The Razorbacks will look to build off their season-opening win against Rice with a victory over Texas in front of a sold-out crowd at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday.
After coming from behind following a disappointing first half performance last weekend, Arkansas will need more than just one incredible half to triumph against the Longhorns. The Hogs have not met their old Southwest Conference rival since defeating Texas in the 2014 Texas Bowl, 31-7.
Texas comes into Saturday’s contest after a decisive 38-18 win over the No. 23 Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns. The Longhorns’ offense fired on all cylinders, putting up 435 yards of total offense.
“I think all around they have a pretty good unit,” linebacker Hayden Henry said Tuesday. “We just need to play our game.”
It was 17-7 midway through the third quarter against Rice when Arkansas’ offense finally woke up last Saturday, scoring on five of its final six drives of the game. Redshirt sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson turned a lousy effort into a rather dominating performance in the second half, in which he tallied 196 total yards and two touchdowns.
“(Arkansas) plays hard, plays physical, they’re tough,” Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday. “Seeing them in their opener…it’s a brand of football that they’re proud of. We’ve got our work cut out for us. We need a good week of work.”
Both defenses enter Saturday’s contest after impressive performances in their openers.
There is a bit of good news and bad news for the Hogs, as redshirt senior transfer John Ridgeway will take the field for his first snaps of the season against the Horns. The former Illinois State Redbird quickly became one of the top performers of the defensive line during fall camp.
However, the Razorbacks will be without senior linebacker Bumper Pool for the first half, who must sit out because of his targeting foul in the second half of the win against Rice, and senior defensive end Dorian Gerald, who suffered a season-ending leg injury Wednesday during practice.
“The strength of their defense is right down the middle,” Sarkisian said. “They have two really good linebackers in Bumper Pool and Grant Morgan, very smart and heady players, and then the guy that makes it all go in the back is (Jalen) Catalon, back there playing center field.”
Texas’ defense took more of a bend-but-do-not-break approach Saturday against Louisiana, giving up more than 350 total yards. The Longhorns made the plays when they needed to, though, holding the Ragin’ Cajuns to just 4-13 on third down conversions. The defensive line seems to be a strength of the defense, led by preseason All-Big 12 defensive lineman Alfred Collins.
“They look good, you know, they look physical,” senior wide receiver Tyson Morris said. “We have to be sure to be just as physical, if not more physical in order to win the game.”
Saturday’s game between the Hogs and Horns will be the 79th time the two have met on the football field, with Texas holding a 56-22 overall lead. The Razorbacks, however, have won three of their five meetings since 2000.
The history of the two teams’ rivalry is not lost on either coming into Saturday’s matchup.
“I always knew Arkansas versus Texas was a huge deal, but it’s way different when you’re about to play in it,” Morris said. “You get that feeling of how big the rivalry actually is.”
Saturday night’s matchup inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium will kick off at 6 p.m. and will be nationally televised on ESPN.