Arkansas finally had a game where they were heavily favored and spent a half trying to make it look like it was 2019 all over again.
"We did about everything we could possibly do wrong in the first half," Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman said later. "I told the team we were going to face adversity, but I didn't know it was going to be the entire first half."
The Hogs had jumped out to a 7-0 lead when quarterback KJ Jefferson broke free on a 34-yard run. That's something else fans had been waiting to see from a quarterback that couldn't make plays.
It was all they had in the first half. For the 64,065 that had suffered through a couple of long years with bad teams and COVID they had to wait a half for things to turn around.
Rice's ball-control offense and an opportunistic defense kept Arkansas bottled up in their own end of the field.
"They had field position the whole time because we couldn't get any first downs and we just didn't play well at all," Pittman said.
The Owls had a 10-7 lead at halftime and folks were squirming in their seats. A blocked punt to start the second quarter led to a field goal, then Reid Bauer shanked his next punt that set up a Rice touchdown.
"At half I said, 'Rice is kick our butts in special teams,'" Pittman said. "They were more ugent that us. They blocked a punt because just missed a block on the outside, that's all it was. But people go through games and don't get punts blocked and we need to be those people."
The first half was about what you see most of the time in these first games. Especially with head coaches that haven't done that much.
"There was a lot of bad stuff out there that looked like it wasn't a very well-coached football team," Pittman said. "That's me. That's nobody else. We'll get better."
The defense in the first half wasn't terrible. Rice only had 109 yards and 60 of that came in the air for a team that didn't pass particularly well The Hogs keep shooting themselves in the foot with eight penalties for 66 yards in the first half
They turned it around in the second half.
The Hogs starting re-taking control in the second half but it wasn't until the Owls caught the secondary in a complete breakdown for a 41-yard pass and a 17-7 lead.
And it lasted until the end of the third quarter when freshman kicker Cam Little nailed a 34-yard field to tie the game at 17 with 18 seconds left.
Then the Hogs ripped off 21 points in the fourth quarter mainly with the defense snatching interceptions by Jalen Catalon and Montaric Brown.
"I was so proud we came back in the second half," Pittman said.
He downplayed his message at halftime to the team that apparently got their attention.
"One thing I learned a long time ago is you gotta figure what really is the problem," Pittman said. "And, really, how big is the climb?"
He didn't want to make it sound like the end of the world trailing by just three points at halftime.
"You can score a touchdown and you're ahead," he said. "We talked a lot about adjustments from our coaching staff. You've got to look at a mirror on things going wrong."
What was wrong was trying to go too vertical. They changed that and ran right at the Owls.
Well, that and Catalon stepping up for a defense that was missing linebackers Grant Morgan and Bumper Pool, who were ejected earlier for targeting.
The good news for Razorback fans is the first game issues are in the rear-view mirror.
The bad news is next week's opponent isn't Rice.