Brought to you this week by Tito's Vodka, Bob Marley, and THIRTY CONSECUTIVE RUSHES TO CLOSE OUT THE GAME. That happened. I was speaking metaphorically last week when I mentioned burning ants in the sandbox with a magnifying glass, but I think that Bert really, truly might be the pudgy bespectacled kid from The Far Side that spent childhood in his room plucking the wings off of dragonflies. He's like Sid from Toy Story in his sadism.
Arkansas last got the ball with more than nine minutes left in the game, and never gave it back. A drive that started with NINE MINUTES LEFT finished with the victory formation. Arkansas had five possessions that lasted longer than Texas Tech's longest possession. The Hogs possessed the football for 17 minutes after Bert decided that, eh, maybe he just wasn't going to pass anymore.
There have been bigger wins since I have been a fan. More important wins. More lopsided wins. Wins against better opponents. I'm not sure there has been a more satisfying win, though. Not one where I absolutely, positively knew that there was nothing the other team could do to stop the Hogs. That game could have gone on another two hours and Arkansas was going to score a touchdown on every drive and never throw a pass. And everyone in the stadium knew it, and everyone watching on television knew it.
The obvious talking point is the offense, since, you know, Arkansas had the football for fully two-thirds of the game, but let's talk a bit about the defense first. Depending upon the defense to win a game is still a terrifying proposition, but it appears that the improvement we have heard about for months may be starting to show up in games. The defense has a small core of consistent playmakers that seems to be growing by one or two each week. Brooks Ellis is all over the football field and had four pass breakups yesterday. Martrell Spaight had a monster game and one that wasn't highlighted by a big hit. If Spaight doesn't intercept Davis Webb's pass late in the second quarter and Arkansas goes into halftime trailing 28-21 instead of leading 28-21, Bert doesn't get to play keepaway in the second half. Darius Philon may be the best player on the defense, even when it doesn't show up on the stat sheet. That's our core, along with Trey Flowers. Yesterday, though, we got more. Henre' Tolliver gets a pick to ice things. Taiwan Johnson recovers a fumble. D.J. Dean and Tevin Mitchel provide some solid coverage in spots. It's not going to be a great defense this year, and it likely won't be a good defense. It is a defense that you can see coming together, though. It is improved.
Texas Tech had 11 possessions, and scored touchdowns on four of them. Even if their offense is down a bit this year, I'll take that every day of the week.
In the past two weeks, Brandon Allen has attempted 17 passes, completed 10 of them, and Arkansas has scored 122 points. He has only attempted 48 passes through three games. We really haven't seen enough yet to know how improved he is. The fact of the matter is that the way this offense is setup may limit Allen's opportunities to redeem himself from last season in the eyes of his harshest critics. Yesterday, he only completed six passes, but he was 3-4 on third down, converting a 3rd and 9, and a 3rd and 11 through the air. He also turned a couple of sacks into a 21-yard scramble into the red zone, and a 5-yard touchdown to give the Hogs a halftime lead. That's what we need him to do. I won't give a damn that he only completes 50% of his passes if he's converting third downs at a 75% clip and not turning the ball over.
On to Collins and Williams. Thunder and Thunder. Jonathan Williams just gets more beastly with every game. I can recall at least two, possibly three instances yesterday where Williams was stopped yards short of a first down, momentum killed, and twisted and pulled his way across the line-to-gain. We have seen him improve for three years now. Yes, Texas Tech has a bad rushing defense and got bullied from the first snap, but there is no doubt in my mind that Williams will be able to do what he did yesterday to at least one SEC team. He has done it in the past, and now he appears to be even stronger and faster. And that stiff arm keeps getting better.
I remember being so dejected last season that I would look for anything to turn into a positive. One of those things was watching Alex Collins turn a two-yard loss into a one-yard gain. It happened a lot. I would try to imagine that first shake coming two or three yards downfield instead of in the backfield. Yesterday it happened, and it was beautiful. The crazy part is that the runs look almost exactly the same, except it's just seven or eight yards he is getting instead of two or three. Grab a yard, shake, grab two more yards, shake, grab another yard, find contact, fall forward for two more yards. Lather, rinse, repeat. He's playing Frogger out there. And every now and then, when the opposing defense has cried uncle and the last guy misses, he busts one for 84. Darren McFadden was the most patient Arkansas running back I've ever watched, but I think Collins may be even more patient. He doesn't have McFadden's breakaway speed, but I think he might find holes a little better. God bless you, Alex Collins. God bless you, Sam Pittman. God bless you, Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland.
And God bless you, Patrick Arinze! What a performance lead blocking for those running backs. Fantastic game. Man, we have been blessed with some incredible fullbacks in the past ten years.
That was an old-fashioned ass whooping, ya'll. It was as much fun as I've had watching a football game in a long, long time. It's not going to make the SEC schedule any easier and we may still miss out on a bowl game, but it sure feels good to stay up for the late night highlight shows because you know the Hogs will be talked about. It feels good to anticipate the next home game for reasons other than the tailgate. It feels good to not be a punchline, if only for a week. We lost ten straight, guys, and yesterday we won a game on the road against a Power 5 team, and we won it by three touchdowns, and we won it by RUNNING THE FOOTBALL THIRTY CONSECUTIVE TIMES TO END THE GAME. The SEC is looming, but it's okay to enjoy this one a bit. You know Bert certainly is.
I'll 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.