FAYETTEVILLE, AR - Two of the most accurate passers in college football matched up Saturday night at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, and neither came away unscathed.
It was the homestanding Razorbacks who took the biggest advantage of mistakes, building a 28-10 halftime lead en route to a 56-20 victory over the Trojans in front of a raucous crowd of 66,442.
The loss for Troy (7-3) snapped the Trojans’ seven-game win streak while Arkansas (6-4) gained bowl eligibility with the victory.
“They are an SEC football program and you don’t just go prancing into many SEC stadiums and do much better than we did tonight,” Troy coach Larry Blakeney said. “We are proud of our kids because they played hard, even though they didn’t play perfect. We gave up some big plays defensively and we gave up some turnovers.”
Troy senior Levi Brown entered play against Arkansas having not thrown an interception in 27 quarters, and stood just 13 pass attempts shy of the NCAA record. His streak (265) came to an end on Troy’s second possession, six tries shy of the mark set by Trent Dilfer of Fresno State in 1993.
“If I had been thinking about the streak, I never would have thrown that pass because it was not a very smart pass,” Brown said. “We had two go routes and I tried to look the safety off to the right and throw to the left. When I tried to look him off, he didn’t move, so I should have thrown it to the right. For whatever reason I tried to fit it in. It was not a very smart play.”
It was not, however, Brown’s only miscue of the first half against the Razorbacks. He was intercepted twice more before halftime, including a failed “Hail Mary” on the final play of the half and a deflection off receiver Tebiarus Gill’s hands.
Troy was able to move the ball against the Razorbacks, piling up 455 yards of total offense, but the Trojans struggled in the red zone, settling for field goal attempts three times and turning the ball over on a fumble once.
“We probably could have scored two or three more times if we didn’t turn it over,” Blakeney said. “We were getting ready to put the ones back in if we had scored down there to cut it to a manageable margin. Then they came right out and hit a big play.
Arkansas sophomore Ryan Mallett came into the game with the second longest active streak without a pick in the nation, but that streak also ended in the second quarter when Bryan Willis recorded his team-leading fourth interception of the year. Mallett’s streak ended at 141 attempts.
Despite the pick, Mallett had a career game, throwing for 405 yards and five touchdowns. The five scoring passes against the Trojans are the most for an opposing quarterback since Chad Pennington had five for Marshall in 1998.
“That play-action was tough,” linebacker Bear Woods said. “They are a pro-style offense and they do a good job of hiding those backs in there. You think they have the ball but then they roll out that boot and receivers are wide open. If they get you to bite on the play action, those receivers will be open, and that is what they were able to do. We don’t see that type of play in our conference very much.”
The Razorbacks got on the board first in the game as Mallett connected with Joe Adams for a 23-yard score on the opening possession of the game.
The 7-0 lead for Arkansas stood up through the opening quarter when Michael Taylor had his 48-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright later in the quarter. It was his first missed FG after three makes this year.
The Hogs pushed their lead to 14-0 early in the second quarter when Broderick Green capped an 11-play drive with a dive over from the one.
The Trojans got on the board with 5:49 left in the half when Jason Bruce hauled in a Brown pass from three yards out. The scoring play capped a 10-play drive that covered 69 yards. It was Bruce’s first career TD reception and was the 31st in Brown’s career, fifth on the Troy career list.
Arkansas answered the Troy touchdown with two quick scores of its own. First Ronnie Wingo scored on a 16-yard run and then Mallett hit Greg Childs for a 13-yard score.
Troy was able to answer before halftime, cutting the deficit to 28-10 on a 30-yard Taylor field goal.
The Trojans opened the second half with an eight-play drive that stalled in the red zone, bringing in Taylor for 21-yard field goal, cutting the Arkansas lead to 28-13.
The teams traded touchdowns through the end of the third quarter, with Arkansas getting TD passes of 28 and nine yards from Mallett, his third and fourth scoring strikes of the day.
Troy’s TD came on a pass from Jonathan Chandler to Andrew Davis for 17 yards. It was the first career TD pass for Chandler.
The Razorbacks added three late scores, two on Mallett TD passes, to put the game away. Mallett’s five touchdown strikes went to five different Razorbacks receivers.
The Trojans will return to action next Saturday against Florida Atlantic with a chance to wrap-up a fourth consecutive Sun Belt crown. In addition to being Senior Day at Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium, it will also mark Troy University’s annual “Salute to Veterans” game.
Kickoff for the game between the Trojans and Owls is set for 3:19 p.m. The game will be televised on CSS as the Sun Belt Game of the Week.