RazOrbaX hot points checkup post-Bama
Leading up to the 1992 season was an exciting time for the Arkansas Razorbacks and their fans. The Southeastern Conference had extended and invitation, and led by Frank Broyles, Arkansas gladly accepted. New beginnings and new challenges awaited Razorback football.
Right out of the chute, Division I-AA Citadel grabs a fumble and runs it in for the game's only touchdown and Arkansas is embarrassed, 10-3. The next game is the first SEC game at South Carolina. Lead by new interim coach Joe Kines, the Razorbacks roar past the Gamecocks 45-7. That gets us to Week 3 and a first for Arkansas. No. 9 Alabama Crimson Tide makes their first trip to Arkansas to play the Razorbacks in Little Rock. As Alabama took the field I was in awe. They were the biggest, fastest team I had ever seen. They easily handled the Razorbacks 38-11. That Alabama team would roll through the season and destroy Miami in the Sugar Bowl to win the national championship. Saturday in Tuscaloosa reminded me of that game in Little Rock.
Believe me or not, the Arkansas defense played a very good football game. What would you have thought the outcome would be if I told you before the game that the Razorback defense would hold Alabama to 197 yards rushing and make a goal line stand after it was first and goal from the 1? Would you have liked the HOGS chances? The defense was gashed here and there but made the stop on the first drive only to be outflanked on the fake field goal. Alabama did not put the ball on the ground but Arkansas again missed two interceptions that would have been huge. Losing Tenarius Wright on the first series did not help the cause. Despite the injuries to the starting defensive ends, Arkansas mixed in its five-man front. For the most part, it was effective in slowing the Tide running game. I did notice that the Bama front was very conscious of where Jerry Franklin was and made sure he was blocked. Can you remember the last time Franklin had only one solo tackle? That put the onus on Alonzo Highsmith, and the JC transfer came through in a big way. He had four solo and four assisted tackles led the team. Greg Gatson also played well after Isaac Madison went out.
T. Wright out w/broken arm
Alabama's defense is very good and they were well prepared for the Arkansas crossing routes. The Tide played with two deep safeties for most of the game and dropped four or five back 6 to 10 yards deep in a matchup zone. They contested every pass and closed quickly on the short crossing routes that have been very good to Arkansas. Tyler Wilson completed 63 percent of his passes, and I would take that any day. The problem was that Arkansas could not get anything in the 20- to 30-yard range. The Tide made sure to give the short passes and tackle immediately. The Razorbacks did not run the football well, but Wingo's 11 carries for 35 yards is not a bad stat. With the score being heavy in the Tide's favor, Arkansas did not run the ball that much. The worst running play was the fourth down play to Dennis Johnson. Arkansas had scored to make it 31-14, held Alabama and forced a punt and had fourth and 2 at the Alabama 43-yard line. Running off of left guard, Johnson did not follow fullback Kiero Small who went between the guard and tackle. Johnson went between the center and the guard and was stuffed by the middle linebacker. It killed Arkansas' hope of making a game of it.
Hot Point Check Up
READ WELL! Tyler Wilson has to recognize the defense. Wilson did this most of the day but his biggest miss was not checking down on third and 1 to Miles-Nash instead of going deep to a double covered Gragg.
THROW THE RECEIVERS OPEN! While the Tide will mix coverages it will be up to Wilson to throw the ball where the only Razorbacks can catch it. Especially against the man coverages. On Wilson's only interception he led Childs who seemed to give up on the throw. Alabama intercepts and runs it back for a touchdown.
MINIMIZE LOST YARDAGE PLAYS! But when they do, it needs to be for positive yardage. If it is third and two and the Razorbacks can run for two plus and keep the chains moving, it will open up other opportunities. In the biggest opportunity to do this, the HOGS failed.
LINE PLAY! The Alabama offensive line is experienced and the Razorback line rotation must control the line of scrimmage if Arkansas wants to pull the big upset. Some plays they did; some plays they did not.
DO NOT GET FOOLED! Nick Saban will run a trick play of two. Long play touchdowns are demoralizing. Arkansas did respond after the fake field goal but if it had been stopped, that would been huge. Maybe next year the Razorbacks will be ready.
TOUGH TO TACKLE, TACKLE ANYWAY. Good form will be required by the Razorbacks as well as gang tackling. If you get a hold of the Tide ball carriers, HANG ON! The biggest thing that I was disappointed with was the tackling. Alabama got the big Yards After Contact plays.
COVERAGE NOT THE KICKING The Arkansas kickers have been great. The coverage teams need to match that. As for the punt coverage, they took advantage of Breeding's punts last year against LSU to contain Patrick Peterson to ZERO return yards on 6 punts. The HOGS need that Saturday. One time to give up a return was one time too many.
UP NEXT: TEXAS A&M
Arkansas has no time to fill sorry for itself. And the season is not over by any means. Texas A&M missed opportunities to make a statement last week against Oklahoma State. Beating Arkansas would soothe the Aggie bruises. They are excited to be moving to the SEC and would love to count this as win one. Arkansas just needs to get a little healthy and bring an attitude to Arlington. I would not be surprised to see A&M copy the Tide's defense, although they do not have the Tide's talent. It will be an early start and that will make for a late-arriving crowd. Arkansas must run the ball better, and if the defense gets it hands on the ball, it must keep control of it! This can be the start of a great finishing run for the HOGS. It is time to step up!