Things were going quite peachy for the Hogs in the first quarter. Brandon Allen's touchdown pass to Keon Hatcher was a thing of beauty. BA finished with a respectable stat line which would've looked much prettier had he been able to play the whole 60 minutes.
Austin Allen stepped in and did an admirable job. I was worried for him and this trial by fire he was being dropped into, but he had poise and calmed everyone's nerves with the 33 yard pass to Keon that told Ole Miss their troubles were just beginning.
Overall Arkansas had a good, albeit small, passing game. Efficient is the name of the game for this Hog team. They kept the throws to the minimum, burned the clock and got off the field with a W.
Huge congrats to Jonathan Williams on breaking 1,000 yards! It's going to be Alex Collins' turn next week to join the 1k club. Still, I'm disappointed to not see one of our backs go over 100 yards. Ole Miss is no slouch, but our run game is the real deal. Good strong running for J-Will, though. No complaints.
Collins may be starting to feel the effects of an intense SEC schedule. He only averaged 3.4 per carry which is unlike him. He did finish with 79 on the ground though, so I won't make a mountain out of a mole hill, but hopefully we'll see him finish strong.
Not much to say when 4 players combine for 8 touches. Got to see Morgan and Hatcher play some good ball after Ole Miss keyed on our dynamic tight ends. Hatcher had a spectacular catch in the end zone. He has a knack for catching those difficult balls.
Drew Morgan was consistent, and we needed him to be. He fought for 51 yards on 3 catches, leading this band of Hog pass-catchers. I must say that despite the lack of stats, Morgan and Hatcher really made their presence felt in the run game. Both sealed excellent blocks and paved the way for some really impressive runs.
This was one of the most complete games from this unit. We all know this group is special, and considering they're returning the majority of their starters next year I am so pumped to see this team keep fielding elite linemen. The recruiting class is beginning to shape up so there is no telling just how crazy talented this group could be in a couple years.
Like I said, this group played a great game and kept our offense churning against the number 8 team in the nation.
Trey Flowers and Darius Philon tried their hardest to garner matching stats as the line went to work on Ole Miss. Both players recorded a sack, 1.5 and 1 TFL respectively, recovered a fumble, and recorded a QBH. Philon just barely gets the edge for forcing a fumble as well. When half of your defensive line have stats like that, the game gets a lot easier on the 7 folks behind them. The line was the catalyst for an amazing defensive performance. Consistent pressure and constant playmaking have become the norm for this unit
If our team is known for one thing it's having "dynamic duos". J-will/Collins, Henry/Derby, Flowers/Philon, and now Spaight/Ellis. The two combined for 17 tackles on their way to insane performances. Spaight led by example with an early "Spaighting" of Bo Wallace, forcing a fumble and setting the tone early. He also tacked on a pass breakup as well as a QBH en route to another banner game!
Ellis made a few plays too. A TFL a pass break up, and an INT that he returned for 36 yards and sealing the shutout! Good to see Brooks back to form after his midseason injury. Both he and Spaight are red hot heading into the end of the year. I can't wait to see what they do to Maty Mauk and the 8-2 Tigers.
As a unit, the Hog linebackers were solid all around. If I'm a recruit, I'm taking a good look at Martrell Spaight and this Robb Smith defense. What this group has turned into over the course of 11 games is mesmerizing.
The domination continued on all defensive fronts. Rohan Gaines made his presence felt immediately upon being put in the game at the start of the second half. He started things off with a devastating hit and it wasn't long after that he took Bo Wallace's pass the other direction for a 100-yard pick six that was the highlight of the game (and maybe the year).
Henre Toliver, D.J. Dean, and Jared Collins all played solid games against what is usually a solid passing attack. Collins even had 3 pass breakups, including one in which he made an excellent play to slap the ball out of the defender's hands on 3rd and long.
Of course Rohan wasn't the only DB with an INT. Tevin Mitchel enjoyed the senior spotlight. Throwing off his back foot, Bo hung up a pass a little too much. Mitchel pounced on the opportunity making a tremendous effort to keep a foot inbounds. Killing that red zone drive was clearly devastating for Bo, who could never quite make a play all day.
McFain had a solid performance, accounting for three field goals. 31 yards may be his perfect range as he drilled all 3 within it. The 37 yarder as time expired in the first half was not so good. Looking back it wasn't needed, but it would've been tremendous to hang those 3 on the board heading into halftime after losing BA. Momentum didn't shift Ole Miss' way entirely, but Hugh looked a little too pleased for my liking.
The punter from Down Under, Sam Irwin-Hill had a strong game as well. 6 punts for a 40 yard average set the Hog defense up nicely. Better yet, he was able to sink half of his punts within the 20.
Coverage was on par with what we've come to expect from this group. We even got a generous assist from an Ole Miss player who fielded a kickoff and preceded to run OB at the 1 yard line.
Let's hope this unit can put 2 more of these solid performances together.
Bowl eligible and with a game to spare! I'm setting money aside for tickets as we speak. I know the Hog faithful will come out in droves for whichever bowl we get. I know we are all super elated at this point. The outlook at the beginning of the season did not include a bowl berth by most people. Let's keep that in mind when it comes to criticizing this group. Imagine if you explained this season to yourself in mid-August. You would've carted your future self off to the booby-hatch! I'm incredibly proud of our boys, but I'm going to hold all my wonderful thoughts till late December, because we still have work to do!