FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Jack Crowe felt right at home in his return to Razorback Stadium, and Jacksonville State did its best to play its familiar role of spoiler Saturday night.
Arkansas and quarterback Tyler Wilson, however, proved too much for the Gamecocks and their coach to overcome in a 49-24 win.
Crowe coached the No. 10 Razorbacks (1-0) from 1990 until he was ousted by former Razorbacks athletic director Frank Broyles after the first game of the 1992 season, a 10-3 loss to the Citadel.
Jacksonville State (0-1) stayed close to the Southeastern Conference's top offense throughout the first half, trailing 35-21 at halftime, but the Gamecocks — who defeated Mississippi two seasons ago — couldn't keep pace with Wilson and his revamped receiving corps.
"The biggest difference in this game was that there were about four or five mismatches," Crowe said. "They had some players out there that were as talented as you'll ever find.
"Our effort was there. We entered this game with the frame of mind to win it and there was possibly an opportunity for us to get some things to go our way and win it."
The Gamecocks led 14-7 in the second quarter after a 4-yard touchdown run by Alan Bonner. Marques Ivory had a pair of touchdown passes, while Bonner had eight catches for 107 yards — helping overcome the loss of leading rusher Washaun Ealey to a knee injury in the first half.
Wilson set the school record for yards passing in a season opener, finishing 19 of 27 passing for 367 yards and three touchdowns. The effort made sure John L. Smith's coaching debut at Arkansas started in winning, if not perfect, fashion.
The fast start was exactly what Wilson had hoped for to kick off his Heisman Trophy campaign.
The win was exactly was Smith was looking for in his first game as a head coach since the 2006 season at Michigan State. The former Louisville coach was hired by Arkansas in April following the firing of Bobby Petrino, and he was relieved to open with a win — even if the Razorbacks did lose two first-half fumbles and struggle to stop the pesky Gamecocks.
"We got the win, and I'm extremely happy that we were able to get that first one for (Smith)," Wilson said. "You know, we've got many to go still. I thought we handled it very well. I think there will be a lot of corrections and things to go over that you don't get to rehearse in that first game, and so it was a good game to kind of get everything under our belt."
Wilson lost one of Arkansas' fumbles, but he was nearly flawless otherwise. Two of the senior's touchdown passes went to tight end Chris Gragg, who finished with seven catches for 110 yards.