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Saturday, January 7th, 2012

ARKANSAS DEFEATS KANSAS STATE 29-16 IN 2012 AT&T COTTON BOWL CLASSIC

Photo By: Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA
It wasn’t pretty, but a potent offense and tenacious defensive play gave Arkansas a 29-16 victory over Kansas State in the 76th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic on Friday night.

“I’m very proud of our football team. It was a hard-fought contest. Kansas State did a great job. They’re a good football team. They played tough on defense,” said Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino. “I think the difference in the game was how well we played on defense and the field position we were able to give our offense. We didn’t take advantage of it all the time, but it was a big part of the game.”

Despite the lack of offensive fireworks early on, All-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson was efficient in the pocket, passing for 216 yards and two touchdowns. The second was a 9-yarder to Cobi Hamilton with four minutes in the third quarter after Kansas State (10-3) scored 16 straight points.

However, it was the defense – led by senior defensive end Jake Bequette- that ultimately propelled the Razorbacks (11-2) to a school record tying 11th victory. The unit harassed Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein all night and sacked the Big-12 All Purpose Player of the Year six times.

“We had a good plan. Coach (Paul) Haynes and our defensive staff did a really nice job on the plan,” Petrino said. “Our players came out and executed it well. I thought we played very, very fast. Our defensive front controlled the line of scrimmage.”

Joe Adams gave Arkansas a commanding 10-0 lead early in the second quarter with his fourth punt return for a touchdown this season. The Razorbacks scored a non-offensive touchdown in six out of their last seven games this year.

“It was another one of those where you just go, Wow! It was a great punt. He hit the ball really hard,” Petrino said. “You could see when he made the catch he had in mind what he was going to do. We got some blocks. I thought our guys did a nice job on blocks. Joe showed great acceleration and made another spectacular play for us.”

The Cotton Bowl was the only non-BCS game with both teams in the top 15 of the Bowl Championship Series standings. It was also the only bowl featuring the SEC vs. the Big 12, but it was apparent which conference flexed their muscles.

Kansas State failed to match its school record 11th win and has now lost its last four bowl games.

“We got off to an awfully bad start and really couldn’t overcome the damage that we did, and most of it was pretty obvious,” said Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder. “We had four dropped balls, we had two turnovers, we had four penalties all in the first half that dramatically hurt us. We weren’t ready to play.”

After a 45-yard touchdown strike from Wilson to Jarius Wright that put Arkansas up 19-0, Raphael Guidry blocked the extra point and Nigel Malone returned it 98 yards for two points. It was the first blocked extra point in Cotton Bowl history.

Klein continued the momentum with a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Andre McDonald just before halftime. But the offensive sputtered in the second half, and the Wildcats failed to score in the fourth quarter.

“We didn’t do the things, as coach said earlier. We had our chances and weren’t able to, you know, finish the job and execute on the field,” Klein said. “Again, we just came up short and didn’t get it done as a unit.”

Klein only mustered 41 yards on the ground but scored on a 6-yard touchdown run that got the Wildcats to 19-16. That tied the single-season FBS record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback.

Jerico Nelson helped Arkansas cap off a dominant defensive performance by picking off Klein in the game’s final minute.

The Razorbacks are now 4-0 in Cowboys Stadium. Arkansas also improved their overall Cotton Bowl record to 4-7-1 after losing in its last two appearances.
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