Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium was striped red and white Saturday night, but it may as well have been black and white to Texas quarterback Hudson Card, as the Razorback defense locked him up like a criminal in a 40-21 Arkansas win.
Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian, considered one of the finest offensive minds in football, was continually bested by Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom Saturday night in front of 74,351 fans. It was the ninth-largest crowd in Razorback Stadium’s history.
“I just want to thank the people of Arkansas,” Razorback head coach Sam Pittman said in his postgame press conference. “I hope they wake up tomorrow being proud of Arkansas Football.”
The Arkansas offense stole the show as four different running backs hit paydirt. Redshirt sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson controlled the game with a mix of accurate passing and huge runs that had Razorback fans breathing easy in the fourth quarter. Jefferson was 14-19 passing for 138 yards without attempting a single pass in the fourth quarter, and added 73 rushing yards for a team total of 333.
Redshirt junior Trelon Smith, the leader of the four-headed rushing attack, continually gashed the Longhorn defense with 75 yards and a touchdown, and averaged over six yards per carry. Redshirt senior linebacker Hayden Henry stepped up in the first-half absence of senior linebacker Bumper Pool on his way to a game-high 15 tackles with 2.5 tackles for a loss.
“It’s good to play well, but I’m happier with the win,” Henry said after the game.
After a slow start to the game from both teams, the Razorbacks finally found a little life on their third drive, going 57 yards on 12 plays before settling for a field goal from freshman kicker Cam Little to take a 3-0 lead late in the first quarter.
The Razorbacks had little trouble on their next drive, going 66 yards on seven plays. Freshman running back Dominique Johnson not only saved the drive with a fumble recovery, but punched it in on the very next play to give the Hogs a 10-0 advantage.
“He’s a tough kid,” Pittman said of Johnson. “You know, we moved him to tight end, and that day a running back got hurt so we moved him back, and he was a better running back.”
After a blocked punt that set the Hogs up at the Texas 14-yard line, Arkansas settled for a 24-yard field goal from Little to take a 13-0 lead with just over seven minutes to play in the half.
The Hogs headed into halftime enjoying a 16-0 lead over the No. 15 Longhorns after holding them to 78 total yards, thanks to a stifling defensive performance.
After the Longhorns got on the scoreboard to make it 16-7, when momentum could have swung their way, Jefferson hit redshirt senior wide receiver Tyson Morris with a 45-yard bomb that put the Hogs in business at the Texas 37-yard line. A few plays later, Smith punched it in from 1 yard out to give the Hogs a 23-7 lead with just over eight minutes to play in the third quarter.
Freshman Raheim “Rocket” Sanders put the nail in the proverbial coffin, giving the Razorbacks a 33-7 lead with a 26-yard touchdown run, his first as a Razorback, late in the third quarter.
With the game well in hand, the teams traded touchdowns before Arkansas ran the clock out on the Longhorns for Pittman’s biggest win of his short career as a head coach.
“We’re not the biggest and baddest in the SEC,” Henry said of welcoming Texas to life in the conference. “But we play hard and we’re tough, so yeah, welcome to the SEC.”