Arkansas pulls away late for victory over Colorado State

Cheyenne O'Grady celebrates a touchdown as Arkansas defeats Colorado State.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- The Arkansas Razorbacks’ found its offense Saturday. And the Hogs also found some confidence too.

Quarterback Nick Starkel threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Razorbacks (2-1, 0-1) to a 55-34 victory over the Colorado State Rams (1-2) at Razorbacks Stadium in Fayetteville, Ark. The Razorbacks outscored the Rams 21-0 in the final quarter.

“The response was it, we did that several times,” said Arkansas Head Coach Chad Morris. “Our back was against the wall, we got outscored in the middle of the game. But we finished.”

Arkansas’ offense needed a jolt after early season struggles at home against Portland State and on the road at Ole Miss. The Hogs amassed 520 total yards of offense. Led by Rakeem Boyd, the Hogs rushed for a season-high 215 yards. The junior running-back rushed for 122 yards on 20 carries. He added two touchdowns. Starkel acknowledged the offensive group was just happy with a win.

“I said it last week, I didn’t care how many yards we had as long as we got a “W” today,” said Starkel. “Our offense is getting started right now.”

Colorado State actually started the game fast. Senior running-back Marvin Kinsey, Jr. found the endzone on the second play of the game with a 75-yard touchdown run for a quick 7-0 lead. The Hogs answered. Starkel led the Hogs on a five-play, 75-yard drive. It ended with Starkel hitting true-freshman Trey Knox for a 24-yard touchdown reception. For Knox, it is his first touchdown pass of his career. He finished the game with six catches for 90 yards. Arkansas extended the lead on the next drive when Starkel hit tight-end Chase Harrell for a 14-yard touchdown reception. After a Hogs stop on defense, Boyd rushed up the middle for a 59-yard touchdown run for a quick 21-7 lead. The Rams answered too. Collin Hill found Warren Jackson for a 14-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead 21-14. The Hogs ended the first quarter scoring with a 54-yard field goal from Connor Limpert.

“Connor Limpert gave us huge momentum boost,” said Morris. “That kick could have gone 65. That kick was a rocket.”

Arkansas’ offense slowed down in the second quarter. The Hogs only scored on a 22-yard field goal from Limpert. Colorado State added two field goals and a 1-yard touchdown run from Hill to cut Arkansas’ lead to 27-24 at halftime.

The Hogs came out of the locker room at halftime ready to score more. The Hogs marched down the field on the opening drive. Boyd’s 4-yard run built the lead to 34-24. The Rams answered twice to end the quarter. Colorado State added a 21-yard field goal. On the next drive, Rams’ backup quarterback Patrick O’Brien eluded an Arkansas rush and hit Dante Wright for a 75-yard touchdown pass to even the score at 34-34. At that point, last year’s 27-9 lead lost at Colorado State became a talking point.

“I had a pep talk with the defense when No. 22 (Wright) scored,” said De’Jon Harris. “It is time to grow up. It is a big jump for us from last year.”

The fourth quarter belonged to the Hogs. Starkel led the Hogs early in the quarter on a nine-play, 68-yard drive capped by a five-yard touchdown run by Devwah Whaley. After Arkansas’ defense then stopped the Rams on downs, Hogs tight-end Cheyenne O’Grady made the play of the game. He broke away from six tackles, running down the sideline for a 62-yard touchdown pass from Starkel. The Hogs finished the scoring when defensive back Ladarrius Bishop scooped up a Rams fumble and returned it 25 yards for the touchdown.

Morris thanked the Arkansas fans, who stuck it out cheering in another hot game.

“I know that sun was beating down on the east side and they were screaming,” said Morris. “I truly appreciate our fans that show up.”

Arkansas returns home next Saturday to face San Jose State. Game time is at 6:30 p.m.