Hogs take step forward in blowout of Texas

Are your feet back on the ground yet?

I’m not sure mine are three days after the game. It seems all of Fayetteville and for that matter the whole state is still buzzing about the Arkansas Razorbacks’ monumental blowout of the Texas Longhorns, 40-21, last Saturday night.

What an atmosphere! Razorback Stadium was on fire for that ballgame like it has seldom been before.

Next up for the Razorbacks

Opponent: Georgia Southern
When: 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18
Where: Fayetteville, AR
TV: SEC Network

Remaining schedule

Sept. 25 — Texas A&M in Arlington
Oct. 2 — at Georgia
Oct. 9 — at Ole Miss
Oct. 16 – Auburn
Oct. 23 — UAPB, in Little Rock
Nov. 6 — Mississippi State
Nov. 13 — at LSU
Nov. 20 — at Alabama
Nov. 26 — Missouri

I’ve been attending games at Fayetteville since 1974, and only a few other crowds matched that intensity. The last being the No. 10 Hogs’ heartbreaking 24-20 loss to No. 1 Alabama in 2010, but the 1977, 1981, and 2004 Texas games were in that rare air, as well as the 42-6 victory over Alabama in 1998 and the 28-24 redemption victory over No. 3 Tennessee in 1999. But those are the only ones that come to mind at the moment.

For the longest time, the crowds at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock created the rowdiest, most rambunctious atmospheres for Razorback football, but with 21,000 more seats available on the Hill now, the advantage has shifted to Razorback Stadium.

The key is for the Hogs to field a team fans feel like supporting at an apex level. It appears second-year coach Sam Pittman has built one that with solid recruiting and the retention of 19 super seniors for a fifth-year of eligibility, granted by the NCAA because of the pandemic last year.

Those super seniors made a difference all over field Saturday night. Guys like Dalton Wagoner, Ty Clary, and Myron Cunningham bulldozing the Razorbacks’ way for 333 yards rushing against what was supposed to be a stout Texas defensive line. Four Hog backs scored touchdowns and rushed for at least 44 yards. Quarterback K.J. Jefferson also rushed for 75.

That’s nice running by those backs, but they got a heck of a push from the big guys up front and their receivers on the edges. Downfield blocking by receivers and second-level, backside blocks by linemen are what makes long runs possible.

Arkansas averaged 7.1 yards per carry. That’s domination, folks. Pittman joked in his press conference Monday that he’d never pass the ball if they Hogs could average that many yards for the season. Give a lot of credit to offensive coordinator Kendal Briles for his punishing offensive plan that wore Texas down.

The incredible thing is that the Hogs left points off the scoreboard early. However the four field goals by SEC Freshman of the Week Cam Little kept the boulder rolling down hill on the Steers. It would have been nice to have those touchdowns, but Little’s success last Saturday should only bolster his confidence. No doubt his leg will be needed down the line this season.

On the other side of the ball, super seniors Hayden Henry (15 tackles) and Grant Morgan (13 tackles) led a wrecking-crew defensive effort at linebacker, combining for 28 stops. Their senior teammate Bumper Pool had to sit out the first half because of a targeting penalty against Rice, but still made 10 stops in the second half. Henry picked up a national and SEC honor as defensive player of the week for his effort.

Give defensive coordinator Barry Odom credit for keeping Texas’ freshman quarterback Hudson Card confused and frustrated most of the night with new blitzes from his linebackers and complex coverage schemes on the back end. Again just another example of how the Hogs’ experience paid dividends.

Razorbacks fans just ate it up as the Hogs chewed the Longhorns up and spit them out like a $2 steak.

It was just the kick-in-pants welcome to the SEC that the Longhorns deserved after serving up so much misery to generations of Razorbacks fans.

The resounding victory lifted the Razorbacks into the Top 25 for the first time in five seasons. The Razorbacks are No. 20 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

Again the key to respect for the Hogs has always come along with beating the Longhorns.

CBS announced Monday that the Razorbacks game Sept. 25 against No. 7 Texas A&M at Arlington, Texas will be its 2:30 p.m. Game of the Week. That game will complete the Razorbacks’ three-game Southwest Conference Reunion Tour in what should be a great showdown.

The Aggies barely survived a trip to Colorado, 10-7, over the weekend after starting quarterback Haynes King injured his ankle. He underwent surgery to repair the injury and will be out until mid-October. Sophomore Zach Calzada finished the game and will start this week against New Mexico.

Arkansas leads the series against the Aggies 41-33-3, but the Hogs have lost nine consecutive games to A&M since the Aggies joined the SEC. The losing streak is quite frankly embarrassing.

But first things, first. The Razorbacks host Georgia Southern (1-1) at 3 p.m. in Razorback Stadium. The Hogs should win, but nothing can be taken for granted. A great win over Texas doesn’t erase the fact that Arkansas has been embarrassed on its home fields by the likes of Louisiana-Monroe, Rutgers, Toledo, North Texas, and Western Kentucky over the last decade.

The step forward and the momentum the Razorbacks created by whipping Texas would all but be erased if they stumble this week against Georgia Southern. I don’t think that will happen, but few outside the state believed the Hogs could beat Texas either.