RazOrbaX Hot Points Checkup post-South Carolina with analysis
FAYETTEVILLE - Déjà vu! A year ago, ranked Arkansas and South Carolina played a night game on ESPN. The Gamecocks were leading the SEC East and trying to get to the SEC Championship for the first time. So, No. 17 Arkansas drops 41 on No. 18 South Carolina and the Gamecocks get a defensive touchdown to get to 20.
What a beautiful Saturday last week in the Ozarks. The leaves were just past peek. but it was a great drive nonetheless. It seemed like it was the biggest tailgating of the year in Fayetteville. The biggest debate of the day was whether it was better for Arkansas if LSU or Alabama won that other game being played on national TV.
Tyler Wilson has been hit a lot this year and it was beginning to show. The biggest hits he absorbed Saturday night were on QB sneaks! The Arkansas line had its hands full with the Carolina defensive front but they were up to the challenge. The Razorbacks did two things that slowed down the Gamecock rush. First, they ran the ball right up the middle against USC's even front. Most of the time center Travis Swanson blocked down and a guard would pull through the whole. Dennis Johnson made all his yards running right down the heart of the defense. Second, though not as effective, was moving the pocket and rolling out Wilson. When you do that it cuts down your options, giving you only a third of the field unless you are on the far hash. South Carolina did a good job against the Razorback offense in the red-zone, forcing field goals but Arkansas helped them a little dropping passes. Julian Horton made a great catch on Arkansas' fourth quarter TD drive. Bringing in Brandon Mitchell was a great adjustment by Coach Petrino. It widened the defense worried about his outside running and allowed Ronnie Wingo to plow right up the middle for the touchdown that put the game away. Sometimes as a coach, you just outsmart yourself. On Arkansas' next possession inside the 10-yard line, one good run up the middle with Mitchell at QB then a play action pass that is incomplete. Another run up the middle walks in the end zone.
Defensively, Arkansas played fast, especially at defensive end. Jake Bequette looked completely healthy and along with freshman Trey Flowers (6-4, 243) from Huntsville, Ala., came up big. They did a great job of setting the edge and making the tackle or funneling everything to the middle. Arkansas also was aware of where Alshon Jeffery was lined up. The vast majority of the night he had a cornerback on him in man coverage with a safety over the top. The Razorbacks covered man to man most of the night and covered well. What helped that coverage was the Arkansas pressure. The HOGS brought one or two linebackers all night, and Connor Shaw was running for his life. The play Arkansas had most trouble with was the QB draw behind a pulling guard. It is a play that has given the Razorbacks fits the past two years. South Carolina also benefited from the Arkansas aggressiveness with several offside penalties and scored on both drives that the Razorbacks received a personal foul.
Hot Point Checkup
O-Tackles, it is Your Game! The group that wins the most battles has a great chance to win the game. The Arkansas tackles played a great game and it showed on the scoreboard!
SHARP IN THE PASSING GAME! Tyler Wilson leads a Razorback team the ranks 9th in the country. If Wilson is on, it will be bad news for the Gamecocks. Five dropped passes kept Arkansas from putting 60 on the scoreboard.
RED-ZONE: TOUCHDOWNS, NOT FGs! Arkansas has only missed three opportunities to score in the red-zone but Saturday night it must be touchdowns. This was scary with the dropped passes and Hocker missing two field goals.
CONTIAN SHAW! Connor Shaw has not set the world on fire running but he can escape. Quarterbacks that can do that have given the Razorback defense fits. Keep him in the pocket and make him beat you throwing on time. He is averaging 116 yards a game. If Arkansas holds USC to 116 yards passing, that will be a winning stat. Shaw did run for two touchdowns but only passed for 128.
DO NOT GET BEAT DEEP! Wide receivers Alshon Jeffery, Ace Sanders; tight ends Justice Cunningham, Rory Anderson are threats to go deep.
TACKLE, TACKLE, TACKLE! The Razorbacks must not give up yards after contact. It was the best tackling game of the year for the HOGS. No deep passes all night. Part of that was coverage and part of that was pass rush.
CONTINUE THE EXCELLENCE! Hocker, Breeding, Johnson and Adams have been great all year. They need to show off at home in their next to last game in DWR Razorback Stadium. Hocker struggled but still hit three field goals and his kickoffs were great. Dennis Johnson is the man and turned momentum back to the HOGS with his return for a TD.
UP NEXT: TENNESSEE
Arkansas has some large prizes in the offering, but does not control which one it might get. All the Hogs can do is win out, and let the polls and teams they do not play take care of themselves. Saturday night in Fayetteville will be an emotional evening. Some great seniors will play their last game in DWR Razorback Stadium. These players set the ground work for Coach Petrino's success at Arkansas. It is a soldout night game on ESPN once again. And these players deserve the best crowd yet! GO HOGS!