RazOrbaX Report: Hootens.com coach Smithson breaks down Tulsa tape, eyes S. Carolina

RazOrbaX Report: Hootens.com coach Smithson breaks down Tulsa tape, eyes S. Carolina

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FAYETTEVILLE - A long, long time ago (2008 seems that way) the Arkansas Razorbacks began November with a 3-5 record. September ended and October began with three losses to teams that would finish with a combined record of 37-4 by a margin of 139-31. On the first Saturday in November, the Razorbacks would step out of conference and play an undefeated and rising in the polls University of Tulsa team that was leading the nation in offense. Arkansas dominated the first quarter only to see the lead vanish. Freshman Dennis Johnson came to the rescue with a kickoff return for the go ahead touchdown, and the Razorback much maligned defense stopped a pass in the end zone on the last play to keep the scoreboard: Arkansas 30, Tulsa 23.

 

 Dennis Johnson
It was the best football weather of the year Saturday. Clear skies with a breeze out of the north meant I could not wear shorts to a November game. The 11 o’clock kickoff killed tailgating and caused a “get there just before of just after kickoff” effect on fans coming to the game. As the national anthem played, it looked like a record low crowd, but before Arkansas finished its first drive of the game, almost 65,000 had settled in. It was a loud-and-involved crowd, too!

This Razorback team has fallen into an unwelcome pattern: dominate the first quarter but only lead 10-0 and then hibernate until later in the game. The second and third quarters are killers for the HOG offense, and I am not really sure why. It is obvious that this team, while not quite as talented as last year, still has playmakers the opponents fear. One thing is for sure: Arkansas cannot run when the other team is expecting it. The offensive line has just never jelled, and Kiero Small is a missing component the Razorbacks have not come close to replacing. Never the less, Dennis Johnson has somehow generated 5.3 yards per carry and almost 600 yards rushing this year.

Arkansas started the game in grand fashion: line up in a two tight end running formation and throw to Cobi Hamilton for 19 yards and a first down. The formation was interesting in itself. Mekale McKay split left with a tight end on the line to the right and another in a tight slot to the right. Hamilton was in the wide slot to the right, and Johnson was the lone back. Arkansas is giving the defense an unbalanced formation look but still has two receivers wide on the flanks. This formation also showed up on the touchdown drive that put the HOGS ahead, but this time the formation was flipped with Demetrius Wilson in the wide slot. Wilson hits him for 20 yards and the drive is on.

Dennis Johnson’s 106 yards were hard earned as the HOGS just cannot run block. Johnson makes most of his yards on cut backs because Arkansas cannot make the block at the point of attack. The problem with this is when the Hogs do happen to make that block, the 'backs are looking to cut back instead of “hitting their track” as the previous head coach used to say. DJ made several big runs on cutbacks the first three quarters but missed a good gain when the line DID seal the corner. On second-and-10 from the Tulsa 25, the Razorbacks ran right on the stretch play as the line and tight ends block the edge of the defense. There is 2:36 left to play and Tulsa has used its last time out. A first down seals the game. Johnson cuts back, as he has had to all day, and only gets a yard. Following the play would have netted at least 5 yards and maybe a lot more. Unfortunately, it is like a golfer who slices more often than not. Then when you hit it square, you are in trouble.

The Arkansas defense has been the subject of much discussion this year and most of it has not been good. The injuries have taken a  toll on this team, but none the less, the D has improved, and the last two games have shown that. Believe it or not. Unfortunately for the Hogs, they tend to have a bad quarter and that quarter is the second. Fortunately for the team, they have played well in the fourth quarter of late.

If you had told me that Tulsa would only have 23 yards offense in the fourth quarter and only three points in the second half, I would have said that the Razorbacks would have won big. Chris Smith was big, big, big for the HOGS. Twice dropping into zone coverage from his end position and knocking down two passes (He will say he should have intercepted those), and he made the big sack on the Tulsa quarterback to seal the game. But Smith didn't just line up at defensive end. Occasionally he would move over and stand up in the “A gap” (the gap between the center and the guard), sometimes blitzing and sometime dropping into coverage or spying the QB. Smith led the team with eight tackles and one forced fumble. For the second week in a row, the Razorback defense held a team to less than 3 yards a carry.

In the second half, the Arkansas secondary played more press coverage, and it paid off. More than once the HOGS got a hand on the ball to keep the receiver from making a big play. Ross Rasner undercut a route late and should have intercepted the pass. The safeties are still too tentative and seem to be a second late making plays. They are so close to playing that “center field” and making big interceptions that it hurts to watch sometimes.

The HOTPOINTS were short and sweet.

JUST WIN! And the Razorbacks did just that. Winning helps everyone’s morale and puts a little pep into the step. With the daunting stretch left for the HOGS, winning this game was a must.

DID YOU NOTICE?
Arkansas players lost footing all day on cuts; offensive and defensive players alike. What is up with that? I did not notice any Tulsa players slipping down at all.

The left-footed Tulsa kicker kicking off from his left hash and pulling the ball all the way to the other hash (or further) to the right? My frustration with that was that Arkansas never adjusted to that and had Johnson line up on the other hash to begin with! DJ had trouble tracking down those kickoffs, and one was almost a disaster for the HOGS.

How many times did Tyler Wilson get hit on delayed blitzes that the Razorbacks never picked up or just whiffed at blocking? No one was immune, O line, tight ends, fullbacks and running backs.

Breeding has been excellent downing the ball inside the 20 with very high kicks that were easy to cover. Yet in the third quarter with a chance to back up Tulsa, for the first time this year he did the running to the right, kick on the run thing that a lot of teams seem to do these days and hit a hard dribbler right into the end zone.

The same thing happened on Hocker’s first kickoff. Instead of booming it into the end zone, it dribbled to the Tulsa back, and he ran it back to the 35-yard line. After that it was back to booming them into the end zone.

UP NEXT: SOUTH CAROLINA
Now the HOGS travel to Columbia to face a very good South Carolina team. Spurrier had the week off to heal some wounded Gamecocks and game plan without Marcus Lattimore available. The Gamecocks have struggled on offense at times, but they are monsters on defense. Wilson cannot take the shots he did against Tulsa and survive. Another thing the HOGS cannot do is have 400 yards offense and score less than 20! Arkansas must get some breaks, and it cannot make any mistakes on the road. The Hogs cannot give up scoring opportunities after they cross the 30-yard line. On paper, it does not look good, but the ball is shaped funny and takes strange bounces. The one thing you have to do is believe!

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