FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Following Arkansas’ closer-than-expected — OK, much closer-than-expected — win over Louisiana Tech, sophomore running back Rawleigh Williams III was asked what he could have done better on a day in which he rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.
“Just yards after contact,” Williams responded. “There were a couple today that I feel like I should’ve broke, that I feel like I should have helped my team out a little bit more.”
To be clear: Arkansas leaves its season opener facing a litany of questions. Williams’ toughness is absolutely not one of them.
The Hogs needed a fourth-quarter rally to slip past Louisiana Tech 21-20 Saturday afternoon inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Quarterback Austin Allen threw two ugly interceptions that both resulted in Bulldog touchdowns. The Razorback secondary allowed a freshman quarterback — who wasn’t even supposed to start Saturday — to pick it apart at times, raising serious questions about just how improved that unit really is from last year. Louisiana Tech’s defensive front put pressure on Allen, sacking him four times.
“I know everybody would have — including myself at the beginning of the day — would have liked to come out of here with a larger margin of victory,” said Arkansas coach Bret Bielema.
There’s no doubt about that, but for Williams, today was an unequivocal positive. Heck, 10 months ago, who could have even seen him back on Frank Broyles Field playing football at all?
Williams left Arkansas’ win over Auburn last October on a stretcher with a broken neck. And here he was Saturday, scoring on an early 6-yard run up the middle, and later loading the team on his back with the game on the line.
Trailing 20-14 early in the fourth quarter, Arkansas’ offense returned to the field after a Louisiana Tech missed field goal. Coaches gave the ball to Williams on five straight plays to open the drive, and his runs carried the Razorbacks from their own 23-yard line into Bulldog territory.
A few minutes later, Jeremy Sprinkle caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Allen, giving Arkansas the lead and ultimately the victory.
“When the defense did what they had to do and they missed that field goal, we knew that we had to finish the game,” Williams said. “We just had that mentality — especially at this school — that we have to be able to run the ball.
“And that’s what we did on that drive and it ended up working out for us.”