FAYETTEVILLE For the second straight season, Arkansas and Colorado State headed to the fourth quarter with their game up for grabs.
But the Rams could not pull off another rally this season and instead watched the Razorbacks reel off the game’s final 21 points for a 55-34 victory.
“It was a fourth quarter game and we fell apart in the fourth quarter and couldn’t function offensively,” Colorado State coach Mike Bobo said, “and I think it took the air out of defense.”
Colorado State (1-2) scored the game’s first touchdown and erased a 14-point deficit in the first half.
The Rams tied the game 34-34 on a 75-yard touchdown pass from back-up quarterback Patrick O’Brien to Dante Wright with 2:33 left in the third quarter.
“I was really proud of how our guys fought their way back into the football game, but at the end of the day, we did not take advantages of our opportunities in this ballgame,” Bobo said. “That cost us there.”
O’Brien had to enter the game when Colorado State starting quarterback Collin Hill was injured in the third quarter.
“Losing Collin Hill was a big blow,” Bobo said. “He has a knee injury and we will get an MRI on his knee tomorrow. That’s all I know. But after he went out, we really couldn’t function as an offense. We have got to fix that.”
Hill has already had two knee surgeries and left the game two plays after being hit.
“It’s tough,” Bobo said. “That kid is special. He got his knee hurt and comes back out there and has got a headset on. He is a special kid and he is made up of the right stuff.”
Hill led his team to 27 points before going down with injury. He completed 13 of 23 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown.
“We changed a few things, but it was just hard for us to function to get into a formation and run a play,” Bobo said. “I don’t know what was going on. We have got to figure that out and correct it, especially if Collin is out next week.”
The Razorbacks had 505 yards total offense in the game, 249 of which came in first quarter. Arkansas led 24-14 at the end of the first.
Arkansas (2-1) scored three touchdowns on its first threes drives with starting quarterback Nick Starkel at the helm of the offense.
Starkel finishsed the day 20-of-35 for 305 yards and 3 touchdowns. Freshman receivers Trey Knox (6 catches, 90 yards on 10 targets) and Treylon Burks (4 catches, 92 yards on 5 targets) and senior tight end Cheyenne O’Grady (3 catches, 73 yards on 5 targets) proved to be weapons for him.
Junior running back Rakeem Boyd had 20 carries for a career-high 122 yards and senior Devwah Whaley had 9 carries for 81 yards for the Razorbacks.
“I thought they were a lot more aggressive in throwing the football,” Bobo said of Starkel. “You could tell that was the plan. They were going to come out and throw the ball and go after our corners and they did a good job. They have two receivers (Burks and Knox) that are big, they have a big tight end (O’Grady) and (Chase Harrell) is a weapon.
“I thought he threw a nice ball. I know he is going to look at film and he has some he wants back or he could have had even a better day. He had some guys wide open that he missed. And they have two good backs that can run the ball and run the inside zone. I think he makes them more balanced and I think that makes them pretty hard to stop. It was hard for us to stop them today.”
Colorado State had the ball and a chance to take the lead after tying it up 34-34, but Cayden Camper missed a 50-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Arkansas answered with three touchdowns with Whaley scoring from 5 yards out, O’Grady breaking away from five tacklers for a 62-yard score and LaDarrius Bishop picking up a fumble and returning it 25 yards for a touchdown.
“We stepped up, made a play to get it tied and got a chance there to take a lead and then we didn’t answer when we had a chance to really put a dagger in those guys and we didn’t do it,” Bobo said. “And we missed some opportunities offensively.”
Bobo lamented the fact that his defense gave up three touchdowns and two field goals, including a Connor Limpert 54-yarder, on the Razorbacks’ first five offensive possessions of the contest.
“I thought we settled down there in the second quarter and played pretty good defense,” Bobo said. “But then you can’t give the big explosive runs (Boyd’s 59-yard scoring dash) that we gave up.
“And we have got to get a guy (O’Grady) on the ground when they are trying to strip him and make a play. That guy did a great job of keeping his feet and scoring a touchdown.”
Giving up big plays has been a problem this season for Colorado State, which lost to Colorado (52-31) and defeated Western Illinois (38-13) prior to the Arkansas game.
“Yes, it is frustrating,” Bobo said. “I thought in the beginning we weren’t settled for the moment and they were executing and had a good plan. Once we were settled down, it was good, but it is a four-quarter game and they made that one to get us a fumble, but we have got to make some more plays defensively and we can let runs hit us right up the gut.
“We have to close that off and make them run sideways.”
Bobo sized up the two games with Arkansas. The Rams won 34-27 last season in Fort Collins, Colo.
“The difference in the game is that we finished in the fourth quarter last year and didn’t finish in the fourth quarter this year,” Bobo said. “Us, compared to last year, we weren’t able to run the ball at all last year all ballgame and we able to run it extremely well this year. I thought (tailback) Marvin (Kinsey, Jr.) played outstanding, but he has to protect the football.
“I thought we were pretty balanced defensively and it was pretty similar to last year. They were having their way with us and then we settled down last year just like we did in this game. We just didn’t play the fourth quarter like we did last year.”