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Saturday, January 2, 2010
Instant analysis: Arkansas 20, ECU 17 (OT)

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

A quick look at Arkansas' 20-17 overtime win against East Carolina on Saturday in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl:

How the game was won: Alex Tejada, who missed a 43-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter that would have put Arkansas ahead, won it for the Hogs in overtime with a 37-yarder. Arkansas won despite sputtering on offense for most of the night. East Carolina outgained Arkansas by 110 yards, but the Pirates’ kicker, Ben Hartman, was just 1-of-5 on field goal attempts on the bitterly cold night in Memphis. He missed his final three attempts, including a 39-yarder that would have won it at the end of regulation and a 35-yarder during the Pirates’ possession in overtime.

Turning point: Arkansas trailed 10-0 at halftime and hadn’t done much of anything offensively. But back-to-back interceptions by the Hogs got them back into the game. Jerry Franklin returned the first one 31 yards to the East Carolina 20, setting up a Tejada field goal. And then a few minutes later, Tramain Thomas intercepted Patrick Pinkney again, this time returning it 37 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 10-10 with 9:04 to play in the third quarter.

Player of the game: Thomas, who saw his role increase after the suspension to Matt Harris, scored the Hogs’ first touchdown on the 37-yard interception return, and he also tipped away a pass at the goal line in the final minutes that might have saved the game.

Stat of the game: East Carolina had 14 more first downs than Arkansas.

Stat of the game II: The Hogs were 0-of-13 on third-down conversions.

Unsung hero: It wasn’t the best season for the Arkansas defense, which was last in the SEC and 90th nationally in total defense coming into the game. But defensive coordinator Willy Robinson, despite being down two starters, got one of the better efforts of the season out of his unit, which came up with two huge turnovers and held the Pirates to 17 points.

What it means: The Hogs (8-5) took another big step in Year No. 2 under Bobby Petrino with the bowl win, and they did it despite some controversy. Petrino suspended defensive starters Wendel Davis and Matt Harris earlier in the week for a curfew violation. The Hogs will now go into the offseason with a lot of momentum and have most of their key players returning. The key is third-year sophomore quarterback Ryan Mallett, who’s considering turning pro. If he returns, Arkansas has a chance to start next season in the Top 25.