Arkansas' most embarrassing loss? Where SJSU upset ranks in Hogs' SEC era
Despite being a heavy favorite by every metric Saturday night, Arkansas fell to San Jose State 31-24 inside Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Here’s where the loss stands in terms of the Razorbacks’ most embarrassing since joining the SEC in 1992, according to HawgBeat…
1. Sept. 21, 2019 - San Jose State 31, Arkansas 24
Most of the losses listed below were at least to solid Group of Five teams. San Jose State does not fall into that category. The Spartans had won just four of their previous 27 games. They came into the game No. 115 (Bill Connelly’s SP+), No. 119 (ESPN’s FPI) and No. 122 (The Athletic) by various 1-130 rankings for all the FBS.
The SP+ and FPI each gave Arkansas an 88 percent chance to win the game, while it closed as a 20.5-point favorite in Vegas. After seemingly turning a corner by pulling out a late victory over Colorado State, this was expected to be a warmup before playing Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium.
It was everything but that. San Jose State punched Arkansas in the mouth with a touchdown on the game’s opening drive and never looked back. The Spartans led 24-7 at halftime before the Razorbacks got things going and managed to tie the game with about three minutes left.
That was too much time, though, because San Jose State marched down the field for the game-winning touchdown with 1:13 remaining. Arkansas’ last gasp was Nick Starkel’s fifth interception - which is tied for the second most in school history.
2. Sept. 5, 1992 - The Citadel 10, Arkansas 3
Arkansas’ first game as a member of the Southeastern Conference was a disaster. Coming off a trip to the Independence Bowl, the Razorbacks figured to be 1-0 going into their first SEC game at South Carolina.
Instead, they found themselves in a battle with The Citadel. It was scoreless through the first three quarters before Todd Wright made a short field goal to put Arkansas up 3-0.
Later in the fourth quarter, E.D. Jackson fumbled the ball behind the Razorbacks’ line of scrimmage and - taking advantage of a first-year rule that allowed such fumbles to be returned - Judson Boehmer scooped it up and returned it for a 34-yard score. That was all the Bulldogs needed, but they added a field goal for good measure.
The impact was immediate, as Jack Crowe resigned the following day and Joe Kines took over as the interim head coach. Despite going 3-6-1 for the season, all three of Arkansas’ wins - and its tie - were against SEC teams.
On the flip side, the victory propelled The Citadel to one of its best seasons in school history. It entered the FCS (the DI-AA) playoffs as the No. 1 team in the country before falling in the quarterfinals.
3. Sept. 15, 2018 - North Texas 44, Arkansas 17
This was a game some predicted might give the Razorbacks trouble. North Texas was coming off a nine-win season and division title in Conference USA, plus had a talented quarterback in Mason Fine.
What no one saw coming was the blowout at Arkansas’ expense. It was 17-0 in almost the blink of an eye, with the Mean Green scoring one of their touchdowns on a fake fair catch that resulted in a 90-yard punt return. That highlight appeared across the country, giving the Razorbacks publicity that they didn’t want.
Cole Kelley threw four interceptions, while Connor Noland and John Stephen Jones each threw one off the bench. Noland was also sacked five times in very limited action. It would have been a 34-point loss, but Maleek Williams scored on a 68-yard run in the final minute to make it a 27-point margin.
North Texas ended up winning nine games again, with all three of its regular-season losses coming by one possession, proving it was a pretty good Group of Five team.
4. Oct. 22, 2016 - No. 21 Auburn 56, No. 17 Arkansas 3
Despite being ranked a few spots ahead of Auburn, this was about as thorough of a butt-kicking as possible. The Tigers scored on runs of 78, 51, 31, 23, 20 and 9 yards, plus had a 45-yard touchdown pass.
When the dust settled, Auburn had 543 yards on 57 carries. That was an average of 9.5 yards and the most rushing yards the Razorbacks have ever allowed. Five different Tigers gained at least 60 yards and scored, led by Kamryn Pettway’s 192-yard performance.
The only thing preventing it from being a shutout was a 54-yard field goal by Adam McFain just before halftime. Even with those three points, the 53-point margin was Arkansas’ worst in conference history - including its time in the Southwest Conference dating back to 1915 - and matched its 2005 loss at No. 1 USC for its largest since World War II.
5. Sept. 8, 2012 - Louisiana-Monroe 34, No. 8 Arkansas 31 (OT)
Even after Bobby Petrino wrecked his motorcycle, expectations for Arkansas in 2012 were sky-high. Coming off back-to-back double-digit win seasons, including an 11-2 mark the year before, and with Tyler Wilson, Knile Davis and Cobi Hamilton returning, the Razorbacks were a consensus top-10 team in the preseason.
A date with College GameDay was seemingly on the horizon, as No. 1 Alabama was set to visit the following week, but it went off the rails at War Memorial Stadium.
The No. 8 Razorbacks built a 28-7 lead early in the third quarter. However, with Wilson out with a concussion, they stopped moving the ball with redshirt freshman Brandon Allen under center. That allowed Louisiana-Monroe to rally and force overtime with a touchdown in the final minute.
The Warhawks completed the comeback with a 16-yard run by Kolton Browning - who completed 42 of 67 passes for 412 yards. They were also aided by converting 6 of 7 fourth downs. The loss dropped Arkansas completely out of the AP Poll.
(During the Monday press conference after losing to Alabama 52-0 the next week, interim head coach John L. Smith went on his infamous “Smile!” rant.)
6. Sept. 2, 1995 - SMU 17, Arkansas 14
Most fans remember the 1995 season for the Razorbacks winning their first SEC Western Division title, but the season got off to a miserable start.
With head coach Danny Ford frustrated with senior Barry Lunney Jr. decision to play baseball during the spring, he started Robert Reed. He was benched during the second quarter and Lunney helped Arkansas rally from a 10-0 deficit.
However, SMU - less than a decade removed from the Death Penalty - answered with a touchdown early in the fourth quarter and hung on to win 17-14 when Lunney fumbled near the goal line in the game’s final minute.
It was the Mustangs’ lone win of the season, as they lost their remaining 10 games by an average of 22.3 points.
7. Sept. 8, 2018 - Colorado State 34, Arkansas 27
When a road trip to Colorado State replaced Arkansas’ game against Michigan on the 2018 schedule, it presented a tricky matchup. It was seemingly more winnable than a trip to the Big House, but the Rams had been to three straight bowl games.
The Razorbacks had things under control for a while, with T.J. Hammonds’ 64-yard score giving them a 27-9 lead midway through the third quarter. That’s when Colorado State flipped the switch and scored 25 unanswered points.
Head coach Chad Morris’ decision to punt on fourth-and-one at midfield - despite gaining positive yards on every run and averaging more than six yards per attempt - proved to be pivotal. The offense managed just 22 yards on eight plays and the Rams scored their final 17 points after that play.
The loss sent Arkansas on a downward spiral to its first 10-loss season in school history - which included the aforementioned North Texas disaster - and seemed even worse as Colorado State struggled to a 3-9 season.
8. Sept. 12, 2015 - Toledo 16, No. 18 Arkansas 12
The best season of the Bret Bielema era got off to a rocky start, as the No. 18 Razorbacks traveled to War Memorial Stadium and suffered an ugly loss to Toledo.
Brandon Allen threw for 412 yards, but Arkansas missed a field goal, turned it over on downs twice and threw an interception. On the final possession of the game, the Razorbacks got into the red zone and had two cracks at game-winning touchdowns, but Allen’s passes fell incomplete - including an overthrow of Hunter Henry.
It was the first of three straight losses for Arkansas, which actually dropped to 2-4 before winning six of its final seven games of the season. Toledo, meanwhile, was ranked for a chunk of the year and finished with 10 wins.
9. Sept. 26, 1992 - Memphis 22, Arkansas 6
Any one of three straight losses to mediocre Memphis teams could have this list, but the 1992 version gets the nod because of how it happened.
The Tigers’ Ken Irvin blocked three of Pete’s Raether’s punts, with all three leading to field goals. It was an ugly season with this loss and to The Citadel, but the Razorbacks still managed to go 3-4-1 in SEC play.
The next two years, Arkansas fell to Memphis 6-0 and 16-15.
10. Dec. 29, 2016 - No. 22 Virginia Tech 35, Arkansas 24
Coming off a monumental collapse at Missouri to end the regular-season, it appeared Arkansas had rebounded to beat a good Virginia Tech team in the Belk Bowl.
The Razorbacks were dominant in the first half, taking a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter by scoring on four of its first five possessions. From that point on, though, they punted six times, missed a field goal as time expired in the first half, threw three interceptions and lost a fumble.
That allowed the Hokies to score 35 unanswered points after halftime. It was the largest collapse in school history and helped push the Bielema era closer to its end.