ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Joe Adams and Jarius Wright quickly found themselves on the field as freshmen for Bobby Petrino's first team at Arkansas four years ago.
"They had no choice," Petrino said. "Not as big and as fast as they are right now, but they did a nice job. There were a few times that season where they weren't sure if they broke the huddle and went to the right or broke the huddle and went to the left."
Wright and Adams are leaving 1-2 on Arkansas' career receptions list after three consecutive bowl games, the last when the No. 7 Razorbacks defeated No. 11 Kansas State 29-16 in the Cotton Bowl on Friday night to tie the school record with their 11th victory.
The All-SEC receivers both scored in the finale, Adams on another explosive punt return and Wright on a 45-yard catch.
"It's a huge deal for us," Wright said. "We always talked about winning 11 games."
Arkansas was 5-7 when they were freshmen, then 8-5 before 10 wins last season with a Sugar Bowl appearance. The only previous years Arkansas teams won 11 games were in 1964 and 1977.
The only losses for these Razorbacks (11-2) were to No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama, their SEC West rivals who will play for the BCS national championship Monday night.
Adams tied an SEC record with his fourth punt return for a touchdown this season, a 51-yarder early in the second quarter that gave Arkansas a 10-0 lead before it even had a first down.
"Joe Adams has made big plays for us all year long," said All-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson, who threw two touchdown passes after that. "We were struggling offensively until he sparked us."
It was the first punt return for a touchdown in the Cotton Bowl in 51 years.
"It was another one of those where you just go, 'Wow!'" Petrino said. "You could see when he made the catch he had in mind what he was going to do."
After fielding the ball near midfield, Adams took a few steps back before squirting through a gap past several defenders. He got all the way to the opposite sideline, his path cleared by one last downfield block from Javontee Herndon.
"It obviously made a major difference," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. "The players were probably tired of me talking about being able to contain Joe Adams and not let him bounce the ball outside. Sure enough he bounced it outside."
The last punt return for a touchdown in the Cotton Bowl was by a Razorback. When Lance Alworth had a 49-yard return in a 7-6 loss to Duke in the 1961 game.
"To get this program consistently in the top 10, in BCS bowl games, great bowl games like the Cotton Bowl, hopefully in the top five in the country with 11 wins, it means so much to me personally, and to this group of seniors," defensive end Jake Bequette said. "It's just been such a fun ride."
Kansas State (10-3) also was trying to match its school record with 11 victories, but still finished a surprising season in Snyder's second Wildcats turnaround. K-State won 11 games six times during a seven-year span in Snyder's first tenure before his three-year retirement, and almost reached that mark again in his third season back.
Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein tied the Big 12 record with his 27th rushing touchdown this season and matched the FBS record for quarterbacks.
"It's overshadowed by our ability as a group. We came up short," Klein said. "My heart just goes out to our seniors. We weren't able to send them out the right way."
After being held to 15 yards on 12 carries in the first half, Klein finished the opening drive of the third quarter with a 6-yard TD run that got the Wildcats to 19-16.
That matched the Big 12 record for rushing touchdowns held by 1998 Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams of Texas. The only other FBS quarterback with 27 rushing touchdowns in a season was Ricky Dobbs for Navy in 2009.
Wilson, who threw for a school-record 510 yards in a win over Texas A&M at Cowboys Stadium three months ago, was 20 of 31 for 216 yards against Kansas State. Wright, who had 13 catches for a record 287 yards against the Aggies, made three catches for 88 yards in the Cotton Bowl.
The Cotton Bowl was the only non-BCS game with both teams in the top 15 of the Bowl Championship Series standings — Arkansas came in sixth, Kansas State eighth. It also is the only bowl featuring the SEC versus the Big 12, the top two conferences in the BCS computer rankings.
Arkansas led 19-0 on Wright's 45-yard catch with 4 minutes left in the first half.
Kansas State, which has lost its last four bowl games since beating Arizona State in the 2002 Holiday Bowl, blocked the extra point and Nigel Malone returned it for two points.
It was 19-9 at halftime after Klein threw a 3-yard TD pass to Andrew McDonald with 26 seconds left in the first half. That score was set up after Wilson was sacked and fumbled at the Razorbacks 13.
Arkansas led 3-0 after Bequette sacked Klein and forced a fumble. Tenarius Wright recovered at the Kansas State 13.
"We got off to an awfully bad start and really couldn't overcome the damage that we did," Snyder said. "And most of it was pretty obvious."
©2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.