Williams Comes Up Big For Razorbacks

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino was asked early last week if D.J. Williams' performance in the season opener — in which he caught five passes — was a sign the tight end was in for a big year.

His response: "I sure hope so. We need him to."

If Petrino had any doubts, they were erased in the second half of the Razorbacks' 28-27 win against Louisiana-Monroe in War Memorial Stadium.

The sophomore came up big by catching five passes for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns. Four of them came in the second half after the Hogs fell behind 24-6. So did both touchdowns, which included the game-winner with 1:22 remaining.

"He's a guy that when we get a linebacker on him, we feel it's a big mismatch," quarterback Casey Dick said. "We just want to get him the ball any way we can get him the ball and it worked out for us."

Williams' biggest play came with the Hogs trailing 27-14 in the fourth quarter.

He caught a pass over the middle, turned and nearly outran ULM to the end zone. Williams was tripped up at the ULM 4 after a 76-yard play, but running back Michael Smith punched the ball into the end zone a play later to cap a two-play drive that cut ULM's lead to 27-21.

The play gave the Razorbacks a chance to crawl within a touchdown without burning too much time. The drive took 37 seconds.

"It really helped because it took no time off the clock," Petrino said. "It allowed us to get points on the board right away. D.J. ran a great route and Casey made a great throw. The run after the catch showed his speed."

The Razorbacks turned to Williams again when they started their game-winning drive with 4:18 left. But the sophomore, who was open in the secondary once again, dropped a pass that would've moved the chains.

Williams was stewing about the mistake after the game, but didn't let it bother him on the field. Neither did the Razorbacks, who managed to pick up big play after big play on the drive to move inside ULM's 10.

Once there, Arkansas turned to Williams.

Petrino said the play was the same one in which Williams dropped the ball earlier in the drive. Williams described it as a hook-and-go route which is designed to get a linebacker to bite down on the hook and leave the middle open.

This time it worked out perfectly. Williams caught the ball and the Razorbacks had a one-point lead.

"I figured the defense they were going to be in, it was going to be open again," Williams said. "It was just my job to make the catch. I knew Casey was going to put it there and it worked out great."

Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said Williams' big performance in the second half was helped by the fact he didn't play much early. Williams split time with tight end Andrew Davie in the first half en route to just one catch for 21 yards.

It helped the tight end stay fresh down the stretch.

And, in the end, Williams was Arkansas' go-to guy.

"We had to make a play no matter what the situation was," Dick said about Williams' game-winning catch.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories