FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas football’s season kicks off in one month. With expectations for the Razorbacks higher than they’ve been in years, Arkansas opens one of the nation’s toughest schedules against College Football Playoff team Cincinnati on Sept. 3.
If the Bearcats crack the Top 25 when preseason polls are released, Arkansas will have a chance to win its first opener over a ranked opponent since it beat No. 5 USC in 1974. Since then, the Razorbacks are 0-5 in such games.
Over the past 30 years, Arkansas is 24-6 in season openers.
Here’s a look at some of the most noteworthy first games of the past three decades for the Razorbacks.
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The Citadel 10, Arkansas 3
Season record: 3-7-1
The 1992 season was Arkansas’ first in the SEC, and it started with an ugly loss to The Citadel in Fayetteville. Neither team scored until Arkansas kicker Todd Wright made a 25-yard field goal. The Bulldogs answered with a touchdown and field goal of their own in the final 10 minutes of the game.
Arkansas coach Jack Crowe was fired the next day after two seasons and one game leading the Razorbacks.
Arkansas 41, Boise State 14
Season record: 9-5
Arkansas blew out Boise State to kick off coach Houston Nutt’s fifth season. Boise State actually outgained Arkansas in the Razorbacks’ rout but failed to find the red zone more than once.
Hindsight proved the Broncos were no cupcake: Boise State finished 12-1. The Broncos beat Iowa State in the Humanitarian Bowl and finished the season No. 18 in the country, their first national ranking since joining Division I six years prior.
Arkansas 28, Western Illinois 24
Season record: 5-7
The Razorbacks had to pull off a comeback in their first game under coach Bobby Petrino. Arkansas was down 10 early in the fourth quarter, but quarterback Casey Dick completed a 26-yard touchdown pass to Greg Childs with eight minutes left. With under two minutes to go, Dick put Arkansas ahead with a 4-yard touchdown run.
Arkansas 48, Missouri State 10
Season record: 8-5
One particular stat makes this blowout memorable: Arkansas’ total passing yards.
In his first appearance with the Razorbacks, quarterback Ryan Mallett threw for 309 yards. As the contest got out of hand for Missouri State, backup Tyler Wilson entered the game and added 138 yards. The duo combined for 447 yards through the air, a program record for a single game.
Wilson went on to break that record singlehandedly in 2011 when he threw for 510 yards against Texas A&M. But the 2009 opener set the tone for both quarterbacks, who hold a combined 20 of the top 40 single-game passing performances in Arkansas history.
Christina Long covers the Arkansas Razorbacks. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @christinalong00.