This is an excerpt of a column I wrote for Sporting Life Arkansas. For further context and analysis, read the piece in its entirety here.
One of the biggest offseason questions was how would Bielema, he of the on-the-ground-and-proud power running Big 10 pedigree, would mesh with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney’s Drew Brees and Tyler Bray resume.
The two drives that bookended the first half may serve as our answer. The game-opening drive and the two minute drill before halftime offer a stark dichotomy of football styles, and while the Razorback offense didn’t score a touchdown before halftime as they did on the first drive, they were still successful.
Arkansas began the game doing exactly what they wanted to do. They established a running game that moved down the field in relative ease, going 85 yards (counting to two penalties) in 11 plays, eight of which – and the first seven – were running plays. And they did it without even showing a great variety in playcalling. Every running play was either around the right side or up the middle. The only time the Hogs went left was on Allen’s six yard scoring pass. It was almost as if they weren’t even concerned with what Louisiana was doing on defense. They were more nuisances than opponents, only delaying the inevitable touchdown.
Then, with the Hogs up 17-7, Arkansas called a timeout immediately following a Louisiana timeout (which was weird – and if the one timeout had sufficed the Hogs may have been able to run one more play before attempting the field goal) while they were looking at a 3rd-and-nine from their own five yard line with just 1:16 to go before halftime. At this point, the Razorbacks were in a situation where they needed Brandon Allen to get them down the field quickly. And he did. Louisiana was expecting pass in the two minute drill situation, and it didn’t matter.