Tyler Wilson Set to Start First SEC Game

By: Kim Allen Email
By: Kim Allen Email

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Tyler Wilson isn't a newcomer to playing on the road in the Southeastern Conference.

The Arkansas quarterback will, however, make his first start in an SEC game when the No. 14 Razorbacks (3-0) play at No. 3 Alabama
(3-0) on Saturday. Wilson has stepped right up after the departure of
record-setting quarterback Ryan Mallett through three nonconference
games -- competing 68.6 percent of his passes for 274 yards per

His true test will come on the road in Tuscaloosa against the Crimson Tide's fierce defense. How well the junior performs will likely determine how Arkansas fares in the game.

It will also either lend credence to Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino's lofty preseason talk of an SEC championship or keep him winless against Alabama coach Nick Saban in four tries. Wilson's first experience on the road in conference play was in mop-up action at Alabama two years ago.

His true baptism came last season at Auburn when Mallett was injured in the first half. He responded with a 332-yard, four-touchdown effort that solidified his role as Mallett's successor, an experience he hopes to carry over this week.

"Really, the atmosphere and all the noise didn't bother me (at Auburn)," Wilson said. "It's just going out there and playing with your guys in the backyard. That's really what we've got to do, and I think if we do that we'll be fine."

Wilson showed his first signs of inconsistency in the second half of a 38-28 win over Troy last week. He was 7 of 13 passing for 125 yards in the half, throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown as the Razorbacks stalled at times with four three-and-outs.

He also missed an open receiver for a touchdown in the first half on third-and-goal, leading to a "teaching" moment from Petrino on the sidelines.

"I've been in the system for four years," Wilson said. "I know how it is during game day, it's tough. I think that's why offensively we're so good because he expects perfection. You know, when you mess up even on a small detail you hear about it."

The performance against Troy led to what Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee called "tough" team meetings during
film sessions on Sunday. McGee reiterated Petrino's goal of scoring
on every offensive possession while also saying he has full
confidence in Wilson, who has directed the Razorbacks to an SEC-best 47 points per game this season.

"I think it's growing pains," McGee said. "It's what you go through early in the season. But we were able to study all the film and learn from it, and I expect him to be ready this weekend."

Saban does, too. The Crimson Tide offered Wilson a scholarship
in high school, and Saban likes what he's seen so far of the

"I think he's doing a fantastic job," Saban said. "He's a very, very good player. They haven't skipped a beat in terms of how he's executing their offense. He has enough experience in terms of the games that he got to play in last year -- Auburn was a big one -- and what he's done so far this year."

Arkansas' second-half struggles against Troy led to several questions this week about Wilson's progress and the state of an
offensive line that entered the season with three new starters. Wilson was sacked three times by the Trojans and ended up on his
back several other times due to pressure.

Petrino said he's keeping the game in perspective, including Wilson's 303-yard effort on 23-of-36 passing.

"We're all right, guys," Petrino said. "We scored 38 points. We had a good win. We threw the ball for a very good percentage for a lot of people in the world. We're all right. We're doing OK. Our standards are high; we're going to push them hard to work for perfection."

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