FAYETTEVILLE — Cobi Hamilton is used to posting huge statistics this season for Arkansas. But celebrating them was a new feeling.
That’s because Arkansas had lost the three games where Hamilton had posted more than 100 yards. Until Saturday.
Hamilton caught 11 passes for 177 yards as Arkansas held off Tulsa, 19-15, at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. He caught more than half of Tyler Wilson’s 272 passing yards in the game.
He caught passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns in the Razorbacks’ 35-26 loss to Rutgers, 11 for 162 in a 58-10 loss to Texas A&M and 12 for 146 in a 30-27 loss to Ole Miss. Throw in his six-catch, 99-yard effort against in a 34-31 overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe and Hamilton hasn’t been able to enjoy his best individual performances of the season.
So he was relieved to finally get a big stat line and a win on the same day.
“When you break a record and lose, it’s hard to enjoy, but when we win, it’s fun,” Hamilton said. “The locker room is happy, the atmosphere is happy. It’s just fun.”
The Texarkana, Texas, native broke the UA’s single-season reception record — surpassing Jarius Wright’s 66 catches from 2011. Hamilton now has 69 receptions for 1,077 yards, which is good for second on the single-season receiving yards list. The season catch record was news to Hamilton.
“I didn’t even know I was close before the game,” Hamilton said. “Coach (Paul) Petrino came up to me after the game and told me congrats on breaking the record, and I was like ‘What record?’”
With a young corps of receivers, Hamilton’s senior leadership has been a steadying influence, Wilson said. Hamilton has accounted for 39 percent of the receiving yards for Arkansas this season.
“He’s a guy that’s been around for a while and knows how to carry himself and do things the right way,” Wilson said. “They were playing off to the field as far as cornerbacks, so we took advantage of that and gave him some easy completions and let him run after the catch. He made two big-time catches late that helped us win the game.”
Those two catches came on the Razorbacks’ final scoring drive early in the fourth quarter. Trailing the Golden Hurricane 15-13, Arkansas started the drive at its own 24. After a 20-yard completion to Demetrius Wilson, Tyler Wilson looked for his go-to receiver and hit a 41-yard pass. Hamilton said his mindset in that situation was simple — do whatever it takes.
“(I was) just competing. Who wants to make the play?” Hamilton said. “It really helped the team out in that situation and we got a win, so everybody is happy. It was just competing and wanting the ball.”
On the next play, Hamilton was again the target as he tied Wright’s second reception record with a 14-yard pass that took the ball to the Tulsa 1. Dennis Johnson then bulled into the end zone for what was eventually the winning score.
With more than double the number of catches of anybody else on the team, Hamilton said the rapport he built with Wilson in the summer is paying off now.
“It has to do with me and Tyler, we worked extremely hard,” Hamilton said. “That comes back to the summertime, running up here in the 110-degree heat on the turf.”
Now Arkansas (4-5) needs to win two of their last three games against Top 25 teams South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU to have a chance at a bowl game. Wilson said beating the Golden Hurricane is the boost the team needed for the stretch run.
“Game week when you win is so much better from a mentality standpoint for everybody in the locker room,” Wilson said. “Four wins is obviously better than three. It gives us a chance going forward, we’ve got three tough opponents coming up. It gives a chance to hit that six-win mark.”