It’s not how you start, but how you finish.
After the Arkansas Razorbacks stalled out on their first two drives against the Florida A&M Rattlers, a bit of tension creeped up in some circles.
However, their third drive showed it was just rust on the first two drives, as the rushing attack led the Razorbacks down the field, culminating in a five-yard rushing touchdown from Devwah Whaley to open the scoring on the season.
Whaley, who finished the evening with 60 yards on 12 rushes, wasn’t even the biggest story in the Arkansas backfield. True freshman Chase Hayden made the most of his college debut, netting 120 yards on 14 carries. He became the first Arkansas true freshman to cross the 100-yard threshold in his first game since Alex Collins in 2013.
After the Razorbacks broke the seal and scored their first touchdown, they were off to the races. Two of the Hogs’ next three drives in the second quarter resulted in scores. One came off a beautiful pass from Austin Allen to Deon Stewart, which was made possible by a blitz pickup from Whaley, which you can see below.
The other came when David Williams punched it in from four yards out for the first first of two touchdowns on the evening.
Combined with a stout defensive effort, Arkansas entered the half with a 21-0 lead.
The second half was more of the same. Gabe Richardson forced a fumble on FAMU’s first drive, and Henre' Toliver picked it up for a 19 yard touchdown to put the Razorbacks up 28-0.
This was more than enough for Arkansas, who added a touchdown from Hayden to go up 35-0 going into the fourth. Then they tacked on another from Williams to extend their lead to 42-0 early in the fourth.
The Rattlers would finally break through midway through the fourth, but Arkansas answered with a Cole Kelley touchdown pass to Cheyenne O’Grady with two minutes to play to get it to 49-7, the final score.
After shaking the rust in the first quarter, Arkansas looked like a fairly dominant team. After the game, Bret Bielema admitted to ESPN’s Cole Cubelic, “The first half was a little bumpy”. No truth to the rumor that he’s referring to the ref bump Cubelic was involved in on the sidelines.
A win is a win, though. The rushing attack was strong and multi-faceted and the Hogs’ defense held FAMU to 175 total yards, recorded three sacks, and stopped the Rattlers on 13 of 16 third downs. There are improvements to be made before Arkansas hosts TCU next week. But it’s always good to get the first victory out of the way.