RazOrbaX Hot Point Checkup post-Troy
Tusk stayed dry Saturday.
FAYETTEVILLE - Weather. What you really do not want to worry about on a Saturday game day. When you consider that your team only plays seven home games, is it too much to ask for good weather seven out of 52 Saturdays? The good Lord knows best of course, and for kickoff the weather was great.
Tusk stayed dry Saturday.
Tailgating was another story! Thirteen people crowded into a 10'x10' tent as the wind whips and the rain pours made one of those "memory moments" that we will laugh about later. It was a sight, as was my brother-in-law donning his rain poncho to cook on the grill! At least the car was close and he brought some clothes to change into. Speaking of great, the first 25 minutes of the game were great, but the last 35 minutes brought some of my worst fears to the forefront and left most of the crowd of 69,861 a little queasy about the upcoming trip to Tuscaloosa .
You could not ask for a better start: 80 yards, touchdown; 80 yards, touchdown; 80 yards, touchdown; 73 yards, field goal. It is a lot to ask your offense to drive 80 yards every time it gets the football to score but Arkansas not getting that last 5 yards on their fourth
possession opened the door slightly for the Trojans. In fact, Troy played the perfect field position game in the first half to give them an upset chance. Arkansas started its five first-half drives from the 20, 20, 20, 22 and the 20. The Trojans scored with seven seconds left and Dennis Johnson ran the kick back to the 47, which would have been the Razorbacks' best starting position of the half but the return was the last play of the half.
I feared that Troy would throw the ball a billion times. I was hopeful that Arkansas could pressure the quarterback and cover the receivers. Neither happened. That is a scary thought but remember this: Of the remaining schedule, only Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Tennessee will throw it that much if Arkansas shuts down their running game. I am not saying others will not throw on the Razorbacks. I am saying it is not their personalities to throw it 75 percent of the time as Troy did. As Frank Broyles used to say, "Make them play left-handed." If a team wants to run and cannot then has to throw, that is in the HOGS' favor.
Offensively, Arkansas started fast and did so with a lot of no-huddle offense. With the ability of Joe Adams to line up at tailback and carry the ball, it makes life difficult on the defense. If the Razorbacks do not substitute and line up quickly, the defense has to be prepared for anything from five-wide to an I-formation. This game showed about every formation Arkansas has in the book. For the first time this year, the HOGS lined up in an I-formation with three-wide receivers. This is another very versatile set. Both Ronnie Wingo and Dennis Johnson catch the ball well out of the backfield and lining up Chris Gragg at fullback in this formation gives defenses cover problems. After splitting the two deep safety set on the first play with a 37 yard pass to Colby Hamilton, the offensive line took over. The Razorbacks pounded out 95 yards on 15 carries in the first quarter alone. Arkansas ran the sweep several times early and one fourth-and-1 from the Troy 21-yard line it looked like it might be the sweep again but Arkansas came hard off tackle with fullback Kiero Small leading. The guard blocked down and the tackle blocked out and Small picked up the cornerback that had slide inside. Wingo sprinted almost untouched for the touchdown. Things got much tougher in the second half. Troy's defensive ends and outside linebackers came hard off of the edge giving Wilson fits and slowing up the running game. Arkansas missed just enough blocks to stumble down the stretch.
The Razorback defense got no pressure on the quarterback and gave up too much yardage through the air. While even I thought the HOGS defense did not play well, after watching the game, it was a pretty vanilla game plan. Arkansas did not play their five man front as Troy was always three or four wide outs. If fact much of the game was spent in a three man front. Arkansas brought pressure with Nelson off of the edge and Franklin up the middle without much success. Last week Arkansas had two or three unabated shots at the quarterback but did not make the plays. This week time was spent trying to keep up with the receivers and no such shots at the quarterback presented themselves. The front four did do a great job against the run, playing their gap responsibilities and freeing the linebackers. Take away Troy QB Corey Robinson's 28-yard run and the Trojans only had 56 yards rushing. Arkansas can live with the opposing team's QB being its leading rusher.
Hot Point Checkup
Great Secondary Play The Razorback secondary must be sharp and play their technique. Something that has bothered me for more than the past four years seems to be the Arkansas cornerbacks not being able to get their head around and look for the ball on deep passes when in man coverage. I know they practice this because I have watched the drills! The receivers get bigger and faster starting this week. If I were grading the film, it would not be a pleasant score.
D-Tackle Play The Razorback tackles have played well in stopping the run but have only occasionally pressured the quarterback. I was disappointed that the Arkansas tackles did not seem to get their hands up, at the least, with the QB delivering the ball as quickly as he was.
Capitalize on Opportunities Arkansas is last in the country in creating turnovers. It is not that they have not had chances; it is that they have not been able to come up with the ball when the chance availed itself. Jerry Franklin read a screen to the wide receiver perfectly and stepped between the QB and receiver only to drop the pass that would have been a touchdown.
Better in the Red Zone Tyler Wilson has been very, very good so far this year. If there has been any questionable play, it has come when the ball is inside the 20. One hundred percent on the first three drives is as good as you can get. Wilson did miss two open receivers on drive four, and the Razorbacks had to kick a field goal.
Step Up Time O-Line Troy will mix fronts and bring blitzes from all angles. The o-lines communication, concentration and production must be very good. Troy's athletes will be the best they have faced except in practice. First half very good; second half not so good.
Do Not Shoot Yourself in the Foot Most of the time the only thing that stops the Arkansas offense is itself. The talent and coaching is there for this offense to set records and it will as long as it does not self-inflict wounds. An interception for a touchdown in the third and a fumble early in the fourth quarter let the underdog stay in and start believing.
Head Down, Follow Through Zach Hocker and Dylan Breeding were very good!
Take What You Get Joe Adams and Marquel Wade have been great in the return game but both have put the ball on the ground. That cannot happen! Joe put it on the ground in the fourth quarter when a fair catch would have given the offense great field position to start a game sealing drive.
UP NEXT: ALABAMA
Leaving the stadium Saturday I heard a lot of gloom and doom. Facing the third-ranked Crimson Tide and Nick Saban's best ever defense (or so some experts say) does not sound like a very enviable task. The Arkansas defense disappointed most of Saturday. Bobby Petrino is 0-3 against Saban since coming to Arkansas. Arkansas has lost the last four times they have faced Alabama. The Razorbacks have been outscored 149 to 79 in the last four games with the Tide. Want some good news? Arkansas has cut the Bama scoring output in each of the last three games: 49 in '08 to 35 in '09 to 24 in '10. Can this HOG defense do that in 2011? Can the Crimson Tide be held under 20? That would be a start. No balls on the ground would also be a good thing. This will be a HUGE game for Tyler Wilson and his legacy as the Razorback starter. Ryan Mallett could not get the offense over the Bama defensive hump. Can Wilson? Bobby Petrino's reputation as an offensive coach is not in question, but winning this game at Tuscaloosa over Nick Saban would cement his status as a great college coach. Arkansas has the weapons and the talent to hang with Alabama. The winner gets a large leg up in the SEC West race. Saturday will be lots of fun!