FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Kentucky had no answers for either the weather or Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson on Saturday night.
The Wildcats were held to a season-low 170 yards of total offense in a 49-7 loss to the Razorbacks, a game that was shortened by severe weather in the third quarter.
Jalen Whitlow, starting at quarterback for Kentucky because of injuries to Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles, struggled throughout with 2 of 10 passing for 83 yards. The lone highlight for the Wildcats (1-6, 0-4 Southeastern Conference) was a 61-yard touchdown catch by La'Rod King from Whitlow in the third quarter, a score that kept Kentucky from being shut out.
"It's always bad when a team starts scoring on you like that and your offense can't do anything back to them," Kentucky offensive lineman Matt Smith said. "We take a lot of responsibility for what happened up front. We weren't protecting well enough for the quarterback. Our offense stalled and it's mostly our fault up front."
While the Wildcats' woes continued, Wilson helped Arkansas (3-4, 2-2) take out a season's worth of frustrations. The senior finished 23 of 32 passing for 372 yards and a career-high five touchdowns as the Razorbacks won their second straight after a four-game losing streak.
It was a refreshingly easy win for Arkansas in a season where victories have been anything but a sure thing.
"You feel like you've released a little bit (of frustration)," Wilson said. "You feel like you're back on top. It gives everybody in that locker room confidence moving forward."
Wilson threw a 74-yard touchdown pass to running back Jonathan Williams on the opening play for the Razorbacks, who had 533 yards of total offense before the game was called with 5:08 remaining in the third quarter because of lightning near Razorback Stadium. The second-half play suspension followed an hour and six-minute delay in the first half.
The Wildcats were outgained 444-88 in total yards in the first half.
"Playing a top quarterback like (Wilson) is tough because he's really good," Wildcats coach Joker Phillips said. "They did a great job of throwing and catching it. It's a challenge to play against a top quarterback like Wilson because he is really good, and they also have some really good receivers."
Even before the weather became a factor, Wilson and the Razorbacks had taken complete control against a Kentucky team that has played 14 true freshmen this season. The senior threw four touchdowns in the first half as the Razorbacks built a 42-0 halftime lead. His fifth touchdown pass came in the third quarter on an 18-yard pass to Julian Horton, putting Arkansas up 49-0.
The pass topped Wilson's previous best of four touchdown passes in a game, set in a relief role against Auburn in 2010. It also tied the school record for most touchdown passes in a game, equaling the mark former Razorbacks quarterback Ryan Mallett set in four different games.
The Razorbacks outgained the Wildcats 307-48 in total yardage in the first quarter, after which it led 28-0. Two of Wilson's touchdown passes in the quarter came on wheel routes out of the backfield to Williams, who added a 77-yard score to end the quarter to match his opening touchdown — finishing with three catches for 150 yards.
"That's exactly how we drew it up," Wilson said of Williams' first touchdown catch. "Early in the week, he made a move in practice similar to the one he did tonight across the field for a touchdown, so that was good."
Dennis Johnson led Arkansas with 82 yards rushing on 12 carries, finishing with three touchdowns of his own as Arkansas took advantage of the youthful and inexperienced Wildcats.
The Razorbacks, whose former coach Bobby Petrino was fired in April, began the season ranked No. 8 before plummeting out of the polls after a loss to Louisiana-Monroe.
That loss was the first of four straight under Arkansas interim coach John L. Smith, who spent part of Friday in federal court facing creditors in his $40.7 million bankruptcy case.
Wilson gave the game ball to the coach.
"I felt finally we showed our hand a little bit, what we have in us and what we hadn't done this year," Wilson said. "So, I said 'Let's give it to the guy that needs this.' So, I gave it to him, and I think it's well deserved."
The recent losing stretch put Arkansas' streak of three straight bowl games in jeopardy. The Razorbacks snapped the streak last week in a 24-7 win at Auburn, but even that was a struggle.
Arkansas looked every bit like the same team that was 21-5 the last two seasons, though it came against a Kentucky team that's lost five in a row since its win against Kent State on Sept. 8.
The 42-point win equaled Arkansas' largest margin of victory in an SEC game. Its largest was a 52-6 win over Mississippi State in 2003.
"They've grown by leaps and bounds the last two weeks," Smith said. "It's really fun as a coach to see young guys just keep climbing that ladder and getting better and better."