RazOrbaX Hot Points Checkup post-MSU with flashback to 1969

RazOrbaX Hot Points Checkup post-MSU with flashback to 1969

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On Thanksgiving Day 1969, third-ranked Arkansas played Texas Tech in Little Rock. Earlier in the week, Bill Young of the Memphis Commercial Appeal called the Razorbacks a sham. They were rated No. 3 and had done nothing to earn or prove this stature. He added, "Come on Broyles, put up or shut up." The HOGS destroyed the Red Raiders 33-0. That victory, along with a Michigan win over Ohio State, set up the big shootout on December 6, 1969.

 

 Soph DT Robert Thomas
and Hogs forced six
straight 3-and-outs
vs. Mississippi State.
Two things happen a little differently in Little Rock than in Fayetteville in the arrival of the team and the band. Both have to do with logistics but it makes for a very cool setting. First has to do with the way the parking and tailgating happens in Little Rock. The team busses come up Markham and turn on Monroe to enter the stadium. This route, while not by design, allows all of the golf course tailgaters to line Markham and cheer for the team before they turn on Monroe to another sea of tailgaters. The equivalent in Fayetteville would be to have the busses coming up Razorback Road to Maple and the HOG Walk and let all the parked and tailgating fans cheer them in. The other is that the "Best in Sight and Sound" Razorback Marching Band actually marches down Monroe and turns into the stadium playing the fight song as they go. Fans just follow them down the street into the Stadium. Great sight and atmosphere!

What can you say about an offense that put up 539 yards total offense? The Razorbacks are peaking at the right time! And talk about balance: 45 passes and 39 runs. The yardage piles up when you complete 73 percent of your passes (33 of 45). But even with stats like that, Arkansas missed some plays! Leading 7-0 in the first quarter the HOGS are backed up to their 2-yard line. Two carries by Green netted 7 yards. On third and 3, Arkansas has trips left, Wright wide right and Johnson to the left of Wilson in the shotgun. Wilson takes the snap and immediately looks to Wright. The throw is a little wide and a perfect throw might have been completed at the 15 for a first down, but the corner and the safety are there and it would have taken perfect pass for the completion. However, on the backside, the two inside receivers are open at the 17 on a curl and at the 20 on a seam route. Except for the formation being flipped (and a tight end instead of four wideouts) Wilson had the same receivers open that he did on the previous drive that ended with a TD pass to Hamilton. Just a small miss, but one that could have kept the drive going.

Arkansas also gave MSU a lot of two tight end formations but on most they were to the same side of the field. The HOGS ran and threw the ball effectively out of the formation. It also made max protection easier when all-out blitzes were recognized. When the Razorbacks did catch MSU in their straight 3-4 defense, the draw play was a great call. Arkansas lines up with a receiver wide right and has a tight end on the line and another next to him in the slot. Another receiver wide left is also off the line of scrimmage. Wilson is in the shot (the Arkansas version of the pistol formation) with Johnson behind him. The O-line shows pass set getting the three down line men to drive forward. The linebackers begin their drop when suddenly the offensive guards and the tight ends are down field picking them off. Wilson shows pass and quickly turns around to hand off to Johnson who explodes up the middle for big gains. The old adage says you run to set up the pass. Arkansas passes, and it sets up the run.

The Razorback defensive tackles set the tone for the game playing "downhill." They exploded off the line of scrimmage and pushed the MSU line back on many plays. That kind of push allows the D-ends to only see man-on-man blocking. With the HOG defensive ends, that is in Arkansas' favor! The Razorbacks brought a lot of different blitzes with great success. The best thing a secondary can have is a defensive line and linebackers that are getting great pressure on the quarterback. It gives him less time to look for receivers and makes them hesitate just enough. On MSU's sixth attempt to not go three and out, the HOG D-tackles get a great push. Jerico Nelson's coverage causes the receiver to give up on his route. The QB has to get rid of the ball and lets it fly to a crossing receiver that is not there. Tramain Thomas is on the dead run for the interception and a TD, BUT he drops it! Still, six straight three-and-outs by the Arkansas defense is what most Razorback fans expected this year.

I usually do not speak specifically to official calls during the game, but on Arkansas' first kickoff the referee blew it! When I saw him throw the flag the only thing I could imagine was that State had 12 men on the field. When he called out that Arkansas had only three men on one side of the kicker, I knew he had made a mistake. Arkansas has kicked from the hash a lot this year but the formation is backward from what you might think it ought to be. Hocker has the ball on the 30 between the X on the field and the far hash as you look at the field from the home side. He has six defenders behind him (on the short side) and four on the between him and the hash on the near side. As Hocker approaches the ball the outside man begins to loop behind his other three mates. I am sure that the referee happened to look down field and could not see him because he was behind another player. None the less, the call was wrong. It only cost the HOGS 5 yards and let MSU start at its 30 instead of their 25.

Hot Point Check Up
OFFENSE
HANDLE THE PRESSURE:
State will crowd the line of scrimmage and try to do what teams have not been able to do lately, hit Tyler Wilson. The Arkansas offensive line will face its toughest test from a D-line since Alabama. MSU will bring pressure from all over the field. Pick up the blitzes and big plays are possible. HOGS pick up the blitz and got the big plays. Gragg 41-yard play, Wright 26-yard play, Hamilton 20-yard play, Adams 32-yard play, Johnson 21-yard play, Childs 18-yard play

BEAT THE TIGHT COVERAGE: State will try to do what ‘Bama did and be very physical against the Arkansas receivers. The Razorback receivers must create space and make the tough catches, especially on third down, to keep drives moving. Not a problem as Arkansas was 10 of 17 on third down conversions. Wilson missed two long TDs just under throwing HOG receivers.

DO NOT SHOOT YOURSELF IN THE FOOT: False start and holding penalties are drive killers. Arkansas can not afford to do anything to help MSU and let them stay in the game. It is not a Razorback game if the HOGS do not have an illegal procedure penalty! Less than three of those would be a very good thing! Four penalties for 30 yards (one was a mistake by the referee) were livable. The two fumbles could have been killers, but Arkansas survived.

DEFENSE
BE THE MOST PHYSICAL:
MSU will run a lot of the shotgun option offense that Auburn, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and South Carolina did. Expect to see a big H-back in motion or pulling across the formation and a guard pulling as well as the Dogs try to pound the HOGS. The Arkansas defensive line has played its best football the past three games. They were the most physical line on the field Saturday.

GAP FITS AGAINST THE RUN: Not only does the Razorback defense have to be very physical, they must have the correct gap fits as the play unfolds. Vick Ballard is the same kind of runner Trent Richardson is-very tough and faster than you think. He reads blocks very well. Also, the HOG defense must find the QB when by design or read he keeps the ball. 32 carries for 84 yards (2.6 per play average) and many lost yardage plays. Arkansas played the run very well.

PRESSURE THE PASSER! If the Razorbacks can get pressure on them when they do pass, it will go a long way to a victory. Senior James Carmon (#77) is in his first year at offensive tackle after three years on defense. The HOG D-ends must take advantage. And take advantage they did. On more than one occasion the Razorback ends and linebackers blew past the O-tackles of MSU.

KICKING GAME
STAY CONSISTENT! Breeding averages a SEC leading 44 yards a punt and while Hocker has missed a few more field goals than expected, he has made up for it in kickoffs that are touchbacks. Keeping the consistency up will go a long way the rest of the season. Breeding twice for 43 yards and Hocker was three of four (the blocked one was an offensive line leak) and six of his kickoffs were touchbacks. WOW!

WRAPPING UP
When the BCS poll came out Sunday night, the Razorbacks moved to No. 3 and put themselves in position to play for a national championship, leading to much rejoicing. It would make Friday's game the biggest regular-season game since 1969. Then came the tragic news of Garrett Uekman's untimely death. He played Saturday when the HOGS went to a three tight end set with Austin Tate and Chris Gragg. I thought when he signed with the Razorbacks that he would be a very good player. So while there is much anticipation, there is sadness. May our Lord, Jesus Christ, pour peace and grace on family and friends. Rest in peace, Garrett.

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