'It gave us juice': Morris' one-hand grab a key in turnaround

Arkansas receiver Tyson Morris celebrates after making a touchdown catch in Arkansas' season-opening victory over Rice on Sept. 4, 2021, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — When Arkansas’ offense needed a spark Saturday in its season opener, a player Sam Pittman commended recently for his consistency in camp provided the game-changing play.

On the first play of the Razorbacks’ second drive of the third quarter, quarterback KJ Jefferson let loose on one of his few deep-ball attempts. On the receiving end was redshirt senior Tyson Morris, who hauled in the throw using only his right hand.

The grab was good for a 31-yard gain and pushed Arkansas down to the Rice 26. Five plays later, Jefferson found the end zone on the ground for the second time and the Razorbacks pulled within 17-14.

It was the first score in what turned out to be a string of 31 unanswered points for Arkansas, which handled Rice 38-17.

“I thought it was a pretty good catch,” Pittman said. “I think the guy was on him. He only had one hand to catch the ball with, and he did it.

“I think it gave us juice.”

Morris, a Helena-West Helena native who finished up his high school career at Fayetteville, finished the day with three catches and tied for the team lead with 42 receiving yards.

He had one catch in the first half for two yards, but both receptions after halftime were pivotal.

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His final grab was a 9-yard score from Jefferson that put the Razorbacks ahead 31-17 with 4:07 left in the game. It was Morris’ fourth career touchdown.

Jefferson said the score to Morris will do nothing but boost the receiver’s confidence. Defensive backs Jalen Catalon and Montaric Brown, who combined for three interceptions in the victory, concurred.

“It was an unbelievable play,” said Brown, who came away with the third interception of his career. “T-Mo had a good camp. It just got the offense going. It was a great catch.”

Catalon added that the plays Morris made showed that he could be in for a productive year.

The 31-yard catch was the longest of Morris’ career, topping a 30-yard score against San Jose State in 2019.

“I’m just glad he got his number called,” Catalon said. “He made the play during the game that honestly got the offense going, and it was kind of like the first little spark that got things going outside of KJ’s touchdown. T-Mo is a great receiver.

“He’s a really good piece for us.”