Arkansas used the run to soften up the Louisiana defense and the pass to put points on the board. Bret Bielema's style was on display and the Arkansas Razorbacks took care of business against a team that won 5 more games in 2012 than the Arkansas Razorbacks.
On an extremely hot day, the Razorbacks started off even hotter. On the first drive, Arkansas didn't call a pass until the 8th play as they rushed for 62 yards on 9 carries. While the drive ended with a passing touchdown, it was very clear from the start that Bret Bielema and the coaching staff were going to run the ball.
And run it they did, The Razorbacks used 4 different running backs with the majority of the carries going to Jonathan Williams, and, you guessed it, Alex Collins. Alex got into the game on the 4th play and at the end of that play, Reynold's Razorback Stadium was filled with "That's another Arkansas Razorback... First Down"
Collins was definitely as advertised. His vision and patience were very impressive. He definitely wasn't afraid to run between the tackles and get physical... Maybe Kiero Small blocking for you makes you feel like you can get through any defense.
Kiero Small was definitely more active than we've seen in the past. After dropping 30 lbs, he may not have the mass to break as many face masks as in the past, but his holes were still large and he's a huge part of the 282 yards racked up by Williams and Collins. The best Small play was a little 10 yard receiving touchdown in the first half. Small caught it at about the 6 and fought through three Louisiana defenders with his feet just barely in bounds and just willed the ball into the end zone. Definitely not how I expected Small to get a touchdown, but then again Arkansas surprised with 3 passing touchdowns and 1 rushing touchdown.
Jonathan Williams beat the entire Louisiana defense on a 75 yard touchdown run to remind us all of the Darren McFadden and Felix Jones days, but otherwise, it was all Brandon Allen's arm putting 6 on the board. At the end of the first drive, Allen saw everyone covered and started running towards the left side of the endzone, but the defensive back for Louisiana moved to stop the run leaving Javontee Herndon open in the far corner for a 6 yard touchdown pass.
While they had found success in the air on the first drive, the offensive game plan continued to be run first with Collins and Williams taking handoffs and pitches from the I-formation. Just when we thought the offense might be boring, Brandon Allen faked a pitch to the left, sprinted out right, and found Javontee Herndon running down the seam in single coverage and hit him over the top for a 49 yard touchdown pass.
Defensively, Arkansas had no issues in the 2nd half. Chris Smith and Trey Flowers continue to impress and some of the new faces on the line played very well. They were able to effectively neutralize Terrence Broadway and frustrate the Louisiana defense. In the first half, it looked similar to the bend, but don't break defense from most of the Petrino years, except that they really didn't break. The biggest play of the game for the Cajuns was a 31 yard reception by Elijah McGuire on a wheel route and both of Louisiana's touchdowns were definitely earned. The Hogs didn't give anything away. Alonzo Harris was a great back for the Hogs to face in the first game, but Louisiana didn't really use him as effectively as they could've.
A couple of observations....
Zach Hocker was supposed to get all of the kicking duties, but we saw Sam Irwin-Hill on punting and John Henson was brought on to kick an easy field goal. I'm not sure what to say about the punting, but the Henson kick might've been just using this game as a preseason warmup.
Punt returns used to be something that was pretty scary for Hog fans. I remember when we used to put Peyton Hillis back there just because he was sure handed. I felt very good with Jevontee Herndon back there today and would've loved to see him get a chance to return one, but he definitely made good decisions on all of his fair catches. We also didn't get a chance to return any kickoffs, so we haven't been able to see much about special teams return plays... Maybe they will struggle on returns without John L. Smith's brilliance.
Hunter Henry looked really fantastic at the end of the 2nd quarter, but I was pretty disappointed in his fumble and on another play with a drop. Definitely hope to see him hang on to the ball a little better.
Time of possession was huge. In the 4th quarter, Arkansas went on a 13 play drive that ate up 8 minutes and 50 seconds off the game clock and really stayed on the field so long that the defense would be very fresh for the Hogs and erased the whole part of the game where you sometimes see teams with nothing to lose somehow manage to fight their way back into the game. If fans were bored with Ken Hatfield, they may find this style boring, but I don't think they will argue with wins and 522 yards of offense.
Overall, I'm super pleased with this performance and am feeling a lot more confident about this season. Go Hogs, and welcome to the new brand of Arkansas Razorback Football!