RazOrbaX Report: Hootens.com coach Smithson reviews SC tape, looks ahead to MSU
On November 8, 2008, the Arkansas Razorbacks traveled to Columbia, SC, to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks. Both teams were struggling to obtain bowl eligibility. The Gamecocks would outgain the Razorbacks by just 42 yards in a noon, non-televised kickoff. They would jump to a 10-point lead only to have the Razorbacks hit a big pass and cut it to 10-7 in the second quarter. Two possessions later, Carolina hits a 66-yard pass to take a 17-7 lead into the half. Scoring on their first possession of the second half added to the lead, but Arkansas would respond. At that point, the HOGS ran out of gas and USC ended the day a 34-20 winner. Carolina would become bowl eligible but Arkansas would not in a 5-7 season. Oh, how history repeats itself!
Any fight left in Hogs?
While I did not think the Razorbacks would win Saturday, I always thought they had a chance. They would have to be smart, and they could not withstand any self-inflicted wounds. When you look at the stats, and both teams have dead even numbers - first downs + 2 for Hogs; rushing +21 for USC; passing +2 for USC; plays +2 for Hogs - and there is an 18-point difference in the score it means one thing. There were turnovers that stopped a score or turnovers that became scores. And that was the Arkansas story on Saturday.
The Arkansas defense was on the field 66 plays. The Hogs gave up only 223 yards on 61 of those plays. That is not a bad statistic at all. The problem Saturday was the other five plays produced 150 yards! All passes, all between 24 and 52 yards. Three of the five were either third- or fourth-down plays. That has been the Razorback Achilles for the past 10 years! When teams are third-and-8 or longer, they have the HOGS right where they want them! All year long fans have watched as two good plays are negated by one very bad one. Saturday was more of the same. One of the reasons I did not think Arkansas would win is because of who the opposing coach was and the fact that we were starting two freshmen linebackers. It took all of three plays for Spurrier to have a tight end running down the field against freshman A.J. Turner. Do not get me wrong, Turner is going to be a good player for the Razorbacks, but the Ol' Ball Coach picked on him early and often. Carolina's Jerell Adams went right down the seam against Turner for a 29-yard touchdown to end the Carolina first drive of the game. With a 31-13 lead in the third quarter and facing third-and-5 from the Arkansas 35, Shaw again found a freshman linebacker (this time Otha Peters) trying to cover his tight end. It was another 29-yard gain to the Arkansas 6-yard line, and that drive would end the Carolina scoring. Spurrier got the matchups he wanted and exploited them.
The Arkansas offense has bothered me all year. The Hogs cannot run the ball when everyone is expecting a run. I learned a long time ago that the definition of insanity was to keep on doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Can anyone think of a third or fourth and less than 2 yards to go that the Razorbacks converted when lined up in a power running formation this season? Since the offensive line has not really come together, and the staple stretch play has almost disappeared, the pressure to be perfect has fallen squarely on Tyler Wilson. I was disappointed it took a quarter and a half for the coaching staff to realize that Jadeveon Clowney had one job: track and hit Tyler Wilson. I cringed every time I saw the Hogs make a play fake that was supposed to influence the defensive end only to have him totally ignore the fake and head straight for Wilson. Tyler survived (again) but probably owns the record for time in the ice tub and the hot tub at the UA. While his second interception stopped a promising drive, the first INT that was returned 69 yards for a TD was the killer turnover. So the Razorbacks lost 38 to 20. Arkansas fumbled at the SC 4-yard line. Arkansas kicked two field goals of 21 and 22 yards. That puts the line of scrimmage at the SC 3- and 4-yard lines. Three possessions inside the Carolina 5 and instead of 21 points, Arkansas comes away with six. The Razorback margin of error is so small this year that every time an opportunity to score a TD is missed, it is almost the nail in the coffin for another defeat.
In 2008, Arkansas won five games by a total of 16 points. Four of the losses were by 19 points. The Razorbacks could have easily been 0-12, but they just as easily could have been 9-3. The 2012 team that will finish the Bobby Petrino era sits in the same spot with two games to play. This Arkansas team could have beaten ULM, Rutgers, Ole Miss and South Carolina this year. I told you before the year that they could not withstand any injuries. Unfortunately, the injuries came. I thought the coaching would not slip as much as it seems to have. These assistants are not bad coaches, but they obviously need a very strong, dominating leader to get the best out of them and their players.
UP NEXT: MISS. STATE
Many folks predicted that Mississippi State would be 7-0 entering the final stretch. And so they were. They now sit 7-3 with Arkansas and Ole Miss remaining. Arkansas and State are pretty evenly matched, but you would not think so by their records. The Bulldogs have won all of their non-conference games, the Razorbacks have not. State has not won a game when the opponent has scored 37 or more. That is the target. It is always a slobber-knocker when the game is in Starkville. How much fight do these HOGS have left is the biggest question of the week? This staff has two games left to redeem itself. Do they have any fight left? One more early kickoff before the finale in Fayetteville. This game boils down to the same, simple things as most of the games this year: effort and execution. The seniors who have been leaders this year must rally this team for these last two games. In 2008, Arkansas lost to MSU and stunned LSU. The only chance for 5-7 this year is the other way around!