ARLINGTON, Texas — In his final game as an Arkansas Razorback, senior defensive end Jake Bequette led his team's defensive front in crafting a brutal, destructive masterpiece that left the Kansas State offensive line in its wake.
In the face of Bequette's two sacks, including one that set up the Razorbacks' first score, Kansas State couldn't gain a foothold in its passing game as quarterback Collin Klein was harassed from the first moment he tried to drop back in a 29-16 loss to Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl on Friday night.
Bequette and fellow defensive end Tenarius Wright consistently caved the pocket in on Klein, having their way with Wildcats offensive tackles Zach Hanson and Clyde Aufner. Bequette's performance earned him defensive MVP honors.
"We wanted to put pressure on them from the get go, and that first sack early gave me a lot of confidence," Bequette said. "Once I got in that groove, (Hanson) couldn't stop me. That's when I really started to tee off."
Never miss a local story.
Bequette, the active sacks leader in the SEC with 21 1/2 entering the game, pushed his way up to third on Arkansas' career sacks chart in the Cotton Bowl victory.
"We played tough on defense," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "The difference in the game was how we played on defense and the field position that group put our offense in."
Arkansas defensive tackle Robert Thomas, a Coffeyville Community College product, said Bequette set the tone for the entire defense early.
"When (Jake) gets going early, we all seem to gravitate toward that," Thomas said. "He's our leader and he sets the tone for the entire defense."
In all, the Razorbacks (11-2) sacked Klein six times. And that's with Aufner (6-foot-6, 301 pounds) and Hanson (6-8, 313 pounds) possessing a distinct size advantage over the 6-5, 271-pound Bequette and the 6-2, 252-pound Wright.
"We talked about really putting the pressure on them when we got them in third and longs," Bequette said. "We got up and they got a little tight and we took advantage of that."
Bequette, a Little Rock, Ark., who is projected as a mid-round pick in this year's NFL Draft, sealed his career with something that neither his father, Jay, uncle Chris or grandfather George managed to get in their Arkansas careers — a Cotton Bowl victory.
George lost to Georgia Tech 14-6 in the 1955 version of the game.
"It feels awesome to get us to 11 wins, because that's something we don't get to very often," Bequette said. "And the stuff about my grandpa is pretty special, too."