RazOrbaX Hot Points Checkup post-A&M with flashback to 1971
On October 30, 1971, the Arkansas Razorbacks were 6-1 and ranked No. 8 in the country. Two weeks before in Little Rock the HOGS had pounded Texas 31-7 on national television. It was a cool night in Little Rock when the 2-5 Texas A&M Aggies came to town to face Joe Ferguson, just two weeks removed from his national player of the week award. The Aggies were determined not to get beat deep so they gave up the short throws and let nothing get behind them. Ferguson attempted a then school-record 51 passes (Clint Stoerner tried 53 against Alabama in 1999) and completed a then school-record 31 passes (Mallett and Wilson completed a combined 35 against Auburn in 2010) for 345 yards but no touchdowns.
Arkansas had fumbled twice and thrown an interception that gave A&M its 17 points, and the Aggies never trailed in the game. But failing on fourth-and-1 killed the Razorback comeback, and the 17-9 defeat deflated the HOGS. That game really set the stage for Arkansas' slide from 1972 through 1974.
Tyler Wilson's 30 out of 51 for 510 yards and three touchdowns flipped the 1971 results! Arkansas needed every one of those yards Saturday. His no interceptions were almost as big as each completion.
WHO NEEDS FIELD POSITION?
All my life I have heard coaches preach field position. Give the offense 80 yards to go and make them grind it out. The offense will make a mistake and you stop the drive. The more frustrated the offense gets, the more likely they are to take chances that result in disaster. Saturday's game in Arlington, Texas, really killed that notion. Arkansas never started a drive in A&M territory until they stuffed the Aggies on fourth and two at the A&M 39 yard line. The Razorback starting average for the first half was their 21 yard line. It only got slightly better in the second half, averaging starting at their 26. It flipped for the Aggies as they averaged their 28 in the first half and their 20 in the second half. Arkansas scored on seven of 16 possessions; A&M on six of 15.
GOTTA RUN IT
You have to be able to run the ball. Maybe it is not your personality but you have to keep the defense honest and you have to pick up third and 3 or less occasionally by just physically beating the other guy. Arkansas ran the ball 10 times in the fourth quarter for 55 yards. Dennis Johnson averaged 6.8 yards a carry with the majority of his carries coming in the fourth quarter. Wingo only had 24 yards but averaged 4 yards a carry with just six attempts. While most of Razorback Nation rings its hands over the HOG running game, if you take out Wilson's minus-29 yards because of sacks and the team minus-3 for the last-play kneel down, Arkansas had 107 yards rushing for the game. For me, with this offense, 125 to 150 rushing yards is a winning stat. THE HOGS ARE CLOSE! What a difference Broderick Green made on the goal line and on the final drive of the game. And if you have it on tape, go back and watch the game-winning touchdown, not for Green but for Kiero Small's block. The only thing I like better than a pancake block is a form tackle! I promise that A&M linebacker Steven Jenkins, a 6-1, 220-pound junior college transfer will not forget it!
REMEMBER THAT CONVERSION
Did you worry about the two point conversion? You have seen that play before but it has been three years. The first time I ever saw Arkansas run that play was in the fourth quarter of Coach Bobby Petrino's first game as the Razorback head man. With 1:42 left, Casey Dick ran the exact same play against Western Illinois for the winning touchdown 28-24. Auburn saw it that year as well.
DEFENSE WORRIES ME
Does the defensive play so far this year scare you to death for the rest of the schedule? While I am scratching my head, too, I see light at the end of the tunnel. I just hope it is not an oncoming train (sorry, Coach Holtz!). I never expected the Aggies to gash Arkansas like they did. Alabama ran for just over HALF of A&M's 381 yards. Even glass half-full Dennis Smithson is starting to question the heart and toughness of this defense. They show it in spurts but not for series after series. Remember this, however: It is not the stats, but the scoreboard. A&M scored three points in the second half. If Arkansas' defense can hold teams to the 22 points a game they are averaging, Arkansas will win a lot of games! The Razorbacks won the turnover war (2-0), and Elton Ford just missed an interception. I did see something I liked in the second half. Even though Tannehill did not get sacked, he had three balls tipped in the second half and threw high on two others as he was pressured. Getting in a quarterbacks face with your hands up will disrupt the opponent's passing game and give you a chance for turnovers. Chris Smith was the main man accomplishing this for the Razorbacks. On the biggest third down of the game (third and 10 from the A&M 31 in the last two minutes), Arkansas lined up in a three-man front. At the snap only the ends rushed and noseguard Byron Jones dropped off spying Tannehill. The ends got pressure and Tannehill moved out to his right and Jones tracked him the sideline. Tannehill got 8 but not 10 and the first down. The HOG secondary covered up all of the receivers on that play. For the day, Greg Gatson and Tevin Mitchel played very well at cornerback.
JUST KICKING IT
The Arkansas kicking game was almost perfect against the Aggies. A personal foul on the last of Hocker's eight kickoffs allowed A&M to start at its 31 instead of the 16. Dylan Breeding was stunning on seven punts. A 48.4 average and a 41.4 net are big-time winning stats. You are guaranteed to turn the field over with that kind of punting. These two are making their mark, and if they keep it up will become one of the better kicking combos in Razorback history.
Hot Point Checkup
HIT SOMEBODY! Getting the swagger back starts with the offensive line having an attitude and busting the closest guy in white not just on the first play, but one every play. The longer the game went on, the better the HOGS did. Can they start a game that way and carry it through for a whole game?
TAKE ADVANTAGE! Texas A&M will bring both run and pass blitzes from all angles. Wilson needs to recognize them and get the HOGS in the right play to take advantage of that and get the "chunk" yardage plays. Boy, did the Razorbacks do this! Wilson still got sacked four times, but A&M could not survive the chuck plays!
GROUND GAME! Last year against the Aggies, Arkansas netted 136 yards rushing. It was the beginning of a good rushing year. Not a good beginning, but it was a good ending!!
HIT SOMEBODY! A&M has a QB that will run. Arkansas must be physical and tackle well. It was like the HOGS were not awake at 11 a.m. but by the third quarter they were, and they closed out the game with a fourth-and-2 stand from the Aggie 39.
BEWARE OF THE BOMB! If Arkansas can shut down the run and take away the play-action pass they still must be ready for a barrage of passes. A&M ran the ball well enough to hit some play-action passes and some deep passes, BUT THEY DID NOT, and the Arkansas secondary played very well, intercepting the only deep ball A&M tried.
NO DUMB PENALTIES. Giving up first downs on penalties after big stops will be demoralizing. No late hits, no face mask and no off sides calls this week for the Razorbacks! With the score 21-14 Arkansas had A&M looking at third-and-13 after the second down play except the HOGS were offside AND had a late-hit penalty. Those 20 yards jump-started the drive. Arkansas cannot do that this week vs. Auburn.
COVERAGE NOT THE KICKING II The Arkansas kickers have been great. The coverage teams need to match that. The Aggies have very capable return men and the Razorbacks cannot have a repeat of last week. Be sharp, stay in your lanes and TACKLE WELL. Mission accomplished big-time!
UP NEXT: AUBURN
Now to the biggest game of the year! Looking at the schedule of the Auburn Tigers, I never thought they would beat Mississippi State or South Carolina. It has not been pretty but they have found ways to win and that is what good teams do. Watching the A&M film must have Gus Malzahn drooling. It might have defensive coordinator Ted Roof crying. Historically, Arkansas has not played well against Auburn AT NIGHT ON TV! A Razorback win sets up the possibility of a big run to end the season. Which team's greatest weaknesses will be exposed? A big, loud crowd needs to be ready when the ESPN lights come on Saturday in Fayetteville! GO HOGS GO!