Arkansas Fight Panel Discussion: Week 6 - Texas A&M Review, Arkansas' Chances vs Florida

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Gathering our contributors' opinions on the topics of the week.

1. No one ever wants to use the "MV" word, but most fans seem to not be, let's say, not too upset with the way the A&M game unfolded. Did the game make you feel more optimisitc?

Trent: Absolutely.  Arkansas will not face another quarterback nor another offensive line like they faced against Texas A&M.  They will be able to shore up the deficiencies in the rushing defense, and should have a legitimate chance against every team save Alabama and LSU.  Not that they will win all of the them, or even one of them, but they should be able to make each a game.

Adam: Seeing as how I predicted an absolute massacre with poor Tusk's head on a stick, I am COMPLETELY okay with Saturday's moral victory. Sometimes when you fail a math test, you don't expect to get an A on the next one. Just getting a C will give you hope for the future. That's what I got with how the Hogs played in Fayetteville against the Aggies.

Zack: This was possibly my favorite "MV" ever. Look at last year, the guy broke records against us. I'm very pleased...as sad as that sounds.

Kevin: Yes, I did come away feeling more optimistic from this loss compared to the Rutgers loss. I think that has to do with the differences in the two losses, one being choking on a lead in the fourth quarter and the other being a scrappy fight where you weren't put away until the end of the fourth quarter. If I have to take a loss, I'll take the latter over the former all the time. And anytime you get an injured player back and he competes well, that lends itself to being more optimistic about the future.

Scottie: I think this is so because Arkansas hung in the game as long as they did, and that people were skeptical of the offense coming into this season. But yeah, when we battled back, put up some points and showed some offensive firepower it gave me a lot of hope for the future.

Randy: Most fans braced for disaster after the Texas Aggies scored six touchdowns on the vaunted Alabama defense. Giving up only a field goal more than that was wildly better than the triple-digit score our most pessimistic fans anticipated. I was sorely disappointed when Brandon Allen threw away the football when the Hogs had the football down 4 points to begin the second half. Surprisingly, that pick six didn't kill chances to win. What threw me were the seven straight passes on the drive that failed at the Ags' 16. One for seven. Sudden fear of running? Do we have a go-to running game, or not?

Drew: Compared to what happened last year, I don't blame anyone for being optimistic about the outcome of the game.  After seeing how quickly A&M scored on their first drive, I was shocked to see us go into halftime with only a 4-pt deficit. I think its reasonable to say that we hung with A&M for the majority of the 2nd half.  It's not a "moral victory," but if that's not progress, I don't know what is.

Doc: I wasn't surprised that the team played better with Allen than A.J. Derby, but I was surprised at how much better they played. Getting Keon Hatcher back has proven to be a big boost as well.

2. Is the biggest concern from the A&M game that the Aggies dominated the second half on the ground without having to rely on Johnny Manziel doing much? Or is that more of a result of the defense focusing so much on Johnny that their running backs had a better opportunity?

Scottie: Yes, it's a big concern because you really can't do anything with their pass offense anyways. A&M only threw it nine times in the second half, and basically won the game by beating us in the run game, and stopping the run was a strong point for our defense. Of course, you couldn't completely commit to the run because... you know.

Adam: It was surprising, without a doubt. But I just chalk that up to good coaching on A&M's part. Plus, I didn't mind it too bad just for the fact that we didn't give Johnny too many highlight reels.

Randy: Arkansas's defensive line and linebackers respected Johnny Manziel so much, they became obsessed with getting to him at the expense of all discipline in run defense. That is a shame. Had the Porkers stuck to their assignments, Manziel would have had to throw a slippery football on a rainy Saturday night. Instead, they looked defenseless against runs out of the spread. Lots of facepalming in video study this week.

Trent: The latter. Johnny Manziel is one of those players who will have an effect just by being on the field.  The defense was unable to pin their ears back and attack the football out of the fear that Johnny Football would pull it out at the last second like Lucy with Charlie Brown.  I worry much more about the pass defense than I do the rush defense at this point.

Kevin: I think we had a bit too much Johnny on our minds and that was a factor in the Aggies' ground success. With that said, I wouldn't be shocked if another team really gashes us with their run game, even if they don't have a mobile quarterback. For example, with their good stable of backs, I can see LSU doing something similar in November. I think we are going to be especially vulnerable in this area towards the end of games when the lack of depth monster wants to raise its ugly head.

Doc: There was definitely some shoddy tackling, which is a concern. And if it was against another team, with a more normal quarterback, I'd be much more surprised, but I'm willing to cut them some slack trying to account for Johnny. We'll get a much better idea this week at Florida, who'll also try to pound the ball down the field.

Zack: Gotta focus on Johnny to stop him. Defense forced them to beat us without Johnny. I mean, they did, but it was the risk we took with the gameplan.

Drew: The Aggies took what was there, that's for sure.  They weren't rattling off big gains every play, though; they were just able to chip away with a lot 3-4-5 yard gains. You do that consistently, you'll get a first down more often than not.  Without the threat of Johnny Football, I don't think A&M would have been able to do that.

3. Obviously, it was great to have Brandon Allen back. He makes Arkansas much more versatile than Derby did, but he was still just 17/36. Where does Arkansas' passing game go from here?

Scottie: When I saw he was 17/36 on the stat sheet I didn't believe it. I thought it was a typo. It certainly didn't feel like he missed that many. I think the offense continues trying to achieve balance. Arkansas threw and ran for over 200 yards Saturday, which is CBB's goal. Keep finding Hunter Henry. We're lucky to have that kid.

Kevin: I think it is going to be going more and more towards Hunter Henry, as it should. He made some really good down the field catches Saturday night. Would like to see what they can do with the newly arrived Marshall on the Wingo Route, excuse me, the Wheel Route, with his great burst of speed. Find more ways to get passes in the hands of Collins and Williams out of the back field. Williams's last touchdown was in the form of a nicely thrown short pass that with his hard running he turned into six points. It really isn't just Herndon that we have out there. We have weapons in the passing game. We just need to improve on effectively and consistently using them.

Zack: He missed 2 weeks. We have to ride the year out with him, because the redshirt isn't coming off of his brother. I'm not exactly sold on him, but I was so happy to see him out there when I turned the game on.

Drew: His completion percentage wasn't great, but I don't think there's any doubt that the forward pass will remain a staple of our offense.  Six different Razorbacks have notched a TD reception this year - in fact, we've had more passing TDs this season (10) than rushing TDs (7). Remember when we were all afraid that the offense would be nothing but "3 yards and a cloud of dust?"  We got the TE back into the game this week, and JWill had 2 TD receptions.  We've just got too many potential weapons in our arsenal to not let Brandon Allen throw.

Randy: Allen threw a reckless interception in the Southern Miss game, and on his two giveaways last weekend, Allen allowed defenders to read his face all the way to the receiver. The first two in that sequence came not long after the Razorbacks had come out of the locker room (one first quarter, one third). Were those plays too scripted? I'd like to see many more passes to open receivers. And on third downs, how about we quit throwing passes to receivers behind the first down marker?

Adam: Hopefully up. I'm still not sold on Brandon Allen, however he's the best we have at the moment. I've got to learn to get used to it.

Trent: There were several throwaways to go with at least three drops in the fourth quarter.  I thought that Allen did a very good job of throwing the football with accuracy for the most part.  Some fans will not like it, but a higher concentration of passes will be play-action and long developing.  Also, a higher percentage will be max-protect with fewer receivers out.  It also looks like Brandon Allen has been coach to ere on the side safety by throwing the football away instead of trying to force things.  All of these will result in a lower completion percentage with Allen, not matter how accurate he is when he actually has an open receiver to target.

4. One of the Bielema criticisms we've heard since Arkansas hired him was his in-game clock management, time outs, etc. Was the failed two-point conversion evidence of that or was it not a big deal?

Adam: I might be in the minority, but I was all for going for two. Didn't we get angry last week for playing not to lose? The momentum was there and they were trading touchdowns with us. We needed to do something a little desperate. Sometimes you gamble and lose, but I thought that was a good call, Chuck!

Scottie: I was all for it. I didn't see it as a big deal. Had we converted it would have been a three point game and no one would be questioning it. Now the play that was called for the conversion was iffy. But I was all for going for two at that point. No complaints here.

Kevin: Well, I don't think it was a big deal in that it cost us the game, obviously. But the failed two point play was a negative and did seem to usher in the negative plays that came afterwards. So maybe it messed with our mo some. But what was more crucial in that regard is how our offense didn't capitalize after the few times the defense did get a stop. I am proud that we answered as well as we did. But, as I've lamented for years and years, this is another sign that the Hogs still lack that killer instinct to really make another team sweat. Hopefully Bielema can get that installed in our mindset and the Hogs become the one who knocks and fans start raising "We are the danger!" signs over their heads.

Drew: Neither.  I'm not sure that it wasn't the absolute right call at the time. We were down by 5 points, and had basically been trading scores with them for the entire quarter.  The 2-pt conversion would have put us within a FG to tie, and we could have done just that when our drive in the red-zone stalled with 6 minutes left in the game.  Since it was unsuccessful, we had to go for it on 4th down... which is probably what we would have had to do if we had kicked the PAT and been down by 4 points instead of 5.

Trent: Bielema follows The Card.  He is always going to follow The Card.  It's pointless to second-guess a coach for using an objective approach in coming to a conclusion that offends your subjective sensibilities.  I don't think going for two was a big deal at all.

Randy: Usually do not have a problem with a two-point attempt, IF the offense has great go-to threats. Arkansas's play seemed messed up from the beginning. Can't tell from the outside what happened. In this situation, going for two was not necessarily to set up a tie. Closing within three would have enabled a tie with a field goal, but it also would have meant a 4-point lead with another TD. When pressed, Johnny Manziel could get A&M into field goal range in a few seconds. Seriously, never batted an eye.

Doc: I'm torn about it. I understand why Arkansas went for it. But I also understand why it wasn't smart to do it. Obviously, hindsight's 20/20, but I'm just not a fan of going for two unless you have to.

Zack: You win some you lose some.

5. Florida is a winnable game, right? And not just in the sense that all games are technically winnable? Like, it's reasonable to think the Razorbacks have a decent shot at winning?

Zack: I'd say so! This was my upset pick, and I'd still say it is. Still lobbying to get off work this weekend so I can go.

Kevin: RIGHT! And I would actually be happier with a win over Florida in the Swamp (seeing how our last trip ended down there, thanks refs) than any team remaining on our schedule, for we've yet to beat Florida since joining the SEC over twenty years ago! Yes, I think it is reasonable to say the Hogs have a decent shot of getting a win down there. But if they go down there and start playing not only Florida, but also the Razorbacks, then I don't like our chances. What was thrilling about last Saturday night is that we saw the Hogs mainly playing just against the Aggies. Penalties were low. Fumbles were zero. No serious mistakes in special teams. And when Allen did throw the pick six, he bounced back and led a touchdown drive. That is what needs to happen again next Saturday to get our first win in the Swamp.

Doc: How's about we skip the pick-six part, though? We can't afford to spot anybody points this year.

Trent: If it weren't for the fact that Arkansas has never, ever, ever beaten the Gators in SEC play, I would be much more optimistic.  It is certainly going to be much more difficult to score on Florida than it was Texas A&M.  The defense is due for a four quarter performance, however.  If Arkansas can get half of the breaks it got against Rutgers, I don't think this current team folds down the stretch as they did in Piscataway.

Randy: Averages for the Gators' defense:

  • Fewer than four rushing first downs per game.
  • Run defense giving up 3.4 yards per play ex-sacks and just two TDs in four games.
  • Passers completing just under 50% against them, 4.8 yards per attempt.
  • Allowed 3 passing TDs vs 7 INTs.
  • Opponents' possessions ended with 22 punts, 9 turnovers, 8 scores, 4 failed fourth downs.
  • Florida's possession-time advantage: 18 minutes.
  • Plays: Florida 286, opponents 211.

If the hosts remain generous with their own turnovers, Arkansas has a chance. Play well, the Gators might not score more than 10-14 points, and that's within reach. Their offense has to be epic bad, given how many chances their D hands over. With a perennially great defense and neutered offense, Florida should be Kicker U, but even he's not very good. On the other hand - this game is set up for Arkansas to lose again in fever-dream fashion. So far, the Hogs have lost every game they were supposed to lose. That needs to end now.

Adam: I agree with Kevin on this one. If we don't beat ourselves and not get caught up in the Swamp atmosphere, we definitely have a shot. And sometimes, that's all you need.

Drew: Before the season started, I felt like the Florida game was our best shot at an SEC road upset.  That was predicated on us being 5-0 going into the game.  Obviously, we're not 5-0.  But, at the same time, Florida hasn't been nearly as dominant as I expected them to be this season on either side of the ball.  If we can score some point in the Swamp, I think we've got an excellent shot at a W.

Scottie: Florida's offense only scored 24 points on Kentucky.... So, yeah. This is going to sound dumb to some people, but we have a decent chance to win. Driskel and Easley are out for UF, BA is back, and we received a shot of optimism last week. I am confident we can be competitive for the whole game.


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