aikman past and Tony Romo present.
After a hot start against Arkansas, Johnson threw too often and too inaccurately, 30-of-58. He might have stayed hot had receiver Ryan Tannehill not dropped a sure-thing would-be touchdown pass that would have put the Aggies up 17-7 and might have had the Hogs reeling.
Arkansas got lucky with Tannehill's drop but then made its own luck on the second-quarter game-changing play. It put the Hogs first-time ahead, 14-10 en route to a 30-10 at half.
A&M drove on the Arkansas 9 after Razorback Jerell Norton fumbled a punt. But defensive end Tenarius Wright nailed Johnson with a ball-dislodging jolt. Sophomore Arkansas linebacker Jerry Franklin of Marion not only recovered the fumble but rambled with it for an 85-yard touchdown.
Arkansas' offense and defense made it look easy after that.
Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett (17-of-27 for 271 yards and four TD passes) had a big night but he most saluted the defense for its big plays.
"Hats off to the defense," Mallett said. "They played their butts off. They are what kept us in the game."
And even while allowing 345 passing yards, scrambled A&M's scrambler like an egg. Led by sophomore Jake Bequette, the Arkansas defensive ends spent about as much time in the Aggie backfield as Johnson did. Seemed somebody from the Willy Robinson coordinated Arkansas defense was always knifing through A&M's young offensive line, especially Bequette blowing by Aggie freshman tackle Stephen Barrera, and hitting Johnson nearly every pass even if the stats showed just two sacks.
"Coach Robinson," Bequette said, "gave us the game plan to tee off to get pressure on this kid."
Offensively, Mallett and sophomore receiver Joe Adams, three catches for 110 yards and a TD, had big games but look deeper.
Finally the Hogs' vaunted but heretofore unseen running backs depth was visibly effective. As receivers, running backs Michael Smith, Camden's De'Anthony Curtis and Pulaski Academy's Broderick Green netted eight catches for 107 and three touchdowns, all with one TD catch each.
"They got caught up with our receivers," Smith said, "and left us open to slip in the backdoor and score a couple of touchdowns."
Led by freshman running back Ronnie Wingo's 62-yard TD, the Hogs netted 148 second-half rushing yards, finally achieving some run-pass balance Petrino says he craves.
On the balance, Petrino finally saw an Arkansas game positive both sides of the ball.
"I think," Petrino said, "we grew up a little bit tonight.