FAYETTEVILLE — Tyler Wilson opened his Heisman Trophy campaign in convincing fashion, doing so with a mostly remade set of receivers.
Wilson set the school record for yards passing in a season opener, finishing 19 of 27 passing for 367 yards and three touchdowns to lead the No. 10 Razorbacks to a 49-24 win over Jacksonville State on Saturday night.
Two of Wilson’s touchdowns went to tight end Chris Gragg, who finished with seven catches for 110 yards as Arkansas (1-0) won its first game under coach John L. Smith.
Brandon Mitchell, the former backup quarterback turned starting receiver, joined in the fun with four catches for 122 yards and Javontee Herndon caught four passes for 96 yards.
The Gamecocks (0-1), coached by former Razorbacks coach Jack Crowe, led 14-7 in the first half. Marques Ivory had a pair of touchdown passes, while Alan Bonner had eight catches for 107 yards.
Crowe coached Arkansas 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 stayed close to the Southeastern Conference’s top offense throughout the first half, trailing 35-21 at halftime, but the Gamecocks couldn’t keep pace with Wilson and his revamped receiving corps.
Arkansas lost three of its top receivers (Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright) to the NFL after last season, and its top returning receiver (Cobi Hamilton) left Saturday’s game with a first-half injury.
Gragg and Mitchell provided Wilson all of the big-play capability he needed, and nine Razorbacks finished with catches. After Jacksonville State took a 14-7 lead in the second quarter, Wilson followed with back-to-back touchdown passes to Gragg to put Arkansas up 21-14.
His yards passing broke the former season-opening record of 318 yards, set by Casey Dick in 2008 against Western Illinois.
Mitchell also made the most of his first collegiate start. The junior battled Wilson for the starting quarterback job prior to last season, but he switched to receiver this summer with hopes of seeing more playing time.
With Hamilton out of the game, Mitchell saw all the action he could have hoped for — including a 34-yard catch in the second quarter that set up Ronnie Wingo’s 3-yard touchdown run to put the Razorbacks up 28-14.
Arkansas running back Knile Davis, playing in his first game since the Sugar Bowl two seasons ago, finished with 70 yards rushing on 18 carries. Davis missed all of last season after breaking his left ankle during the preseason, but he looked healthy as ever in the first half with 80 yards — including a 5-yard touchdown run to put the Razorbacks up 35-14.
The win was Smith’s first as a head coach since the 2006 season at Michigan State. The former Spartans and Louisville coach was hired by Arkansas in April following the firing of Bobby Petrino, who was ousted after revelations of an affair and that he hired his mistress to a position in the athletic department.