LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Chase Hayden admitted he was nervous when he took the field for the first time.
The freshman could be forgiven for any butterflies, considering the last time he saw action was as a high school standout in Memphis.
Hayden looked like anything but an 18-year-old freshman in his collegiate debut on Thursday night, rushing for 120 yards and a touchdown to lead Arkansas (1-0) to a season-opening 49-7 win over Florida A&M. He finished with 14 carries, becoming the first Arkansas player to top 100 yards rushing in his debut since Alex Collins did so to open the 2013 season.
“It was a great feeling,” Hayden said. “… I surprised myself a little bit; I didn’t know what to expect and came into the game nervous.”
About the only mistake Hayden made in the game was when he scored on a 5-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Rather than running through the end zone as Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema prefers, Hayden stretched out with the ball in an attempt to reach the goal line.
After a brief review, the officials confirmed their call of a touchdown — keeping Hayden’s breakout debut intact and him in the good graces of his head coach.
“You could see right away he was going to have an impact,” Bielema said. “… As you can see, he can make a lot of things happen in a short amount of space.”
Florida A&M (1-1) quarterback Vince Jeffries connected with Brandon Norwood for a 7-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Rattlers’ lone score against an Arkansas defense eager to shine in its debut after an offseason switch to a 3-4 defensive look.
Henre’ Tolliver notched the Razorbacks first defensive score of the season, returning a fumble recovery 18 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Austin Allen finished 14-of-19 passing for 135 yards with a touchdown for Arkansas. Devwah Whaley added 60 yards rushing on 12 carries for the Razorbacks, and South Carolina transfer David Williams rushed for two touchdowns.
FLORIDA A&M: Rattlers quarterback Ryan Stanley didn’t play because of a sore ankle, a week after accounting for 238 yards in a season-opening win over Texas Southern. Stanley likely could have played, but coach Alex Wood decided to rest the sophomore in the Football Championship Subdivision school’s matchup against a Southeastern Conference opponent.
ARKANSAS: The three-headed combination of Hayden, Whaley and Williams somewhat eased any concerns the Razorbacks might have had about their rushing attack after former running back Rawleigh Williams’ career came to an end following a second neck injury in the spring. Arkansas finished with 236 yards rushing on 45 carries overall, an average of 4.5 yards per rush.
“I think the combination of (Hayden), Devwah and David, we really have three unique players at that position that kind of present a preparation nightmare for our opponents,” Bielema said.
Florida A&M was penalized at the beginning of each quarter on Thursday night, thanks to the team’s white-on-white uniforms that made the numbers unreadable for many in War Memorial Stadium. The Rattlers lost a timeout with each penalty, forfeiting four of their six for the game because of the uniform snafu.
“I guess you can’t see them electronically,” Wood said.
FLORIDA A&M: The Rattlers are off next week before wrapping up their nonconference season when they travel to Tampa to face Tennessee State on Sept. 16.
ARKANSAS: After defeating TCU 41-38 in double overtime a year ago in Texas, the Horned Frogs make the return trip to Fayetteville next Saturday.
Follow Kurt Voigt on Twitter at @Kurt_Voigt_AP