He's back. I'm back. It's back. Welcome back. It feels so good to tell you that The Companion is brought to you by Tito's vodka, Bob Marley, and the brave new world of Razorback Football, trying to divine hope and encouragement from a 24-point loss. Not even Huxley's imagination could plumb those depths, but here we are.
Beverage of choice yesterday was Coors Light, poured into a glass to class it up a notch, little sprinkle of salt to finish. Unlike the Hogs, my liver is easing itself into the season, but should be in whiskey shape by late September. Or sooner. Probably sooner. Load up on sooner, actually.
If you decide to view this game in the context of being the Hogs' tenth consecutive loss, and not just the first loss of this season, it's very difficult to come up with a fresh take on things. The struggle is real, y'all, and it is THE SAME AS LAST YEAR. The defense still cannot tackle in space. Linebackers still struggling to make plays. Secondary still having difficulty staying with receivers. On offense, receivers still making drive-killing drops. Still seeing confounding second half play-calling. And Brandon Allen...
That's not what we are going to do. We are going to view this game solely as a season opener, on the road, against a top ten opponent who appears will be very much in the discussion for a playoff berth come December. What is different about this year's Razorbacks?
So. Back to Brandon Allen. There was improvement in his performance, I feel. Not sure that I would rate him much differently on the eye test. Not sure how much difference I saw in the mechanics and footwork that Chris Weinke was supposed to fix. But I'm not a quarterback. Never have been. And ultimately, I don't care how Allen looks if the production is there. Just get the job done. He showed that he could yesterday. Against a top-flight opponent. For at least a half. That's improvement. I'm holding onto that rope for now. He did do a much better job of not staring down receivers. Drastic improvement there.
I think we got just about what we expected out of our running backs. Jonathan Williams appears to be a clone of himself from last season. Alex Collins may have gained a step and added even more quickness and vision. Korliss Marshall seems just as fast and just as tough running off-tackle as he did running on the edge last season. I do have to question why Bert never put him on the edge yesterday, though. Just because he had great success with a limited package last season doesn't mean you have to abandon those plays now that his playbook is larger. Get him outside and let him loose.
AJ Derby is not Reggie Fish. He's not getting snaps just because his dad is buddies with the coach. This is not Little League, and Bert isn't Houston Nutt. He's a contributor, and he made a great touchdown catch yesterday. But he's not Hunter Henry. He doesn't create a mismatch in the way that Henry can. It's befuddling and a little disconcerting to see plays with Derby going out for passes while Henry stays at home to block. This was the case on the play that resulted in Brandon Allen's only interception, which of course resulted in a pick six. Derby goes out, Henry gets flattened by a blitzing linebacker, Allen gets hit as he throws, and there's your ball game. I guess my point is that we saw a lot of AJ Derby yesterday, and very little Hunter Henry. Henry needs to prove his worth as a blocker, to be sure, but he needs more targets.
We punted twice yesterday from four down territory. Why? A game against Gus Malzahn isn't going to be decided by field position. Pinning him back another 20 yards doesn't really do much. You need points. That was some weak B1G stuff, Bert. Please do better. Sam Irwin-Hill looked great, though.
Defensively, it really is hard to have many takeaways that weren't made ad nauseum last season. Can't cover, can't tackle, decent against the inside run, etc. I'm going to say that it's just too early to grade this defense, though, because isn't that sort of how Auburn makes every defense look? They're just a frustratingly, frighteningly efficient offensive team. Texas Tech will hopefully tell us more.
I have always felt like it is extremely hard to get a feel for your team after Week One, but I always thought that was because the opponent is typically a cupcake. Yesterday showed me that even when your opponent is a beast of a measuring stick, you still come away with most preseason questions left unanswered. My biggest takeaway from the game yesterday is that I still have no clue how much better Arkansas is, but that Auburn looks like a pretty damn good team, and Arkansas matched them blow for blow for a half. That's progress, right?
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 four-year-old into a southpaw ace in the bigs.
- Auburn Tigers 45, Arkansas Razorbacks 21: And Off We Go, Way Off In The 2nd Half
- Arkansas vs Auburn Reaction: A Shot of Wiscy with a Dose of Sigh
- Arkansas' Assistant Coaches Stuck In Elevator At Halftime Of Auburn Game; Didn't Make It To Locker Room
- Razorback Football 2014: Can Bret Bielema Change The Arkansas Narrative?
- K.J. Hill Commits To The Arkansas Razorbacks