FAYETTEVILLE — While Arkansas has never truly developed a hated rival in the SEC they will soon get a familiar one back when Texas starts play in the nation’s best conference.
But until then, Arkansas and Texas will play on Saturday to see who gets bragging rights for this season. Sam Pittman said he has told the players what this game means to the Arkansas fans. They players talked about the Longhorns this week.
“We’re really excited to play Texas,” Pittman said. “I know the fans are excited. A lot of history there between the two teams, and our kids will be educated on the history. They need to be. So, we’re really excited to have the crowd in here. We’re excited to get better this week at practice, and we will. Ready for a big, big crowd on ESPN.”
Super senior wide receiver Tyson Morris shared what he knows about the rivalry.
“Man, honestly, I always knew that Arkansas vs. Texas was a huge deal, but it’s way different once you’re about to play in it,” Morris said. “You get that feeling yourself about how actually big the rivalry is. I feel like it’s one of the biggest rivalries we’ve ever had, so it should be a big game.”
What did Pittman share with the players this week?
“Oh yeah, in the team meeting he put up a couple clips of way, way back in the day of Arkansas vs. Texas and stuff like that,” Morris said. “And I think – when was the last time? 2014? That’s the last time we played them. He pulled up that clip too. So he showed us and made it important to us, how important the game was.”
Linebacker Hayden Henry’s father, Mark, was an offensive lineman for the Hogs when they were still in the Southwest Conference. Hayden and two brothers, Hunter and Hudson, have all played for the Hogs. The Texas games means a lot to the family.
“Well it’s very important,” Henry said. “My dad and my grandfather, who played basketball here, they both played in the Southwest Conference. So this is a game that’s not unfamiliar to my family. I remember growing up, my dad did not like Texas very much. That was their big rivalry. They did not like Texas. For me, I mean it’s a big game because it means a lot. But every game means a lot. So like I’ve been saying we’ve got to go play our game. We have to be tough and physical and we can do it.”
The two teams last played in the 2014 Texas Bowl when the Razorbacks took a 31-7 victory. Hayden talked about that game.
“I was there,” Henry said. “I just remember that the Arkansas defense played really well. I don’t remember how many rushing yards Texas had, but I think they really shut them down. I remember that, and then I remember just that old Bret Bielema style offense just wearing those guys down. Hoping for the same thing here this weekend.”
Defensive tackle Isaiah Nichols is from Springdale and has a feel for what the Texas game means to the program and fans.
“It definitely means a lot,” Nichols said. “Growing up here and watching all the games and seeing all the hype around it and how game day is in the whole state of Arkansas, not even just Northwest Arkansas, but the whole state of Arkansas around the Texas-Arkansas game. It’s always a good environment. Pretty exciting. It’s my first time. I’m glad I get the chance to experience it. Definitely not taking it for granted. Definitely working every day to be the best me and make the guys around me better so we can come out successful.”
Nichols also talked about the old clips that Pittman showed the team.
“Yeah, it’s kind of a reminder of how big this game can be for us,” Nichols said. “Y’all know it’s an old Texas and Arkansas rivalry back in the Southwest Conference so I think it’s really something good for the fans as well. Get the fans just really locked in on Arkansas football so we’re grateful for this opportunity and we’re just ready to go out there and show what we can do.”
Arkansas and Texas will kickoff at 6 p.m. on ESPN Saturday night in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.