FAYETTEVILLE — It’s safe to awake in Fayetteville today and know that Arkansas completely dominated Alabama 40-21 on Saturday night and it wasn’t just a dream.
The fact Arkansas won wasn’t surprising, I had them picked to win 28-24, but the fact the Hogs dominated the way they did could have qualified as a surprise. But when one thinks about it more and more it probably shouldn’t have been that surprising.
Texas wanted to get into the SEC and Saturday night’s game is a sample of what is in store for them. They will find out what Arkansas did when they left the Southwest Conference for the college’s version of the NFL. The SEC has its share of great quarterbacks and skill position players each year, but it’s a lineman’s league.
On Saturday night, Arkansas completely dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football. That is what one better be able to do in the SEC. Arkansas rushed for 333 yards and averaged 7.1 per carry even though many times Texas knew what they were going to do. Ricky Stromberg was one of the leaders on the offensive line from his center position.
“I think it’s a testimony to hard work,” Stromberg said. “People working and just pounding the rock and getting better at blocking. And I’m so proud of our guys and our coaches and the way we handled running the ball. I’m just so happy for our team.”
Quarterback KJ Jefferson was 14 of 19 passing for 138 yards and one interception. He also rushed 10 times for 73 yards. He said the Hogs wanted to get off to faster start than against Rice when they trailed 10-7 at halftime. This time the Hogs led 16-0 at intermission.
“We really wanted to come out and start fast knowing from actually how it went last week,” Jefferson said. “So we wanted to come out and start fast this week, get back on them quick, and the defense played lights out. They played their heart out and we just had to follow behind them.”
Jefferson also talked about the running game and how it dominated Texas.
“Like Rick said it was just basically preparation,” Jefferson said. “From Sunday all the way to Friday we knew we had to be the more physical team. Start fast and be physical. Our backs did pretty well. Our freshman running backs. The whole running back room did awesome today. I think all of them had a touchdown. Just knowing Rick and the O-line, all of them were playing physical and driving them off the ball and playing hard, me and the running backs just had an awesome night.”
Jefferson also talked about how the Hogs had a better passing game than in the opener.
“I feel like that first game you always have those jitters, and with the crowd being back, and that great atmosphere,” Jefferson said. “All that kind of played a role in that first game.
“This game was mainly preparation. Watching film, staying out (after practice) to throw and catch a few balls with the receivers. The quarterbacks throwing to the receivers. It’s mainly just one until coming together and trying to get that chemistry and timing down pat.”
Jefferson’s one interception came on the second play from scrimmage for Arkansas in the third quarter. Texas capitalized on it and moved to within 16-7. Jefferson talked about the reaction on the sidelines following the pick.
“I was pretty hard on myself, because I’m always hard on myself knowing with my skill set that I can make plays,” Jefferson said. “But those guys, like Ricky came up to me and told me to keep my head up. We’re fixing to go back out here and get the ball back and score. Nobody had their heads down or nothing like that. It was all positive energy. Embracing the moment.”
However, on the very next possession you took the Hogs down the field and scored to recapture the momentum. How big was that?
“The main thing was we knew the defense was going to play lights out,” Jefferson said. “We knew they were going to play their heart out, and we just had to follow up behind them mainly.
“I was telling Grant (Morgan) when we were on the sideline that, ‘Hey we got y’all’s back. You stop them right here, we’re going to go down and score and put points on the board and keep it going our way. Don’t let them get no momentum and keep the momentum on our side.”
Stromberg enjoyed the win and has seen the Hogs jump out to a 2-0 record on the season.
“I was happy for all of our coaches and our players, too, to be able to experience that,” Stromberg said. “You look at two years ago, we were 2-10 in a drought, and then we come back and we had a better year last year. Now people are rushing the field after the second game. It’s just an awesome feeling. I’m so pumped for everybody.”
Arkansas will return to Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday to face Georgia Southern at 3 p.m. and televised on the SEC Network. Georgia Southern is 1-1 on the season. They beat Gardner-Webb 30-25 to -open the season, but fell to Florida Atlantic 38-6 on Saturday night.