The Hogs defeated Kansas State last night to the tune of an odd looking score (29-16 - who had that in the office pool?) and at the same time broke with a bad history of losing Cotton Bowls. Of our bowl losses, nearly a third have been in the Cotton Bowl. But thanks to a stellar defensive performance, a Joe Adams punt return, and just enough offense, the Hogs got their 11th win of the season and the program's 4th Cotton Bowl victory. With the season ending on a good note for the third time under Petrino, it is now 238 days until Kickoff 2012. What in the world will we do with our time until then? Discuss the Hogs, of course! haha. And let's begin that discussion by looking back at that bright and shining Cotton Bowl 2012 that we all have images of running back and forth in our heads this morning.
* Shouldn't this game still be on New Year's Day? I know we were told by the media to celebrate the fact that we would be the only bowl game on come Friday night. But the weight of seventy some years of playing the game on New Year's Day was pressing down on the game last night, it seemed to me. The venue, certainly keep that. But I do miss the New Year's Day aspect of the game.
* I was wearing for the game the Cotton Bowl shirt (thanks, mom!) I got for Christmas. What would I do with the shirt if the Hogs lost? I don't think I could have kept wearing it. Probably would have given it to Goodwill. But now it is a treasured keepsake!
* I made a little Hog shrine out of my television set. I put a recently found copy of the 1976 Cotton Bowl program under the television for good luck. We beat Georgia in that one, good vibes there. I put my Ancient Greek coin with a boar on it next to the tv, and I swear to you, the moment after I added my Lou Holtz doll (trying to bring forth the Spirit of 77) to the mix, Joe Adams scored on that punt return.
* Except for both analysts picking K-State (Uggh), I thought Fox's pre-game coverage to be pretty good at getting us ready for the game. Loved the old Cotton Bowl footage at the beginning. But ESPN has so gotten into my head, that it doesn't seem like a college game without a Corso and crew appearance at some point. After the game, typically, ESPN didn't give it much notice. Of course, they are also in NFL playoff mode right now.
* I like the simplicity of putting a wildcat and a hog on the coin for the coin toss. But I still heard the announcer get confused about who had won the coin toss, haha.
* That was Ross Rasner who got us the good return to the start the game. Too bad the offense was not able to capitalize on their field position. The Hogs enjoyed good field position just about all night.
* I was hoping for a quick start by the offense, but we looked like we had not played a game in over a month. After that first or second bad series, the tv cameras showed Bobby Petrino giving it to Tyler Wilson. We speak of Wilson's toughness on the field, but also give him credit for the mental and emotional toughness of living under Petrino's expectations of perfection on every play.
* In what won't be confused as his best game of the season, Tyler Wilson (20-31) still ended up bringing in 216 yards passing with two touchdowns. If you are keeping score, that's one touchdown better than what Mallett did in his first bowl appearance. It should also be noted that Tyler Wilson played his game inside and not at the arctic outpost known as Memphis in January.
* I liked how Tyler gave the K-State defense something more to think about by using his legs a few times.
* Ball distribution: Jarius Wright and Cobi Hamilton had three catches each. Ronnie Wingo and Chris Gragg each had one catch. Dennis Johnson had two catches. Joe Adams and Greg Childs, they each had five catches. I wish Childs could have gone out with a touchdown, but it was still a delight to see him end his career with some catches in the Cotton Bowl.
* One of my worries, would the Hogs get a case of the drops again? Answer, NO! But K-State, early in the game, they had them. Was that nerves on their part like it was nerves on our part in New Orleans?
* Jarius Wright now joins Cedric Cobbs as another Razorback who had a touchdown in two bowl wins while at Arkansas. His catch in the Liberty Bowl was a bomb from Mallett, though a bit under-thrown, and his catch in the Cotton was another bomb, which was put in there just right by Wilson. Jarius, an NFL team is coming after you, and real soon!
* Play Calling: Hmmm, like Fox's Charles Davis, I was wondering why we were going so heavily to the run in the red-zone. In one sequence, it was Dennis Johnson up the gut for a small gain two times in a row and then an incomplete pass to the end-zone. Establish the run? Well, with the receivers we had, I thought we should have relied more upon them inside the twenty.
* Best no call of the night? I think Petrino was wise not to go for the 4th and short in the second half and punt instead. K-State likely would have stuffed us, and that would have fueled their momentum even more. Instead, Breeding got a good punt off and we put them back near the goal line.
* The Hogs got over 100 yards rushing (129 on 30 attempts to be exact) out of our backfield. Broderick Green (no longer The Experiment, but THE CLOSER) got seven carries for 60 yards, so nearly half of our rushing yards. And he got them when we needed it most, to close out the game at the end. The Hogs really avoided any late game comeback drama thanks to Green's running. His longest run for 36 sweet yards of putting the nail in the coffin on K-State.
* A trend: bowl game offenses under Bobby Petrino have not yet (hope they will) lived up to the regular season offenses that we know and love. Is it the time off? Of the three bowl games, his offenses have yet to score a rushing touchdown and have not scored more than two touchdowns period. They are averaging about 11.5 points a bowl game. Hocker scored 11 points (including extra points) last night. Wright and Cobi, together they produced 12 points. What's my point? Just that I hope Petrino can figure out how to get more out of his offenses in future bowl games.
* This seems like a good place to say how impressed I was with the K-State defense! Their secondary came to play. They were knocking down passes all night and keeping our guys on a short lease. I think they had read one too many articles about how they were going to get whipped by the Arkansas receiving corps. The Hogs drew blood, but the K-State defense more than held their own.
* Speaking of an impressive defensive performance, how about the Hogs? I dare say this was their most complete game all year on defense. Best in the Petrino era? Possibly that too. Certainly a hell of a lot better than what Reggie Herring put together the last time we were in the Cotton Bowl! haha.
* The defense answered one of my big worries before the game with one good tackle after another. Was this Paul Haynes's influence at work? The poll before the game that asked which Hog would be all the talk after the game had Tyler Wilson at 33%, Joe Adams at 25%, and Paul Haynes at 12%. Joe and Tyler deserve to be talked about, but the buzz for me right now is Paul Haynes! Is this but a glimpse of what good, fundamental defenses that he'll produce in the future? I sure hope so!
* Six, count them, six sacks of Klein last night! Jake Bequette sent himself out in style and made his Razorback ancestors proud, no doubt.
* Tevin Mitchell, there's the future! Honey Hog? haha.
* Klein, feared he would run all over us, was held to 1.8 yards on average per carry. His long was 15 yards.
* The two points from the special teams lapse and the seven given up before the half after Wilson's fumble, I don't put those at the defense's feet, so it was really only that first drive of the second half that they didn't hold up. And that drive started at the K-State forty yard line due to Hocker's one lapse of the night, kicking it out of bounds.
* The 16 points by K-State, as Fox noted, was the fewest points scored since their opener.
* The defense that at times during the season was out of place, didn't wrap up, and took bad angles gave up only 87 yards rushing K-State. The Wildcats in the end came up with just 260 total yards.
* Hair on fire! That's how the defense played all night. I loved seeing the intensity of their play. I know we lose some great seniors from that side of the ball, but you gotta think recruits would want to play for a coordinator who runs a defense like what we saw. Go get those guys, Paul Haynes. You've made a great first impression!
* Our last Cotton Bowl win came with a great defensive performance as well. I still have fond memories of being there in Dallas and watching our defense eat up the Longhorns all game long.
* Two observations: If you are a member of a college band, you have to love Fox! haha. And it seemed like it took forever!
* Okay, another observation. I know they are obligated to keep their audience in the game, but I nearly puked from all the pro K-State is coming back talk. But, of course, the Hogs had a chance to be up 20 - 0 at the half, but like they have many times before, they just couldn't live on easy street and had to go open the door for K-State. But we are all very proud of how they shut the door again in the second half.
* How many teams out there this bowl season would have given the weight of their whole weight rooms for a kicker as solid as Zach Hocker? He made kicks from 26, 22, and 30 yards last night.
* The closest the Hogs came to a Clemson moment was the blocked extra point near the end of the first half. That was a "MO" changer, but the Hogs, unlike Clemson, kept their heads about them and didn't let that "MO" last the entire rest of the game.
* I found it amazing that nobody had returned a punt for a touchdown since Lance Alworth did it in the 1961 Cotton Bowl. Those are a lot of Cotton Bowls for nobody to take one in. But who better to end that drought than the amazing Joe Adams, right? K-State fans must be asking, "Why the hell did we ever kick the ball to him?" I am just glad they did.
RANDOM BITS OF HOGNESS:
* Did you see the shot of Jerry Jones sitting next to red jacketed, Frank Broyles? I thought that was neat. Would have loved to have been sitting behind them to hear their conversation. What do you think the over / under would be for the number of times the 1965 Cotton Bowl was referenced? haha.
* And there was no rushing Frank to the hospital this time like in the 2000 win over Texas. Thank goodness.
* Trending up and up. 2008 (5-7), 2009 (8-5), 2010 (10-3), 2011 (11-2) and 2012 ( ) ? I love this direction. With Houston Nutt, it was up two years, down two years, up two years, down two years. The Hogs never had this level of consistent success building up like this. Yeah, Jim Grobe, I sure am glad you decided to stay at Wake Forest. From a grateful Razorback nation, I bet we could easily get some money together to pay for your next mortgage payment, if you have one.
* The Hogs helped the SEC to the distinction of being the first conference to ever have four teams with over eleven wins. The conference could have had five teams if Georgia had not choked the game away in the Capital One bowl.
* The Hogs covered the Vegas spread of eight points.
* Petrino is now 34 and 17 as the head Hog.
* I was busy manning the phones talking to Razorback fans I know and love to hear much of the post-game ceremony, but I did catch Petrino mentioning Garrett Uekman. In a world that made some type of sense, Garrett would have been playing in that game.
* The Hogs now sit at .500 on Fox with a record of 2-2. All of them Cotton Bowls.
BIG PICTURE THOUGHTS: Let the hype for 2012 begin! The Hogs should end the season (we'll know come Tuesday) in the Top Five, having only lost to LSU and Alabama (No. 1 and No. 2). I don't know how recruiting will shake-out, but it certainly wasn't hurt by this bowl win. (It certainly could have taken a beating with a loss last night.) And you have to expect a lot more positive buzz about the program come the NFL draft when we can expect names like Adams and Wright to be called early on. The pre-season magazines will be more positive about us with last night's win in the books, and the Hogs should be a pre-season Top Ten team as well. Personally, I look forward to writing about and hyping the Hogs during the off-season myself. I hope I can make it to Fayetteville for the spring game and give you a report from there. But to close out this season, let me just say that I've enjoyed writing these posts, your comments, and the general Hog Fellowship this blog affords us. Looking forward to sharing the 2012 season with you in just 238 days! WOOO PIG SOOOIE! COTTON BOWL CHAMPS!