FAYETTEVILLE – Starting last Saturday night’s 40-21 victory over then 15th-ranked Texas at Reynolds Razorback Stadium because fellow Arkansas senior linebacker Bumper Pool had to sit the first half fulfilling a second-half targeting the penalty in the previous week’s victory over Rice, Hayden Henry Sunday was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week.
Henry made a game leading/career high with 15 tackles with 2.5 for minus yardage. The .5 he shared a pivotal fourth-down stop with fellow senior linebacker Grant Morgan.
The middle brother and originally a walk-on from a proud Razorback Little Rock family that includes father Mark Henry playing center and guard for Arkansas from 1988-1991, older brother Hunter, a NFL tight end and former Mackey Award winning Razorbacks All-American, and younger brother highly recruited Razorbacks third-year sophomore tight end Hudson, it was Hayden night’s to shine against the Longhorns, whom his Southwest Conference era dad taught to hate and most of an announced sellout 74,531 crowd reinforced.
“Extremely charged up when there’s 75,000 people screaming their heads off,” Henry said. “I just wanted to play hard. I wanted our defense to play hard and I think that is what we did.”
More than Sunday’s award and possible accolades this week to come, all Henry wanted was to finish 1-0 for his first and last Arkansas vs. Texas game.
“It’s good to play well, but I’m more excited about the win,” Henry said. “You could say all the way back to January (from the winter offseason program through spring practice and the summer weightroom sessions) we’ve been preparing for this moment because we really have.”
Morgan, 13 tackles, and Pool, 10 tackles penalty fulfilled to play the second half, also excelled. With help from their defensive friends, they held Texas Heisman Trophy candidate running back Bijan Robinson to 69 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Texas netted just 138 yards rushing and just 118 passing on 13 of 23.
“I didn’t really think that they could block Grant or Bumper or me tonight,” Henry said. “We were in the backfield like crazy. When you can’t run the ball, it just takes the wind out of our sails as an offense.”
Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman remarked, “Our linebackers are really good players They were swarming and doing a really good job.”
Great support from the 6-man secondary behind the used two at a time linebackers, and a rotating 3-man defensive front occupying Texas’ offensive line freed Henry, Morgan and Pool to wreak havoc.
John Ridgeway, the 6-6, 320 via Illinois State University graduate transfer defensive nose tackle debuting after missing the Rice game recovering from an appendectomy, not only freed the linebackers to make plays but had six stops on his own. On one he tossed the Longhorns center like a champion wrestler to wrap/sack Texas freshman quarterback Hudson Card.
“You’ve got to love Ridge,” Pittman said. “He won the state (Illinois) in wrestling. He’s strong, big, and it was a big deal for him. I thought he pushed the pocket well, at least for the first three quarters.”
What the Razorbacks’ defense did to Texas’ offense, Arkansas’ offensive line did to Texas’ defensive line, physically beating and battering the Longhorns off the ball to pound for 334 yards rushing with four touchdowns and 4 of 4 Cameron Little field goals.
Whipping the Longhorns tails frenzied much of the crowd Saturday night to storm the stadium’s Frank Broyles Field.
It also frenzied AP media voters Sunday to change their minds.
Unranked since Bret Bielema’s 2016 Razorbacks spent seven weeks ranked from 25th to 16th before losing big leads their last two games and finishing and unranked 7-6, the Razorbacks Sunday rated No. 20 in the AP poll and No. 24 in the Coaches poll with Texas dumped from both.
Arkansas, 2-0, carries its new found rankings into Saturday’s 3 p.m. game with Georgia Southern, 1-1, at Reynolds Razorback Stadium televised by the SEC Network.