When Arkansas showed up to play Texas A&M at Cowboys Stadium on Oct. 1, the Razorbacks were still a team looking for an identity.
In the second half of a 42-38 comeback win over the Aggies, Arkansas would find one.
"I think that was a big turning point in the season," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "Coming off a tough loss, going into locker room down 18 points... just the leadership, the positive belief in what we're doing. To be able to rally, to be able come back, that gave us a lot of confidence."
Confidence to not only reel off six straight wins but now, in retrospect, added confidence that they can go into what Petrino described as a "circus atmosphere" at Cowboys Stadium and win big games — important with Arkansas taking on Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl at the same location on Jan. 6.
It's the Wildcats first trip to the $1 billion stadium known as "Jerryworld" in reference to its owner, Dallas Cowboys owner and Arkansas alumnus Jerry Jones.
The Razorbacks are 3-0 all-time at Cowboys Stadium, winning Southwest Classic games over Texas A&M the last three years, a series that will continue with the Aggies joining Arkansas in the SEC next season.
"That we've played in (Cowboys Stadium) for three years is big," Petrino said. "Even when you're going to play A&M it's like a bowl game and it's fun, but we're used to everything that goes with it now."
The Razorbacks broke for Christmas on Dec. 21 and returned Monday to Fayetteville, Ark., where Petrino said a lot of the work this week wouldn't necessarily be preparing for the Wildcats.
Arkansas' only losses are to the two teams playing for the BCS title on Jan. 9, falling to Alabama 14-3 the week before the Texas A&M game and losing 41-17 to No. 1 LSU on Nov. 25 in their regular-season finale.
"We're going to be doing about half working for bowl game and half other stuff," said. "We've got five days to refine things, go over everything and re-tune it and get ready to travel to Dallas to play in a great bowl game."
The Razorbacks will travel by bus to the Cotton Bowl on Saturday — about a six-hour drive — and Petrino said he planned to keep a regular, game-week schedule while in Texas.
Arkansas lost to Ohio State in last year's Sugar Bowl.
"The plan is to make it like a normal week, which will be different down there," Petrino said. "On the first, we'll have a half-practice, half walk-through, then we'll have our regular Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday practices.
"This is a big game for us, especially for our seniors. They want to go out with a win."