If the bright lights of Death Valley bothered Luke Hasz, the Arkansas football freshman sure didn’t show it Saturday night.
In his first collegiate road game, the tight end from Bixby, Okla., reeled in six passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns in the Razorbacks’ heartbreaking 34-31 loss to No. 12 LSU in Baton Rouge, La. — a performance that led to head coach Sam Pittman describing him as a “ball-playing son of a gun.”
“It was definitely a great experience,” Hasz said. “I knew coming in here it was going to be a good atmosphere. I just go about every game (as if) I just have to play like it’s a normal game. That’s exactly what happened.”
Hasz was inches away from a three-touchdown game, but was stopped just shy of the goal line on his first catch of the game. He had to go up and snag a pass in the flats, allowing Major Burns to tackle him before he had a chance to extend the ball across.
A false start on the next play backed Arkansas up and ultimately led to a field goal on that possession, but Hasz did get in the end zone twice — three times, actually, if you include a two-point conversion — before the night was over.
The first time happened early in the fourth quarter when quarterback KJ Jefferson extended the play by scrambling to his right and kept his eyes down the field, where he found Hasz wide open behind the defense for an easy 59-yard touchdown. After the game, Jefferson praised Hasz for consistently finding the right open spaces when plays break down and he gets out of the pocket – known commonly as scramble rules.
“I know that no matter what, KJ is going to make the play last long, so I’ve got to do whatever I can to get open for him,” Hasz said. “Because he’s a big quarterback, he’s 250-plus pounds, so he’s not going to come down easy.”
Following yet another false start that backed up the ensuing two-point conversion, Hasz caught a pass in traffic that tied the game at 24-24.
After the Tigers took the lead on their next drive, Arkansas once again leaned on the freshman tight end. He had a 33-yard catch-and-run to move the sticks on first-and-20 and capped the possession with an 11-yard touchdown reception on which he was once again wide open. That tied the game with 5:06 remaining.
“On the last touchdown, we knew that was a big touchdown and he came through,” Jefferson said. “He’s maturing, he’s growing. In clutch situations, I can count on him.”
Having a knack for coming up with big plays is even more impressive considering he’s a true freshman. In fact, the former four-star recruit is the Razorbacks’ first true freshman with multiple touchdown passes in a game since Hunter Henry did it against LSU in 2013.
That clutch factor, which he also showed flashes of against BYU a week earlier, could garner Hasz even more targets moving forward.
How Luke Hasz Stacks Up with Hunter Henry
If that does happen, Luke Hasz should have an excellent shot at breaking Hunter Henry’s UA freshman receiving records for tight ends.
Through four games, he’s up to 15 receptions for 239 yards and three touchdowns. For a comparison, Henry had caught only eight passes for 125 yards and one score through the first four games of 2013.
Having faced Western Carolina, Kent State and BYU before Saturday, the schedule is about to get a lot harder for Hasz, but he’s in position to meet or surpass Henry’s 28 catches and 409 yards that season. Of course, Hasz’s quarterback situation with a fifth-year senior and third-year starter in KJ Jefferson is better than Henry’s with a redshirt sophomore and first-year starter in Brandon Allen, but that is still impressive company.
It’s also worth noting that he had the first 100-yard receiving game by a tight end since Henry’s 129-yard effort against Mississippi State in 2015 — a game Arkansas lost in heartbreaking fashion, as its field goal was blocked in the closing seconds of a 51-50 shootout with Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs.
Henry had the last 100-yard receiving game by a freshman tight end, as well, with 109 yards against Texas A&M in Week 5 of 2013.
Arkansas Football Tight End Production
Despite bringing in a heralded transfer in Var’keyes Gumms and returning a redshirt freshman who showed promise last year in Ty Washington, Luke Hasz is the only Arkansas tight end who’s caught a pass so far in 2023.
The Razorbacks have utilized plenty of 12-personnel with Nathan Bax or Francis Sherman on the field this year, but they are known more as blockers and aren’t exactly threats in the passing game.
Here’s how the position has produced in recent seasons…
|Year||Combined Tight End Stats||Top Tight End|
|2022||34 receptions, 356 yards, 6 TD||Trey Knox (26 rec., 296 yds., 5 TD)|
|2021||39 receptions, 351 yards, 3 TD||Blake Kern (15 rec., 183 yds., 2 TD)|
|2020||36 receptions, 293 yards, 3 TD||Blake Kern (20 rec., 201 yds., 2 TD)|
|2019||45 receptions, 476 yards, 5 TD||Cheyenne O’Grady (33 rec., 385 yds., 3 TD)|
|2018||47 receptions, 615 yards, 8 TD||Cheyenne O’Grady (30 rec., 400 yds., 6 TD)|
|2017||50 receptions, 467 yards, 2 TD||Cheyenne O’Grady (21 rec., 132 yds., 2 TD)|
|2016||50 receptions, 592 yards, 7 TD||Jeremy Sprinkle (33 rec., 380 yds., 4 TD)|
|2015||78 receptions, 1,128 yards, 9 TD||Hunter Henry (51 rec., 739 yds., 3 TD)|
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