FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas had a pair of double-digit leads go by the wayside against gritty BYU as the Cougars rallied for a 38-31 win Saturday night.
BYU trailed by 14 points in the first half and 10 in the second half before rallying to gain a measure of revenge before a crowd of 74,826 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
The Cougars (3-0), who were smoked 52-35 by the Razorbacks last season in Provo, Utah, came in with a stouter defense and a bag of offensive gadgets and used them to great advantage while playing with an edge.
Arkansas (2-1) was thought to have perhaps the most difficult four-game stretch in the country coming up, but it turned out their difficult run started a week earlier. The Razorbacks were savaged by 14 penalties for 125 yards, a horrendous 2-for-13 performance on third downs and they committed their first two turnovers of the season.
"I thought we played extremely hard, but obviously we didn't play smart with 14 penalties," Coach Sam Pittman said on postgame radio. "It killed us. Turnovers killed us."
A turning point came when the Cougars stopped a fourth-and-1 play at midfield with the Hogs leading 31-21 midway through the third quarter.
BYU fans, largely packed into the northeast corner of the stadium, began their "BYU! BYU!" chants as the Cougars held on the Hogs' final penalty filled possession that reached the Cougars' 21.
"The guys were ready for a challenge this year," BYU Coach Kalani Sitake said. "Being out here on the road is a lot of fun, but I want to give a lot of credit to Sam Pittman and his team. I think they're definitely a really good team.
"I was just really impressed with the crowd here, with Arkansas, the team, the coaches, and definitely the crowd. It was a really cool experience and it was a hard-fought battle. Just things went our way a little bit more than they did for Arkansas."
The teams played tug of war with the momentum before BYU, in its first Power 5 game as a member of the Big 12, seized it for good in the third quarter.
Kedon Slovis passed for 167 yards and two touchdowns, freshman LJ Martin ran for two scores and the Cougars capitalized quickly for touchdowns on a pair of possessions that started in Arkansas territory.
"Every time we made a mistake they came out and executed," Arkansas defensive end Landon Jackson said. "We have to play a better game in all three phases of the game. That's not what we like to showcase for our program."
The Razorbacks have now lost three marquee return games at home in the last 11 years after winning the first game on the road in series against Big 12 opponents Texas Tech, TCU and BYU. Arkansas became another SEC victim in Power 5 non-conference games, which has developed into a theme in the early part of the season.
Arkansas outgained its visitors 424-281 in total offense, but could not overcome turnovers, a shanked Max Fletcher punt that led to a quick score, the penalties and myriad other mistakes.
KJ Jefferson passed for 247 yards and a touchdown, but he was harassed by the Cougars' tenacious pass rushing that netted three sacks, a few other hits and a handful of holding penalties. AJ Green ran for 86 yards and two touchdowns as Arkansas amassed 177 rushing yards, 100 more than BYU.
The Razorbacks lost control during a weird sequence midway through the third quarter after building a 31-21 lead on Green's 7-yard touchdown run their first possession of the second half.
Tight end Luke Hasz was originally ruled to have made the line to gain on a 5-yard reception just into BYU territory. However, the Big 12 replay crew deemed he was just short.
Arkansas took a snap from the Shotgun on fourth and 1 and Rashod Dubinion's run over the left side was stopped short by linebacker AJ Vongphachanh.
BYU scored the next 17 points with its passing game catching fire.
The Hogs appeared to have stopped a fake field goal run from the 21, but BYU caught a break as they were flagged for delay of game to nullify the play. Given a second chance, Will Ferrin booted a 43-yard field goal to make it 31-24.
Jefferson did not see linebacker Max Tooley dropping into zone coverage on the Hogs' next series and Tooley intercepted at the Hogs' 44 and returned it to the 20.
On the next play, the Cougars flowed right and Slovis threw left to Parker Kingston, who sprinted in for a 20-yard touchdown and a 31-31 tie.
Arkansas drove into field-goal range with its next possession, but Cam Little's 49-yard try hit the right upright and fell away.
The Cougars, who had scored 21 unanswered points in the first half to move ahead 21-14, re-took the lead with 8 minutes to play when Chase Roberts, who had fumbled earlier, hauled in a one-handed catch for a 7-yard score and a 38-31 BYU lead.
Arkansas did not score on its final six offensive possessions.
The Razorbacks could hardly have asked for a better start with touchdowns on two of their first five touches.
Four plays in, Green got key blocks from tight ends Francis Sherman and Hasz and center Beaux Limmer to storm over the right side on a stretch play for a 55-yard touchdown on the Hogs' longest run of the season.
Arkansas then forced a punt and Ryan Rekhow's 54-yard boot outkicked his coverage and gave Isaiah Sategna room to maneuver. The high school track and field star caught the punt on the left sideline, burst through a wave of defenders, then sprinted to the right sideline to complete his 88-yard touchdown.
The Razorbacks led 14-0 less than four minutes into the game.
BYU dominated the next 19 minutes of game time to seize momentum and the lead.
The turnaround started with razzle-dazzle as Slovis threw a long lateral to Parker Kingston on the right edge. The left-handed Kingston, a high school quarterback, had easy pickings to find uncovered tailback Deion Smith for a 37 yard touchdown.
A strange offensive pass interference call on a completed pass to Hasz blew up an Arkansas series that had reached BYU territory and ended on a sack of Jefferson.
On its next series, Fletcher punted 10 yards out of bounds to the Arkansas 45.
LJ Martin burst through a hole on the right side for a 45-yard touchdown to even the game late in the first quarter.
Martin's 1-yard touchdown run capped a 70-yard drive that gave BYU the lead at 21-14.
But the Hogs fought back before halftime as Hasz caught a 19-yard touchdown to finish off a 70-yard drive. Dwight McGlothern forced a fumble on the Cougars' next possession and Hudson Clark recovered, setting up Cam Little's 26-yard field goal on the final play of the half for a 24-21 Arkansas lead.