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Hard yards paying off for Whaley

Running man: Devwah Whaley celebrates his touchdown during the University of Arkansas’ victory away to Mississippi State University

Devwah Whaley continued his outstanding rookie season with the University of Arkansas at the weekend.

The Razorbacks freshman running back rushed for 112 yards on 19 carries, including a four-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter, to cement his team’s 58-42 victory away to Mississippi State University in front of a crowd of nearly 60,000 at Davis Wade Stadium.

It was Whaley’s second rushing touchdown, second 100-yard game and second highest total for the season. The former Dalton E Tucker and Sandys Middle School student has rushed for 50 or more yards six times this season and also had 14 receiving yards in Saturday’s game, which was televised live.

“I had a big game on Saturday and it was a great feeling,” Whaley told The Royal Gazette. “It was my first 100-yard game against an SEC opponent, which is big.

“I think this one was more special than my first 100-yard rushing game because this one was against a conference opponent and a tough one at that. They have one of the better defences in the SEC so in order for me to be able to do that was a big accomplishment.”

The Arkansas freshman rushed for a career best 135 yards on nine carries in the Razorbacks’ 52-10 rout over Alcorn State, including a 75-yard touchdown, his longest rush of the season and first touchdown in college football.

“This was a collegian team and just me doing that for the first time just showed a lot of hard work that I have put in,” Whaley said.

The 5ft 11in, 216lb-running back has now rushed for 547 yards on 97 carries and also has 104 receiving yards.

As Arkansas’s second-highest recruit since the ESPN 300 listings began a decade ago, expectations are high for Whaley, who is heavily tipped by ESPN’s five SEC reporters to win the conference’s Freshman of the Year Award this season.

“That would be a great accomplishment and blessing if I can get that award,” Whaley said. “We have on more game and I have to finish off that last game strong in order for that to happen.”

The son of former middle-distance runner Devoe Whaley, who celebrated his nineteenth birthday this month, committed to play for Arkansas over several other colleges, including Texas and Georgia.

Whaley has held his own in his rookie season at this level which has not come without its challenges for the NFL hopeful.

“When I first got out here it was a little difficult for me catching up with the game speed,” Whaley said.

“But, as time went on I got better and better and came along with the game speed, which was the most important thing.

“Everything is coming along quickly, and I’m only a freshman that’s playing a lot.”

The Razorbacks improved to 7-4 for the season and 3-4 in the SEC West with their first victory over Mississippi State since 2011.

“We have let a couple of games slip away from us that I think we should have won,” Whaley said. “But all in all I think we are having a pretty good season.”

Arkansas will close out the regular season on Friday when they travel to Columbia, Missouri, to take on the University of Missouri in a game to be televised by CBS.