LUBBOCK, Texas – Maligned, vilified, smeared. Verbs of Arkansas’ defense past didn’t seem appropriate Saturday in West Texas. Against otherwise apparently long odds, it was the Razorbacks’ defense that sparked Arkansas to its first significant non-conference win in 11 years.

LUBBOCK, Texas – Maligned, vilified, smeared. Verbs of Arkansas’ defense past didn’t seem appropriate Saturday in West Texas. Against otherwise apparently long odds, it was the Razorbacks’ defense that sparked Arkansas to its first significant non-conference win in 11 years.


Arkansas hadn’t beaten a team from a power conference on the road since Texas in 2003. And although it wasn’t always textbook and it occasionally had lapses - as opponents of one of the most prolific offenses in the country are apt to discover – Arkansas’ defense was adequate with just enough big-play necessity to emerge on the winning end at Texas Tech, 49-28.


Brooks Ellis forced a fumble in the first quarter that led to Arkansas’ first touchdown and a tie game. Martrell Spaight picked off a Davis Webb pass late in the second quarter – following an Arkansas turnover in the red zone three plays prior – and Jonathan Williams punched the ball in the end zone a play later to give the Razorbacks their last necessary lead.


Arkansas coach Bret Bielema expected Texas Tech to land some heavy blows offensively. And they did: a pair of lengthy scoring drives in the second quarter twice tied the game. Bielema just wanted his defense to respond in ways they hadn’t before in his tenure.


"This week, I knew we were going to get a shock from them, whether it be a big play, a big run, something that we had to withstand," Bielema said. "When you get a team that can kind of just put their hand on their brother and say ‘Hey, I got you here,’ that’s worth its wait in gold, man. You can’t coach that stuff up. That’s go to happen within our room."


Texas Tech’s vaunted "Air Raid" style was mostly deked. The passes were plentiful (45 attempts) but were more of the dink-and-dunk variety than a vertical assault.


When Kliff Kingsbury’s team needed a response trailing by seven, 14, then 21 in the fourth quarter, none came. The latter drive unofficially ended the Red Raiders’ chances when Henre’ Tolliver intercepted Webb on fourth down with 9:10 left in the game.


"That’s our mentality as an offense and we just didn’t get it done on that side of the ball," Kingsbury said. "They beat us on both sides of the ball. There are no excuses."


Tolliver’s interception sealed Arkansas’ win, but Spaight’s was the turning point. It led to a Razorbacks touchdown that put the team ahead entering halftime and Arkansas marched down the field for another score on the first drive of the second half.


"That was really huge," Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen said of Spaight’s pick. "Credit the D with getting a turnover there for us and giving us really good field position. … The defense was able to help us out when we let one get away from us. They gave us a turnover and got the ball right back where we were and we were able to finish the drive."


Arkansas ultimately surrendered 353 yards of total offense – 217 yards fewer than Texas Tech’s offense had averaged through its first two games.


Cornerback Tevin Mitchel made his debut Saturday after missing Arkansas’ first two games with a lingering hamstring injury. He was sharp, making five tackles and breaking up two passes in a return to his home state. The secondary as a whole, which was 89th of 128 in passing defense, surrendered just 111 yards passing in the second half, when Texas Tech’s air attack was about all the Red Raiders had left.


Mitchel struggled at times last season and drew the ire of coaches, so he wanted to make a statement in his debut against a team known for passing. He and teammates did exactly that.


"As a (defensive back) you should love that type of team," Mitchel said. "You should love a team that’s going to throw it. That’s more chances you’re going to get to make an interception, make a couple plays, (pass break-ups). That’s great."