FAYETTEVILLE, AR — Even though the first half was hard to watch at times, it was a great day on the hill in Fayetteville.
Arkansas was back at full capacity and the announced crowd of 64,065 were excited for a game against old Southwest Conference foe Rice.
It went much as expected, just not on the timeline most expected, with two former offensive line coaches wanting to impose their will on the opposing defense.
Rice was able to take advantage of some early Razorback miscues, and led an ugly game at half, 10-7.
They extended the lead to 17-7, and the stadium was silent. Then, Arkansas found rhythm on offense, and KJ Jefferson looked more like the quarterback that fans expected.
With the game tied at 17 entering the fourth quarter, the Razorback defense stepped up, forcing three interceptions and the offense converted, sealing the 38-17 win.
For as disjointed as the offense was in the first half, they found rhythm in the second half.
It was shades of Auburn games for Razorback fans watching in the heat, as Rice players stayed down with cramps every few plays to try and stop the momentum of the Arkansas offense who prefers the uptempo style.
Arkansas ran the ball with authority against a large defensive front, with Treylon Smith and KJ Jefferson both rushing for 102 yards yeach, though Jefferson would fall below the century mark after a couple of sacks.
Freshman running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders looked like anything but a freshman, flashing speed and power in his debut, averaging over 6 yards a carry on his 7 attempts.
The passing game was stagnant, with Jefferson missing on the slant route often.
He finished 12/21 for 128 yards, throwing a touchdown and an ill fated throw for an interception.
Defensively, Arkansas looked stout, holding a string rushing front to just over 2 yards per carry.
Arkansas played without starting defensive end Ridgeway who was out following an appendectomy this week.
They also played without the SEC leading tackler in Grant Morgan, who was ejected on a questionable targeting call on the second series.
They will be without Bumper Pool for the first half next week, as he was the recipient of a targeting call in the fourth quarter.
Sam Pittman was honest in the press conference, and said the passing game and the mental errors are all coaching, and that it will be addressed.
“We didn’t play well at all. We did about everything we possibly could do wrong in the first half. We had a lot of penalties; a lot of drops. The defense did a really good job in the first half. They [Rice] had field position the whole time because we couldn’t get any first downs. We just didn’t play well at all. But, we came back in the second half, we still had way too many penalties but we did catch the ball a little better. KJ started making some plays, I thought the rush got to their quarterback a little bit and he threw us a few interceptions which were big. We got a lot to improve on. I told the team we were going to face adversity but I didn’t know it was going to be that entire first half. Give Rice credit, they were really prepared and they did a nice job. I’m so happy we won but we didn’t field a very good football team today and we have to get better.”
It would be easy to say that the attention of the entire state has now turned to the Texas game next week. In reality, everyone has already circled the game on the calendar long ago.
It is now a confirmed sellout, with the University selling a limited number of standing room only seats starting Monday.
SEC Gameday will be in attendance, and the atmosphere will be electric. It will be the first sell out since the massive stadium expansion.
Adding to the flare of the game is the announcement of Texas and Oklahoma joining the conference.
Arkansas fans hope the game will be an annual event and bring back the renewed hatred rivalry from the Southwest Conference.
Texas opens as a 6 point favorite, but if the environment is as expected, it should be entertaining till the final whistle.
Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere --