The high-powered Arkansas Razorbacks conference matchup.
New Mexico needs to bounce back in a hurry after a heart-breaking, 14-10 loss to Colorado State in last week's opener. Head coach Mike Locksley has been fighting an uphill battle ever since he took over the Lobos following the 2008 campaign. Granted, the program is serving three year's of NCAA-mandated probation with scholarship reductions, but the fact that the club mustered just a single victory last season was unacceptable.
As for Arkansas, it cruised to a 51-7 victory over FCS foe Missouri State last week as expected. The 51 points were the most scored by the Razorbacks in a season opener under Coach Bobby Petrino, and the most since 2004.
"I was happy with the way the team played and it was a good win to start the season," said Petrino. "We came out and played football and executed the way we should execute."
The Razorbacks, currently ranked 14th in the country, finished last season 10-3 and ended the campaign with a defeat of Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. While the SEC is stacked as usual, Petrino's team has enough talent to challenge for a conference title.
Arkansas has won both previous meetings with New Mexico but hasn't faced the Lobos since 1987.
Last week, New Mexico was led offensively by sophomore quarterback Tarean Austin, who completed 20-of-31 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. The Lobos outgained the Rams 329 to 270 in total yards, had 10 more first downs and won the time of possession battle by nearly seven minutes. But New Mexico also turned the ball over three times, committed nine penalties and Austin was sacked 10 times, all of which came back to hurt its chances at an opening night win.
Austin drove the Lobos to the Colorado State 15 yard line with 23 seconds left, but he was stripped by a CSU rusher and fumbled the ball away, sealing the fate of New Mexico.
"The one side of the ball that I didn't think showed up was the offensive side of the ball," said a disappointed Locksley. "I thought we moved the ball pretty well throughout the course of the game, but we had way too many penalties and obviously when you fumble the ball three times, twice inside your own red zone, you don't give yourself a chance to win.
On the defensive side of the ball, New Mexico performed admirably against Colorado State, limiting the Rams to 270 total yards. The run defense was quite strong, as CSU managed a mere 92 yards on 28 attempts. Sure, the Rams were able to complete an ultra-efficient 22-of-26 passes, but the connections averages just 8.1 yards.
"I thought we did well and we were all flying around really well, and the coaches had a good game plan set up for us," said linebacker Dallas Bollema. "We didn't see anything that we weren't prepared for. We were ready for what was coming our way, and hopefully we'll keep doing that for the remainder of the season."
The Arkansas offense was hitting on all cylinders against Missouri State last week, racking up 466 total yards en route to 51 points. Tyler Wilson threw two touchdowns, Kody Walker rushed for two scores and Joe Adams returned two punts to the end zone in the rout.
Wilson went 18-for-24 for 260 yards while Brandon Mitchell went 10-for-11 with 104 yards and a score for the Razorbacks. Adams returned six punts for 174 yards, including touchdown returns of 61 and 69 yards, helping his team break the school record for team punt return yards in a game with 188. Jarius Wright caught six passes for 108 yards and two scores in the win.
Defensively, the Razorbacks were dominant against Missouri State, limiting the Bears to just a single touchdown which occurred long after the outcome had been decided. Arkansas permitted a mere 163 total yards in the affair, a stellar effort to say the least.
"Our defense was out there running around getting to the ball fast and our offensive speed looked good as well," said safety Jerico Nelson, who came up with an interception in the victory.