FAYETTEVILLE – Seemed half the of the standing room only 74,000-plus overflowing the Reynolds Razorback Stadium stands Saturday night ran postgame all over the Frank Broyles Field celebrating Arkansas running over Texas.
The unranked Razorbacks all but literally ran over 15th-ranked Texas, 40-21, Saturday renewing an old Southwest Conference that will be renewed on a SEC basis once the Longhorns fulfill their contractual obligations in the Big 12.
In the meantime, Saturday night deliriously joyful Razorbacks fans, who have mobbed Fayetteville’s Dickson Street since last Friday night into Sunday’s wee hours, can celebrate that Sam Pittman’s 2-0 Razorbacks bullied the supposedly big, bad Longhorns in introduction to Texas’ soon to be new league.
First-year Coach Steve Sarkisian’s Longhorns take a hard fall to 1-1 after opening thumping then No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette the previous week.
Arkansas’ defense pitched a 16-0 first-half shutout Saturday running through Texas’ offensive line.
And the second half the Razorbacks’ offense ran through Texas’ defense amassing 334 yards rushing for the game on 47 carries for a 7.1 yards per carry.
The crowd celebrated Arkansas tackles made and every yard gained.
“I thank the crowd,” Pittman said as his first postgame words to media. “I could tell if we got the lead the crowd wouldn’t let them come back. I knew our offense and defense and special teams played really well but I want to thank the people of Arkansas. I hope tomorrow they wake up excited about Arkansas football.’
No doubt they did.
Arkansas linebackers Hayden Henry, Grant Morgan, and Bumper Pool, freed by a 3-man defensive front occupying the Longhorns O-line, combined to make 38 tackles.
Henry made 15.
Henry and Morgan combined for 5 of Arkansas’ 11 lost-yardage tackles.
“They were swarming to the ball,” Pittman said. “Our linebackers are really good players.”
Texas never offensively untracked until Sarkisian, too late, replaced redshirt freshman starting quarterback Hudson Card with fourth-year junior Casey Thompson.
And Arkansas’ offense answered when Texas did score.
Arkansas’ offensive line cleared paths for Razorbacks running backs Trelon Smith, 12 carries for 75 yards, true freshmen AJ Green, 7 carries for 67 yards, Raheim “Rocket” Sanders, 8 for 50, and redshirt freshman Dominique Johnson, 6 for 44, to net one rushing touchdown each.
Starting third-year sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson netted 73 yards on 10 carries. In passing, Jefferson shrugged off a lone interception, on a great pick by Texas safety BJ Foster, preventing a possible Jefferson TD pass to freshman receiver Ketron Jackson upfield, to complete 14 of 21 for 138 yards including a big 45-yard bomb to senior receiver and Helena native Tyson Morris on a drive answering Texas’ first tally set up by Jefferson’s lone turnover.
“That was a big answer right there,” Pittman said,. “I was hoping he (Jefferson) would do exactly what he did. I thought he would. That’s a big deal because we could’ve gone in the tank that series too, but we didn’t. We went right back down and scored a touchdown. It was a big, big deal.”
Arkansas true freshman kicker Cameron Little kicked 4 of 4 field goals, one with a friendly ricochet off the goal post, of 24, 24, 44 and 22 yards, and was 4 of 4 on PAT’s.
Also on special teams Jake Yurachek blocked a punt recovered and returned by Arkansas defensive lineman Mataio Soli.
Arkansas defensive end Zach Williams forced Texas’ lone fumble recovered by Arkansas nickel back Greg Brooks.
Brooks flirted with early disaster fumbling the game’s first points that replay reprieved the Razorbacks.
Further review showed the Longhorn recovering the miscue to have been out of bounds.
Beyond that scare, it seemed the fright night haunted only the Burnt Orange. Texas’ defense seemed especially second-half cringing as the Razorbacks pounded them with the run.
“Isn’t that something?” Pittman said, crediting new offensive line coach Cody Kennedy. “Coach Kennedy comes in on June the 4th or whatever it was. And we rush for 333 yards and average 7-plus yards a carry. To rush for 333 on a good Texas squad was outstanding. We had all five starters (offensive linemen Ricky Stromberg, Ty Clary, Brady Latham, Myron Cunningham, and Dalton Wagner) back from last year and Beaux (Limmer, spelling Clary at right guard). They need credit. I don’t think they gave up a sack tonight either. They came to play and I’m really proud of them.”
Stromberg was asked about the line, so maligned two years ago when the Chad Morris Arkansas era ended with two 2-10, 2-10 overall seasons gone 0-8, 0-8 in the SEC.
“I think it’s a testimony to hard work,” Stromberg said. “You look at two years ago, we were 2-10 in a drought, and then we come back and we had a better year last year. Now people are rushing the field after the second game. It’s just an awesome feeling. I’m so pumped for everybody. People working and just pounding the rock and getting better at blocking. And I’m so proud of our guys and our coaches and the way we handled running the ball. I’m just so happy for our team.”
Jefferson said, “Just knowing Rick and the O-line, all of them were playing physical and driving them off the ball and playing hard. Me and the running backs just had an awesome night.
But it was defense setting the tone, Jefferson said,
“The defense played lights out,” Jefferson said. “They played their heart out and we just had to follow behind them.”
Arkansas’ offense took it from there, Hayden Henry said.
“ You can totally just take the wind out of the defense when you’re running the ball down their throat,” Henry said.
On this Saturday night in Fayetteville everything for Texas was hard to swallow.