FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Tulsa was left to once again wonder what might have been against Arkansas.
The Golden Hurricane, which hadn’t defeated its Southeastern Conference neighbor since 1976, let a fourth-quarter lead slip away Saturday in a 19-15 loss to the Razorbacks.
The defeat was the 18th straight for Tulsa (7-2, 5-0 Conference USA) against Arkansas, putting an end to a seven-game winning streak this season and leaving the Golden Hurricane disheartened.
“We thought we had it, so it will sit bad in our stomach for a while,” quarterback Cody Green said.
Tulsa appeared poised to snap its losing streak to the Razorbacks after taking a 15-13 lead in the third quarter following a 29-yard field goal by Daniel Schwarz.
Tulsa had a chance to extend that lead late in the third quarter after driving to the Arkansas 5, but Green’s fourth-down pass was batted down by Trey Flowers after coach Bill Blankenship elected to bypass the short field goal attempt.
Dennis Johnson and Cobi Hamilton then responded with the plays the Razorbacks needed the most — keeping Arkansas’ slim bowl chances alive and once again crushing Tulsa’s hopes.
Johnson rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns, and Hamilton set the school’s single-season receptions record, as the Razorbacks rallied. The win was a welcomed bit of relief after yet another disheartening loss, this one the week before to Mississippi, in a season full of disappointment for the Razorbacks — who began the season ranked in the Top 10.
“It’s fun,” Hamilton said. “Everything is fun. Everybody is happy. The locker room is happy. The atmosphere is happy, so you get these records and all these big games, it’s fun.”
Johnson’s 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter put the Razorbacks up for good, and it came after a pair of catches by Hamilton — who finished with 11 catches for 177 yards.
Hamilton now has 69 catches for 1,077 yards this season, breaking Jarius Wright’s mark of 66 catches in a season. None were bigger Saturday for Hamilton than his 41-yard catch, followed by a 14-yard grab that set up Johnson’s go-ahead touchdown.
The Razorbacks’ relief following the win was only equaled by Tulsa’s disappointment. Tulsa had won seven straight games entering the contest, and Blankenship and the players talked openly throughout the week about how much a win against Arkansas would mean.
Following Tulsa’s failed fourth-down attempt, the Razorbacks took advantage of the new life behind quarterback Tyler Wilson and Hamilton. Wilson, who finished 21 of 31 passing 272 yards, found Hamilton for the back-to-back catches early in the fourth quarter to take Arkansas to the Tulsa 1.
The catches were Hamilton’s 67th and 68th of the season, and he is now just 40 yards behind Wright’s school single-season yards record of 1,117.
Arkansas (4-5, 2-3 SEC) must now win two of its final three games — against South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU — to reach bowl eligibility.
Tulsa outgained Arkansas 203-158 in total yardage in the first half, and trailed 13-12 at the half after a pair of failed extra-point attempts and a missed field goal.
“We felt like we were outplaying them, but we didn’t outscore them,” Blankenship said. “Credit Arkansas for making the plays they had to make.”