Liberty Bowl: Arkansas Beats ECU With OT Kick, 20-17

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Alex Tejada kicked the ball through the uprights, turned around and ran toward the opposite end of the field. His Arkansas teammates chased him all the way to the end zone amid a wild scene of celebration and relief.

Tejada's 37-yard field goal in overtime gave Arkansas a 20-17 win in the Liberty Bowl on Saturday night after East Carolina's Ben Hartman missed two field goal attempts late in regulation and another in the extra session. Tejada, who missed an overtime kick in a loss to LSU to end the regular season, redeemed himself by helping the Razorbacks overcome the upset-minded Pirates.

"I was pretty confident," Tejada said. "I felt like the wind was blowing really favorably that way, so going into overtime I felt good about our chances to win the game. Once I stepped up, I had all the confidence that it was going to go through."

Tejada missed a crucial kick in a loss to Florida in October, and his miss against LSU prevented the Razorbacks from forcing a second overtime.

"He took a lot of heat all year, and he stepped up and made a play in a big game," Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett said. "The team stuck behind him during the whole season when all you guys were yapping at him. We're a team, and we stuck behind him."

Tejada missed from 43 yards in the fourth quarter Saturday, but his struggles were nothing compared with Hartman's. The East Carolina senior missed four attempts in all, each at the same end of the field. He was short from 45 yards in the first quarter, then hit the left upright from 39 yards with 1:03 remaining in regulation with the score tied.

He missed from 39 yards again on the final play of the fourth quarter, then missed from 35 in overtime.

Arkansas (8-5) had won only two of its previous 14 bowls, and the Razorbacks insisted they were unusually focused on this one. It didn't show. Arkansas' vaunted offense had the ball for only 22:05. Mallett was named most valuable player, but he went only 15 of 36 for 202 yards and a touchdown.

"We never did find a good rhythm and we didn't execute as well as we're used to, but we stayed in there and kept working," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "We beat them. That's what it is all about. I'm not sure who outplayed who, but we won the game."

The Liberty Bowl is right across the Mississippi River from Arkansas, but the Razorbacks were playing in the game for the first time since 1987. Except for a small section of purple in one corner, the crowd was a sea of Arkansas red.

Those fans watched their team go 0 of 13 on third down. The low point came toward the end of regulation: After Hartman's miss with just over a minute remaining, the Razorbacks went three-and-out in only 29 seconds, allowing the Pirates (9-5) to set up Hartman again.

This potential game-winner went wide right.

Hartman's field goal and two extra points in the game were enough to break the school's career scoring record, but that was small consolation.

"If you said you were going to have your all-time leading scorer with an opportunity to win it, who has won a bunch of game-winners for you during his career here, he was the one soul I would have picked," East Carolina coach Skip Holtz said. "It's unfortunate."

Hartman wasn't made available to reporters afterward.

East Carolina lost in the Liberty Bowl for the second straight season. Last time it was a late fumble return by Kentucky that did in the Pirates.

Dominique Lindsay rushed for 151 yards on 33 carries for East Carolina. His 3-yard touchdown run opened the scoring in the second quarter, ending a 99-yard drive by the Pirates. It was 10-0 at halftime, the first time the Razorbacks had been shut out in the first half since September against Alabama.

Arkansas had been averaging 37 points per game.

The Razorbacks tied it in the third quarter with a defensive touchdown when Tramain Thomas intercepted a pass and ran 37 yards to the end zone.

East Carolina took the lead again on Patrick Pinkney's 13-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Harris with 5:52 left in the third. Arkansas answered 36 seconds later when Mallett threw a 41-yard scoring pass to Jarius Wright to make it 17-all.

Still, it was a struggle for the Razorbacks, who became only the second major college team this season to win without converting a third down. Colorado State went 0 for 8 while beating Weber State in September, according to STATS LLC.

"When they go 0 for 13 on third downs, it's a pretty good day for what you are doing defensively," said Holtz, whose father Lou once coached the Razorbacks.

Pinkney, a sixth-year senior, went 17 of 33 for 209 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

The last time Arkansas played in the Liberty Bowl, the Razorbacks lost to Georgia 20-17 on a last-second field goal by John Kasay.


Final - In Overtime
East Carolina 17
Arkansas 20

1st Quarter Highlights:
ECU - Chris Mattocks forced an Arkansas fumble that was recovered by Levin Neal.

2nd Quarter Highlights:
ECU - Dominque Lindsay 2 yard touchdown run.
ECU - Ben Hartman 33 yard field goal. (Hartman ties Kevin Miller as ECU's all-time scoring leader with 284 points.)

3rd Quarter Highlights:
ARK - Alex Tejada 25 yard field goal.
ARK - Tremain Thomas picked off Patrick Pinkney and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.
ECU - Pinkney 13 yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Harris.
ARK - Ryan Mallett 41 yard touchdown pass to Jarius Wright

4th Quarter Highlights:
ECU - Ben Hartman missed two field goal attempts in the final 1:30. The second from 39 yards away with no time on the clock.

Overtime Highlights:
ECU - Hartman missed a 35 yard field goal.
ARK - Tejada made 37 yard field goal.

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  • by Coach M Location: Rocky Mt. on Jan 11, 2010 at 11:50 PM
    Well, well, well. Now we see how many people really know sports. Tejada didn't loose the game for the Pierats, he just didn't kick the winning field goal. If the defense had of played better, if the offense had scored another touchdown instead of releying on the foot of the kicker. It takes a team to win, PERIOD.
  • by Shady Location: GVegas on Jan 7, 2010 at 02:48 PM
    I'm glad Pinkney's going to be gone next year, but we'll be a much younger team. So, if we don't do as well, it won't be because Pinkney was better than whoever replaces him behind center.
  • by Dave on Jan 7, 2010 at 05:19 AM
    USAF is where I met my life partner.
  • by Dave Location: The dark side on Jan 6, 2010 at 08:33 PM
    Barry, sometimes one has to explore all of their options before coming to a hasty decision. When I was in the USAF, I live in SoCal for 5 years. I had a blast and want to go back.
  • by Barry Location: Greenville on Jan 6, 2010 at 01:56 PM
    Dave: Please report in.
  • by Barry Location: Greenville on Jan 5, 2010 at 10:33 AM
    Dave: I'm not sure what you and John are going on about, but WHAT??!! You've had a career plan change? Inquiring minds want to know the details, please. You have long said that you were receiving MA in English to return to Utopia, errr... Pennsylvania. What's the deal? Happy New Year.
  • by Endurance Swimmer Location: Greenville on Jan 4, 2010 at 11:02 PM
    Whew! I watched the ECU game Sat. night and Sun. night, I simply couldn't believe that could happen 3 times, crazy! If I were Ben Hartman, I'd lay low for a while! Any Ole Miss fans??
  • by Dave on Jan 4, 2010 at 07:06 PM
    Well John, why don't you tell that to the English Department at ECU? Anyway, I will NOT be teaching in PA. I will probably move back to California.
  • by John L. Location: Pitt County on Jan 4, 2010 at 06:15 PM
    Dave: What do you reckon is a more "useful" degree,the MBA he will be receiving in a year or your "degree" in English? 26k a year teaching in the redneck dying rust belt wasteland of Western Pa. Oh boy, imagine the possibilities, Davey Boy. LOL!!!!
  • by Dave Location: The dark side on Jan 4, 2010 at 05:28 PM
    I hope that Hartman has a degree in something useful because he has kicked, err, I mean SHANKED his last football.

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