Graduate transfer quarterback Ben Hicks struggled in the middle of the game as Arkansas survived Portland State’s upset bid for a 20-13 victory in their season opener Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark.
Running back Rakeem Boyd rushed 18 times for 114 yards and a touchdown and was the workhorse in the drive that gave the Hogs a double-digit cushion late in the third quarter after they were up only 10-6 at the half.
Hicks, who played for second-year Arkansas coach Chad Morris at SMU before joining the Razorbacks, completed 14 of 29 passes 143 yards after going through a 6-for-15 stretch in the second and third quarters.
Portland State linebacker Romeo Gunt (15 tackles) led a defense that kept the Vikings of the Football Championship Subdivision within four points until late in the third quarter, but their offense managed only kicker Cody Williams’ long field goals until backup quarterback Jalani Eason’s late touchdown pass to tight end Charlie Taumoepeau.
The Razorbacks kept heavy pressure on quarterback Davis Alexander, getting to the junior for six sacks and intercepting him twice. He left the game after absorbing a shoulder injury late in the third quarter, finishing 10 of 21 for 81 yards. Arkansas held Portland State to 230 yards.
Hicks guided the Razorbacks to a field goal and touchdown and was 5-of-8 passing for 40 yards in his first two series, but he completed only three of his next six attempts and gave way to Texas A&M transfer Nick Starkel late in the first half.
Starkel threw an interception after safety Kamren Curl’s 29-yard interception return put the Hogs in business at Portland State’s 18-yard line, but he completed his next four passes for 48 yards, moving the Hogs to the Vikings’ 16 before time ran out in the second quarter.
Hicks returned in the third quarter and was 2-of-4 passing in the 67-yard touchdown drive that put the Hogs up 17-6. Boyd carried the ball on the final five snaps of that drive.
—Field Level Media