Sam Irwin-Hill, an ambidextrous rugby-style kicker, rolled to his right on fourth down late in the first period then tossed a rainbow pass to the deep snapper — yes, the deep snapper — for a first down. How did it happen? The Razorbacks lined up in an unbalanced line to the left with nobody to the right of Alan D’Apollonio except for a couple of flankers off the line of scrimmage. D’Apollonio was wearing a No. 82 jersey rather than his normal 53, which made him an eligible receiver. The play gained 24 yards to the Rutgers 27 and the drive resulted in Zach Hocker’s 41-yard field goal with 1:51 to go in the quarter, putting Arkansas ahead 3-0.
The 21-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter marked the second major trick play by Arkansas on Saturday. The pass from tailback Jonathan Williams to wide open tight end Hunter Henry put Arkansas ahead 24-7. It came one play after defensive end Trey Flowers hit quarterback Gary Nova and jarred the ball loose, which was recovered by Chris Smith. Coach Bret Bielema said last week he had not used everything in the playbook; that was obvious against the Scarlet Knights.
Arkansas’ special teams were dealt a blow when Janarion Grant returned one of Irwin-Hill’s punts 58 yards for a touchdown with 2:14 left in the third quarter. It was the first special teams touchdown Arkansas has allowed this season. Grant added another big punt return of 47 yards in the fourth quarter, setting up Rutgers’ go-ahead touchdown.
On Friday night, Rutgers spent the night at the Hyatt Regency. If the players wanted to, they had a chance to do some extra film study for Saturday’s game. It must have worked.
One of the in-house television channels normally dedicated to showing information about the hotel replayed the first three Arkansas games of the season on a loop. Commercial breaks and other delays were eliminated from the broadcasts.
Arkansas has scored in the first quarter in every game this season, including a field goal and a touchdown Saturday at Rutgers. Zach Hocker put Arkansas up 3-0 on a 41-yarder and Tevin Mitchel intercepted a Nova pass and returned it for a 26-yard touchdown. Arkansas also has kept opponents scoreless on their first possession for the first four games of the season. So far, Arkansas has outscored opponents 38-7 in first quarters this season. It was the fourth quarter Saturday that made the difference — Rutgers outscored the Razorbacks 14-0.
Not A Sixth …
A.J. Derby appeared on his way to becoming the sixth quarterback since Arkansas joined the Southeastern Conference to win his first road game and the first one since Fort Smith’s Barry Lunney Jr. to win a road game in his first start (1992 against Tennessee). That was before the comeback 28-24 Rutgers victory. Road-game winners in their first road appearance were Lunney, Clint Stoerner, Ryan Sorahan, Casey Dick and Mitch Mustain.
Fans Follow Hogs
Arkansas was represented by a small but vocal fan contingent at High Point Solutions Stadium, mostly sequestered in the upper deck on both sides ranging from the 15-yard line to the goal. The band was in the lower deck of the north end zone. The game marked the first time the Razorbacks had played in the northeastern United States since traveling to New York City to play Fordham in 1940.
Arkansas entered Saturday’s game ranked first in the SEC in eight individual and team statistics, and defensive end Chris Smith was No. 1 in the nation in sacks per game with 1 1/2. Against Rutgers, he registered one sack. The other conference-leading statistics were for individual total rushing yards, Alex Collins, 418; team time of possession, 108:22; total tackles for loss allowed, six; sacks allowed, .67; rushing offense, 294.3; passing defense, 147.7; and scoring defense, 12.7. Some of those records will continue into Week 5 against Texas A&M, while others, like rushing totals, are likely to drop.
Center Travis Swanson has started all 42 games of his career at Arkansas. His streak is tied for third in the nation.
By The Numbers
101 — Total number of rushing yards for Arkansas.
1 — Number of touchdowns Arkansas scored from the Red Zone and the number of times Arkansas had a drive inside the Red Zone.
3 — Number of fourth-down conversions in the game; two by Rutgers and one by Arkansas. Also, the number of rushing yards Arkansas recorded in the second and fourth quarters.
743 — Number of passing yards by Gary Nova in his two wins against Arkansas.
6 — Receptions by Rutgers tight end Tyler Kroft, who had five in his first three games of the season.
GARY NOVA: The Rutgers junior quarterback was a thorn in Arkansas’ side for the second straight year. Nova was 22-of-43 for 346 yards with three touchdowns, one interception and two fumbles lost on Saturday. Nova passed 4 yards to Leonte Carroo for the winning score with 5:18 left to play.
JANARION GRANT: A true freshman from Tilby, Fla., Grant showed Arkansas his elusiveness and speed in two big punt returns for Rutgers. His 58-yard return in the third quarter was good for a touchdown and put Rutgers within 10. His 47-yard return in the fourth quarter set up the go-ahead touchdown.
DARIUS PHILON: The redshirt freshman, from Mobile, Ala., subbing for Byran Jones at defensive tackle, came up big for Arkansas with two sacks against Rutgers. He had three solo tackles in the game. His sacks were good for 15 yards in losses.
ZACH HOCKER: The Russellville senior showed off his leg in a big way in the first quarter against Rutgers. First he booted a 77-yard punt and scored Arkansas’ first points with a 41-yard field goal, then kicked for a touchback on a kickoff from the 20-yard line following an Arkansas unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Tevin Mitchell’s interception return for a touchdown. Hocker is the all-time leading scorer at Arkansas with 315 points.