Brought to you this week by Tito's Vodka, Bob Marley, and oh, hey, look. Another roughing the passer penalty against Florida. So glad there was discussion all week about how Arkansas plays dirty. The game last night really bore that out. We are halfway through the gauntlet, at least, and we only have injuries to our starting quarterback, starting cornerback, and best offensive lineman. I'm sure we'll fare much better against South Carolina and Alabama, though. Beverage of choice last night was Miller Lite. Lots and lots of Miller Lite.
So, about the game. Florida's defense is really, really good. That's about the long and the short of it. Arkansas took them by surprise with their physicality in the first half, and they adjusted and shut the Hogs down. Chaney certainly made some missteps with play-calling which exacerbated things, but the Gators were just the better team. The Hogs didn't quit in the second half. They just got beat, plain and simple. But we might as well go a little more in depth.
The play of Brandon Allen is likely going to be the story coming out of the game, but it really shouldn't be. Ryan Mallett or Tyler Wilson he is not, but he is capable of leading this offense. Brandon Allen has a live arm. He can make the throws. What he is lacking is presence in the pocket. Too many throwaway passes. Too many instances of taking off if his first target isn't open. And unfortunately, too many attempts to force it to his first target even if it IS covered. All of that is fixable, though. Allen can learn that presence that Mallett and Wilson had in spades. We've been spoiled for four years at quarterback, y'all. Just give it a little time.
As big and bad and nasty as the Florida defense was, and as impressive as their second-half adjustments were, Arkansas pushed them around in the first half. Blew them off of the line of scrimmage. Kept them off-balance with a nice mix of play-calling. That shouldn't be forgotten or overlooked. That was the best defense in the country, and the Hogs had them on their heels right up until the deflating pick six. And the Razorbacks did it with a couple of sophomores and no fewer than four true freshmen. Four true freshmen! Bret Bielema has been the coach less than one year, less than one season, and already his best players are those that he recruited. That is cause for optimism, regardless of his record this season.
Alex Collins establishing himself as a receiving target out of the backfield is a really, really good thing. Our offense needs every new wrinkle it can add, and having both running backs capable as receivers will really put some additional pressure on opposing defenses. It means that average defenses will not be able to simply stuff the box to shut down Collins and Williams. Rutgers was good defensively, but they shut down the Hogs by making it simply a numbers game. Adding a screen/flat/wheel game can neutralize that somewhat.
When Arkansas got to the edge, they had success. Korliss Marshall and Keon Hatcher both had nice carries accomplishing this, and Chaney never went back to the well. I wish he would have. The speed of those two in contrast to the power of Collins and Williams presents an opportunity for a change of pace play that will be available throughout most games. It should be an established part of the game plan.
Defensively, I feel as if there is a lot to feel good about following the game last night. Linebackers still look lost in coverage, but they did a fantastic job of stuffing the run. Getting any type of contribution from the middle level is a positive over the past few weeks. The secondary obviously had trouble keeping tabs on Patton, but I thought they did a much better job of being aggressive and attacking the short routes that Florida was running.
Arkansas has to create turnovers to win games this season, and right now I feel like a sack-fumble is pretty much the only possibility for the Hogs to create one. The tackling is sound, and that's great, but they've got to start knocking the ball out some. They've got to step in front of some passes. Zero turnovers in two games is bad, but the worst part is that Arkansas barely had any near turnovers. Just not enough to get excited about.
That's about it. It just seems like there aren't many takeaways to pull from last night's game that haven't been made before. The biggest thing to me is the gigantic role that the freshmen and sophomores are playing on the team. The comparison gets made every week, but it really does feel like 2008 all over again, with the difference being that the new faces this year may be even better than the new faces from Bobby Petrino's first season. The 2008 Razorbacks were forced to endure a grueling stretch as well, and I know y'all remember it hurt like hell getting trounced every week. Everyone endured, though, and Arkansas was in the Sugar Bowl two years later. It was difficult to endure last night, and will likely be difficult to endure the rest of the season, but there are positives to take away each week. You just have to look for them.
See y'all next week.
Trent Wooldridge will be that guy with enough bourbon. He loves the S-E-C chant and honks because he hates Texas. He puts honey on his pizza, demands aisle seats, and sees quitting golf as more of a hobby than actually playing golf. Follow @twooldridge and track his quest to transform his three-year-old into a southpaw ace in the bigs.