FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Ryan Mallett's Heisman Trophy campaign began as planned, and he had plenty of help from one of the Southeastern Conference's most dynamic receivers.
Mallett threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Joe Adams, and No. 17 Arkansas breezed to a 44-3 win over Tennessee Tech on Saturday night. The Razorbacks, sporting their highest preseason ranking since 1990, recovered quickly from a sloppy start thanks to Mallett's accuracy and Adams' elusiveness.
Adams caught six passes for 138 yards.
"We've got to get him more touches," coach Bobby Petrino said. "When that ball's under his arm, he's special."
Mallett threw for 30 touchdowns a season ago and became an immediate Heisman candidate when he decided to pass up the NFL for another season with the Razorbacks. He missed on just two of his first 18 throws, with the only blemishes a deflected pass that was intercepted and a dropped ball by a receiver that should have been a touchdown. He finished the night 21 of 24.
"We really had 22 — just one was to the other team," Mallett said.
Mallett's 85-yard touchdown pass to Adams in the second quarter was the longest completion of his Arkansas career, and the Hogs led 23-3 at halftime. On the long touchdown, Adams outran the Tennessee Tech defenders down the sideline even though at least one appeared to have a good angle to catch him.
Adams also scored the game's final touchdown, a 15-yard reception in the third quarter that included a nifty move immediately after the catch.
"Whenever I touch the ball, I try to make guys look silly," Adams said. "Coach is always preaching to make one guy miss. I made that one guy miss, and the rest just happened."
Dennis Johnson, Broderick Green and Ronnie Wingo Jr. each ran for touchdowns. Those three running backs are competing along with Knile Davis for playing time. Green led the foursome with nine carries. Johnson and Davis both fumbled in the first half, but the Razorbacks (1-0) recovered both.
The Golden Eagles (0-1) opened the scoring in the first quarter, but the FCS team was unable to repeat the upset Jacksonville State pulled off earlier in the day against Mississippi and former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt.
Tennessee Tech quarterback Tre Lamb went 6 of 13 for 99 yards.
After stopping the Razorbacks on fourth down on the game's first drive, Tennessee Tech moved all the way to the Hogs' 1-yard line. The Arkansas defense, maligned throughout last season, rose to the challenge and held the Golden Eagles to a field goal.
Mallett then threw his interception, and although the Golden Eagles didn't capitalize, Tennessee Tech's Dustin Dillehay could hold his head high after coming up with the turnover.
"It felt great," he said. "Hopefully, he wins the Heisman now."
The Arkansas defense came up big again in the second quarter, near the other goal line this time. The Razorbacks swarmed Jocques Crawford for a safety that made it 9-3.
Anthony Leon, moved recently from the secondary to linebacker, had two sacks and four tackles for loss.
"I wasn't surprised," Petrino said. "The minute he stepped into that position, it was like, 'Ooooh, wow.'"
The opener also shed some light on Arkansas' kicking situation, which had been a bit of a mystery coming in. Freshman Zach Hocker handled extra points for the Razorbacks instead of senior Alex Tejada, but Tejada was outstanding on kickoffs, consistently putting the ball into the end zone.
Petrino said he was planning to switch the kickers in the fourth quarter, putting Tejada in for extra points and Hocker for kickoffs.
"Unfortunately, we didn't score any more touchdowns," he said.
Tyler Wilson relieved Mallett late in the third quarter. Brandon Mitchell also took some snaps for the Razorbacks in the fourth and threw a deep pass to the end zone that Maudrecus Humphrey dropped.