Hogs arrive in Houston

For the first time in nearly three years, Arkansas players have arrived for bowl game festivities. This story is free courtesy Northwest Arkansas Honda Dealers. Click the banner to learn more.

HOUSTON - For the first time in nearly three years, Arkansas players have arrived for bowl game festivities.

The Razorbacks made it to their hotel at the Westin Galleria three days before their Texas Bowl matchup against the Texas Longhorns. Monday's game will be the first for Arkansas since playing Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl in January 2012. Seniors Brey Cook and Trey Flowers said they appreciate the bowl game more this time around after going through some lean years during their career.

"You know what it's like not to come to these games," said Cook, an offensive lineman. "It's pretty miserable going home for Christmas, as terrible as that sounds."

Cook and Flowers are among the 14 Razorbacks who have participated in a bowl game. They were freshmen that season, but they said they learned enough to mentor the younger players this week.

"I talked to a couple of freshmen today and told them to stay focused," said Flowers, a second-team all-SEC defensive end. "You're going to be wowed by a lot of things being in the city of Houston and have a lot of things going on, but you've got to stay focused on the task at-hand, and be able to get this victory."

Players will participate in the Rodeo Bowl tonight, which tests skill in rodeo-related activities by players of both teams. The Razorbacks conditioned in Fayetteville before traveling Friday and will practice at St. Thomas High School on Saturday.

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said senior tight end A.J. Derby practiced Thursday after undergoing a knee operation last month. Bielema said Derby will be evaluated Saturday, but said he expects Derby to play a role in the bowl game.

Derby hasn't played since the first half of the Ole Miss game on Nov. 22. He caught 22 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns this season.

"I think for sure there are some things he'll be able to bring to the table on third down and red zone, and stuff like that," Bielema said.

Reserve defensive end Brandon Lewis won't be able to play in the bowl game after undergoing a knee operation. Bielema said Lewis should be able to return for spring practices.

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