Arkansas vs BYU Gives Hogs a Shot to Notch Unbelievable Program First

Arkansas football, BYU football, Arkansas vs BYU
photo credit: Nick Wenger / BYU Athletics

With Arkansas vs BYU on the schedule for a second year in a row, this time taking place in Fayetteville, Best of Arkansas Sports figured it was time for a fun trip down memory lane and looked back at other non-conference home-and-home series over the years.

Well, if you’re an Arkansas fan, it certainly wasn’t fun.

If history is any indication, the Razorbacks’ 52-35 win over the Cougars last season in Provo, Utah, doesn’t mean anything for Saturday’s rematch.

Not only is that the case in recent history, with Colorado State, TCU and Texas Tech still relatively fresh on fans’ minds, but it’s also the case throughout Arkansas football history.

In fact, the Razorbacks are trying to do something they haven’t accomplished since the Calvin Coolidge administration. (Who could forget our 30th president?)

Sort of.

Going Way Back in Arkansas Football History

Nearly 100 years ago — on Nov. 24, 1923 — Arkansas traveled to Muskogee, Okla., and beat Phillips University 32-0. The following year, the Razorbacks hosted Phillips in Fort Smith and won again, this time 28-6.

Of course, that first matchup might have been more of a “neutral site” game than a “road” game. Phillips, which stopped playing football in 1933 and closed entirely in 1998, was located in Enid, Okla., so Muskogee was actually closer to Fayetteville, even though it was in the (still newly formed) Sooner State.

We could debate the legitimacy of considering that a “home-and-home” sweep all day, or discuss whether we should include past multi-year series against the likes of Ole Miss, LSU, Tulsa and Oklahoma State, but that is less important than the more immediate task at hand for Arkansas.

That is stopping its troubling recent trend of winning the road half of a home-and-home only to turn around and lose at home. That’s what the Razorbacks did against Texas Tech and TCU during the Bret Bielema era. They also did it against Texas in the early-2000s.

If it can get over the hump and send BYU back to Provo with a loss, Arkansas would accomplish an unbelievable first for the program in modern history – regardless of your take on those old matchups with Phillips.

Because we’re gluttons for pain, though, let’s dig into the recent history here…

Colorado State — 2018-19 

If you dig hard enough, you might just be able to remember a win from the Chad Morris era – it’s like finding the few diamonds in the rough around a cesspool of mediocrity.

The 2018 game might as well serve as a history marker for the beginning of a two-year hibernation for Arkansas football. Fort Collins is a tough place to play, but Arkansas came into the game as a two-touchdown favorite, but the oddsmakers didn’t factor in Morris being scared to go for it on fourth-and-1 at midfield early in the fourth quarter, despite a dominant run game up to that point.

Arkansas did win the 2019 game in Fayetteville, though, ushering in what fans believed to be the beginning of the Nick Starkel era. (We all remember how that turned out.)

TCU — 2016-17 

A quick blurb does not give the 2016 game justice. It was a classic back-and-forth battle between Austin Allen and TCU quarterback Kenny Hill that culminated in Allen scoring on a 5-yard touchdown run to seal the game in the second overtime.

Unfortunately, a rematch with the same quarterbacks led to a much different result the following year. Allen put together a 9-for-23 performance in a 28-7 loss. Cole Hedlund missed a pair of short field goals and the Hogs were shut out for the final three quarters.

Texas Tech — 2014-15

Arkansas reignited another age-old Texas rivalry that it has traditionally dominated and hadn’t been touched since 1991. Arkansas continued that domination in a 49-28 victory in which Brandon Allen’s longest pass was shorter than his longest rushing attempt. Despite just 61 yards through the air, the Hogs rode running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, who combined for 357 yards on the ground, to a comfortable win.

The Red Raiders would get their revenge. In 2015, having a certain quarterback on its roster named Patrick Mahomes certainly helped the Texas Tech cause. Coming off a brutal loss to Toledo, Mahomes went a near perfect 26-for-30 through the air and added 58 yards with his legs to lead the Red Raiders to a 35-24 win.

Rutgers — 2012-13

Arkansas wasted a legendary performance from receiver Cobi Hamilton in 2012. Hamilton had 10 catches for 303 yards, an SEC record that stood until Kayshon Boutte broke it in 2020 (308), but quarterback Tyler Wilson completed only 50% of his passes as he returned from a concussion. Arkansas’ freefall continued with a 35-26 loss to Rutgers, dropping it to 1-3 in its one and only year under John L. Smith.

The 2013 game brought no more joy for Hog fans. Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova, who had authored the win the year before, was up to the same antics this time in Piscataway, N.J. With AJ Derby at quarterback, Arkansas saw a 17-point lead slip through its fingers as Nova led two touchdown drives that culminated in a 28-24 loss and kickstarted a brutal nine-game losing streak under first-year coach Bret Bielema that included going winless in conference play. 

Texas A&M — 2009-11

Finally, the sun shines again! 

And yes, it wasn’t technically a “home-and-home” series and it feels weird describing the Aggies as a non-conference foe, but it’s worth mentioning because Arkansas did own the series — before Texas A&M jumped to the SEC.

What a tribute it is that nearly 14 years to the day that Ryan Mallett led the Razorbacks to a dominating 47-19 win that included four passing touchdowns and 30 unanswered points, the Hogs will take on the Aggies in the same stadium this year where Mallett led them to back-to-back wins. 

The 2010 game was a thriller that saw the game come down to the final play after a fourth-and-13 conversion followed by a pass interference call set up a hail mary attempt for the Aggies before safety Tramain Thomas intercepted the ball in the end zone as time expired to preserve a 24-17 win.

Perhaps one of the best come-from-behind wins since the turn of the millennium, the 2011 tilt saw the Hogs dig their way out a 35-17 second-half hole behind historic performances by both Tyler Wilson (most single-game passing yards in school history) and receiver Jarius Wright (second-most single-game receiving yards in school history) as the Hogs outdueled future NFL quarterback Ryan Tannehill in a 42-38 classic win.

Looking Ahead to Arkansas vs BYU

What does this tell us about the BYU game? Not much, although those who don’t see the bigger picture may think it’s a bad omen the Hogs haven’t swept a true “home-and-home” in modern program history.

Couple that with good tidings for BYU — such as Zach Wilson, the former Cougars quarterback and No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, leading the Jets to an improbable victory against the Bills and former BYU receiver Puka Nacua showing out for the Rams — and you may want to look away if being ultra-superstitious is your cup of tea.


Andrew Hutchinson contributed to this story.


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