ARKANSAS AT MISSOURI:

His time to launch: Tigers’ Crockett gets 1st chance to play Hogs

By: Bob Holt
Published: Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Missouri running back Damarea Crockett runs with the ball during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Vanderbilt Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Missouri running back Damarea Crockett runs with the ball during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Vanderbilt Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Missouri running back Damarea Crockett has been waiting to play the University of Arkansas.

Waiting and waiting.

"It feels like something I've been waiting for my whole life," Crockett said Monday. "The fact you get to play your home state, it means more."

Crockett, a junior from Little Rock Christian, has been waiting three years to play the Razorbacks.

After rushing for 225 yards at Tennessee in 2016 to give him 1,062 through 11 games -- setting Missouri freshman records for a game and season -- Crockett didn't play against Arkansas in the finale because he was suspended following an arrest for marijuana possession.

As a sophomore Crockett missed the last six games after injuring his right shoulder against Georgia.

Crockett rolled his right ankle at Tennessee last week and missed most of the game, but he said the injury is healing well and he'll be ready for Friday's game.

"It's a big relief," he said.

Crockett said Arkansas showed interest in him, but that Bret Bielema -- the Razorbacks' coach at the time -- didn't offer a scholarship.

"It's fine," Crockett said. "I mean, it's not mandatory for Arkansas to give me a scholarship. I felt I was deserving, but I don't feel like it's something I just had to have. They didn't have to offer me just because I'm from Arkansas."

That doesn't mean playing Arkansas is another game to Crockett.

"It's not extreme-extra motivation, but it's definitely extra motivation just because I'm from that state," he said. "When you feel like you're a good player in your state, you feel just a little disrespected when you don't get an offer from your home-state school."

Crockett rushed 227 times for 1,475 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior at Little Rock Christian. He was rated a 4-star recruit by Rivals and a 3-star recruit by 247Sports and ESPN.

Bielema said before the Arkansas-Missouri game in 2016 that he liked Crockett as a player, but that the Razorbacks already had commitments from running backs Devwah Whaley and T.J. Hammonds in that class.

"You know in recruiting you only get X number of scholarships," Bielema said. "You just can't take all of them, all the running backs."

Crockett committed to Boise State in July of 2015, then switched to Missouri on Jan. 23, 2016, after being offered a scholarship by Tigers Coach Barry Odom.

"It was a bigger opportunity to play in the SEC," Crockett said. "That's pretty much what it came to, playing in the best conference in the country."

Odom said he understands Crockett's emotions about finally getting to play Arkansas.

"I know he's spending a lot of time [in the training room] to have an opportunity to go play," Odom said. "With the all the storylines with that one, he wants to play. I think he's going to be ready to go do that.

"I hate it for him to get banged up the other day because he was playing so well."

Crockett was limited to 3 carries for 10 yards in Missouri's 50-17 victory at Tennessee, but in the two previous games he rushed 21 times for 114 yards at Florida where the Tigers won 38-17 and rushed 22 times for 122 yards as they beat Vanderbilt 33-28.

"He's played really well the last couple weeks," Odom said. "It's been what I wanted to see out of him."

Crockett, 5-11 and 225 pounds, has formed a strong 1-2 punch with sophomore Larry Rountree.

Rountree has 169 carries for 893 yards and 10 touchdowns, and Crockett has 147 carries for 709 yards and 7 touchdowns. Crockett also has 12 receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown.

"It's been fun honestly, because the defense gets tired of it," Crockett said. "It wears a defense down having two good running backs. I feel like that's a major key in both of our performances."

Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis is impressed by Crockett.

"He's a really good player," Chavis said. "Certainly you look at that in their offense, he fits that. He's a powerful guy. He has got good size, he runs hard and he's very physical."

After rushing 37 times for 132 yards in the first 3 games coming off shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, Crockett saw his production begin to increase in SEC play when he had 13 carries for 67 yards against Georgia and 20 carries for 154 yards at South Carolina.

"I don't feel like it's surprising," Crockett said. "I knew I was going to come back and still be myself. It was just a matter of time when I was going to get completely comfortable."

Crockett, who has career totals of 380 carries 2,252 yards, became the 17th Missouri player with 2,000 rushing yards when he gained 46 on 11 carries in Missouri's 15-14 loss to Kentucky.

Kentucky scored the winning touchdown on the game's final play -- with time having expired -- after a controversial pass interference call gave the Wildcats one final snap.

After the Tigers bounced back by winning at Florida, Odom credited Crockett for his leadership in dealing with the Kentucky loss.

"He had a voice in the locker room after the game, and I thought it was a great message," Odom said. "Then he and I spoke, and I said, 'We need more of that. Keep coming, keep going, keep pushing and lead our team, because the way that you're playing, you've earned the right to be vocal.' "

Crockett said he believed in his third season he should be more vocal.

"I feel like I've evolved as a leader," he said. "I've always tried to lead by example, but now I'm talking to guys after the games and after practices more and more."

Watching Missouri play Arkansas without him has been tough, Crockett said.

"I just wanted to be out there competing against Arkansas with my teammates," he said. "I really missed playing in those games. But us winning made it better."

Missouri is looking for its third consecutive victory over Arkansas after beating the Razorbacks 28-24 in 2016 and 48-45 last season.

The Tigers (7-4, 3-4 SEC) will play in a bowl game for the second consecutive season and are in position to win eight games for the first time since 2014 when they finished 11-3.

"Coming to Missouri has worked out great," Crockett said. "I feel like it's the best decision I've ever made.

"I've learned so much and become such a better man on and off the field. It's amazing to see how much I've grown and how far I've come since first arriving as a freshman in 2016."

Crockett 2018 statistics

OPPONENT CAR YARDS TD

Tenn.-Mart. 12 42 1

Wyoming 19 73 0

Purdue 6 17 0

Georgia 13 67 1

S. Carolina 20 154 1

Alabama 7 8 0

Memphis 13 56 1

Kentucky 11 46 1

Florida 21 114 1

Vanderbilt 22 122 1

Tennessee 3 10 0

TOTALS 147 709 7

Crockett year-by-year statistics

SEASON CAR YARDS TD

2016 153 1,062 10

2017 80 481 2

2018 147 709 7

TOTALS 380 2,252 19

Missouri (7-4, 3-4 SEC)

DATE OPPONENT RESULT/TIME

Sept. 1 Tennessee-Martin W 51-14

Sept. 8 Wyoming W 40-31

Sept. 15 at Purdue W 40-37

Sept. 22 Georgia L 43-29

Oct. 6 at South Carolina L 37-35

Oct. 13 at Alabama L 39-10

Oct. 20 Memphis W 66-33

Oct. 27 Kentucky L 15-14

Nov. 3 at Florida W 38-17

Nov. 10 Vanderbilt W 33-28

Nov. 17 at Tennessee W 50-18

Friday Arkansas 1:30 p.m. (CBS)

*SEC game

Sports on 11/21/2018

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