Arkansas 40, No. 15 Texas 21: Hogs dominate Horns as Sark now has quarterback questions
Now 1-1, first-year coach Steve Sarkisian said, ‘This was not a performance I was anticipating’
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — At least the honeymoon with Steve Sarkisian made it past Labor Day.
Texas’ offensive line was overwhelmed, its star running back was bottled up and its young quarterback couldn’t find any rhythm. The defense got gashed, gave up 471 yards and looked overmatched. Special teams? Don’t even ask.
And when the coach finally switched to the more mobile quarterback, it was too late. The game was over. In the third quarter.
Arkansas came with all gas as Texas applied no brakes in a 40-21 disaster inside sold-out, hog-wild Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. If this is what life in the SEC is going to be like, the No. 15 Longhorns (1-1) are nowhere near ready.
“This was not a performance I was anticipating,” said Sarkisian, the first-year Texas coach who now has a real quarterback quandary on his hands, among other issues. “But we’ll find out about ourselves and what we’re made of, because I really believe this one game’s not going to define us. But we’ve got work to do, that’s for sure.”
Chants of “S-E-C!” echoed throughout the night. Arkansas fans in the crowd of 74,531, many wearing “Beat Texas” or “Tuck Fexas” T-shirts, stormed the field afterward. For the Hogs (2-0), it was a night they’ll never forget.
“I hope it was a big one for us,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said. “I hope the state wants to come see the Hogs play.”
Texas quarterback Hudson Card completed just eight of 15 passes for 61 yards and looked jittery. The Hogs simply overran the Horns’ offensive line at times, suffocating Card and running back Bijan Robinson (19 carries, 69 yards).
With Card at the controls, Texas went three-and-out five times on 10 different possessions and 2-of-10 on third downs. This environment was far more hostile and pressure-packed than anything he dreamed at Lake Travis.
Card missed on a throw to Jordan Whittington in the end zone and on back-to-back deep balls to Xavier Worthy and Joshua Moore. Whittington also dropped what would’ve been a 30-yard gainer in the middle of the field.
Robinson had nice gains on first downs only to get swallowed or knocked back on second, leaving Texas in untenable third-and-long spots. Sarkisian said Arkansas’ defensive setup “borderline dared us to run the ball.” And the Horns couldn’t.
For down-on-their-luck Arkansas fans, this was “borderline erotic” as former head coach Bret Bielema once said about beating Texas in 2014.
“They gave us a hard time in the game,” Robinson said. “They brought a lot of pressure. They stacked the box most the time, and it was kind of hard for us to execute on some of the plays that we ran. But I feel that we need some of these games to understand what we have to learn from it.”
Sarkisian couldn’t hide his emotions on the sideline. TV cameras caught him grimacing and yelling as his offense was getting smacked around. His predecessor, Tom Herman, never lost a game by more than 17 points. This was UT’s biggest loss since a 31-9 decision to TCU in 2016 — Charlie Strong’s final game in burnt orange.
“Could we have blocked better? No question. Could Hudson have maybe played better? Sure he could have. Could we have ran better routes? Yes,” Sarkisian said. “So everybody takes a part in this thing, coaches included, that we have to get back to work and understand that the way we played tonight was not good enough for us to win.”
Sarkisian said “hindsight is 20/20” on whether he should have switched to the more mobile Casey Thompson earlier in the game. Instead, he wasn’t inserted until Arkansas led 26-7 with 1:50 left in the third quarter.
Thompson engineered a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive capped by his ambitious five-yard touchdown run. He finished the game 5-for-8 for 57 yards.
Neither quarterback was made available to reporters afterward. Asked where he stood with the quarterbacks situation, Sarkisian said, “Pretty early to ask that question. We’ll have to take a look at it.”
The only real score Texas managed when it counted came off a short field created by B.J. Foster’s dazzling one-handed interception. The safety plucked the ball out of midair with one hand and caught it on the carom with less than 13 minutes left in the third quarter, putting the Horns in business at the Hogs' 26-yard line.
Roschon Johnson caught a ball in the flat and nearly dove for the pylon on third-and-5 from the 10. Then Robinson followed fullback Jett Bush around the right side for a one-yard score, his only touchdown of the night.
But Arkansas had a stunning answer. The Razorbacks took over at their own 19, and quarterback KJ Johnson found Tyson Morris for a 45-yard strike. Going up-tempo, Dominique Johnson ripped off a 19-yard run and then added 12 more.
Trelon Smith punched it in from five yards out, darn near knocking the Longhorns out with a 23-7 lead.
Arkansas had 333 rushing yards but did not have a single 100-yard performer. Four different Hogs had at least 50 yards on the ground as they rotated with abandon.
“We did our plays, and they just made better plays than the ones called for us,” defensive tackle Keondre Coburn said. “That’s all I have to say”
In something of a last-gasp dice roll, Sarkisian left the offense on the field on fourth-and-1 from the Arkansas 43 with just over six minutes left. Robinson got stuffed. Arkansas quickly converted good field position into a 27-yard field goal for a 26-7 lead, and the game was effectively over.
Did Cameron Dicker’s missed 52-yard field goal play a role in the outcome? Not really. He dropped the ball on a punt snap, got whacked before the kick and gave the Hogs another short field. But that only resulted in a field goal as Arkansas took a 13-0 lead.
The way the Razorbacks simply dominated the Horns up front and put the game away is what most will remember. There’s no other way to describe it. Texas got dominated.
Texas returns home to host Rice and then opens Big 12 play against Texas Tech on Sept. 25. Forget the SEC for now. The Big 12 will keep this team plenty busy this fall.
“We never waved the white flag,” Sarkisian said. “Guys battled and guys competed and that’s a good sign moving forward.”