CFB preview: No. 24 Arkansas vs. Texas State
No team took greater strides in the second weekend of the college football season than Arkansas, which jumped into the rankings at No. 24 following its double-overtime victory over Texas Christian.
As a result, a game against Texas State that ordinarily would draw little attention is now nearing a sellout, and coach Bret Bielema's Razorbacks are drawing national press. The two teams meet at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. It will be telecast on the SEC Alternate Network.
Not bad for a team that squeaked past Louisiana Tech by one point in the season opener.
"We just have a bunch of senior leaders on our team," quarterback Austin Allen said. "They've been through a lot of situations and they know how to win football games."
Though not a senior, Allen should consider himself one of those leaders. Finally getting his chance to play after backing up his brother Brandon for two years, the junior is showing the ability to stay calm in tough times and make the right decisions under pressure.
"I'm telling you he's a great football player," Bielema said. "He just had another good player in front of him the last couple of years.
"He's a guy that could've been a three-year starter, and he will be a two-year starter if everything continues to go well for him. I think he gets better every game. He is a very driven football player."
Now, the question will be how well the team can focus.
A year ago, an Arkansas team that had great expectations faltered in a similar situation, dropping a home game to Toledo 16-12.
But the Razorbacks rebounded late and have won eight of their last nine games.
With their SEC opener at Texas A&M looming next week, the Hogs face a potential trap game against Texas State. The Bobcats are 1-0 and have had an extra week to prepare since knocking off Ohio in their season opener.
Though it went just 3-9 a year ago, Texas State returns dynamic double-threat quarterback Tyler Jones, who threw for 418 yards and four touchdowns in the triple-overtime opener. His 40 completions (55 attempts) against Ohio set a school record.
His third touchdown pass came with 51 seconds left in regulation and gave Texas State a brief 35-31 lead. When Ohio responded with a 75-yard pass play for a 38-35 lead, Jones drove his team 61 yards with four completions in four attempts to get into position for a game-tying field goal as time ran out.
In the third overtime, Jones had a 22-yard touchdown pass and then a short shovel pass for the two-point conversion that decided the outcome.
"I proud of our kids the way they competed and fought," first year Texas State coach Everett Withers said. "I thought they did a great job of staying the course.
"We went on the road and won against a team that was 8-5 and went to a bowl last year. They are a really well-coached team, and we had to fight and scratch against a really talented front seven."
Sophomore running back Stedman Mayberry led Texas State's rushing attack with 79 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Backup Jericho Worrell had six runs for 16 yards, and Jones himself accounted for the team's other 11 yards on 19 attempts. He had 46 yards in losses with 36 coming on six sacks.
"You have to be patient, and I thought our offense did a really good job of finding something that we could do and sticking with it," Withers said.
Arkansas, which squeaked by Louisiana Tech 21-20 in its opener, also needed to go extra time for its win over TCU last week. The Hogs extended the game when Dan Skipper managed to get a hand on a short field goal attempt by the Horn Frogs to leave the game tied at 28 as regulation time ran out.
Allen had a 13-yard pass in the first overtime for the first score, which was matched by TCU. In the second OT, the Horned Frogs settled for a field goal and Allen scored the game-winner touchdown on a five-yard run.