I think people were expecting to see a fair mix of passing early on to throw something at Tech they hadn't prepared for. We didn't have to wait long when the flea-flicker was dialed up on our first drive. As flea-flickers tend to be the first time you use them, Keon Hatcher was wide open and streaking. Brandon Allen promptly overthrew him on what would've been a touchdown that would've doubled his passing yards for the game.
On the flip side: I saw mid-range passes completed with accuracy and poise. My takeaway: Allen shouldn't be attempting anything over 15 yards. Whether lucky or not, Allen didn't have to do too much ripping out there so his stats were a mediocre 6/12 for 61 yards. Meh. Where Allen shined though, was when the play broke down. He twice took a busted play and turned one into a gain of 21 yards, and the other for a TD. Let me point out that not too many weeks ago, we saw Allen slide just short of the first down.And credit to him for pumping two rushing defenders out of the way only to turn up-field and score. Allen's game has really improved above the shoulders.
Where to begin? Aside from the small blemish that was the failed reverse at the goal line, Arkansas' running backs absolutely gashed. Alex Collins had the bicentennial for the hogs with a performance averaging 7.9 yards a carry and 2 TDs. Collins' vision is next level stuff, and you can see how much stronger he is this year as he no longer looks to juke every defender (i.e. the HUGE stiff arm to spring him for the 84 yard TD).
Then there is Jonathan Williams. He had a monster game in his own right. Sure he "only" ran for 145 yards, but he hung 4 TDs on Tech and did so while seemingly seeking out contact. I wouldn't be surprised if more than half of Williams' yards were after contact. There were several plays where he took four Tech defenders with him for extra yards. Mike Patrick exclaimed "now that is a man!" during the broadcast.
Patrick Arinze had another beast of a game. He absolutely obliterated the defenders. Credit him for paving the way on 3 of J-Will's TDs. Glad they gave that guy a scholarship, 'cause he's earned it.
Even young Kody Walker looks like he's learned the tricks from the studs in front of him. We ended the game with 30 straight rushes by the way, so that's pretty indicative! Still, the perfect summary of the rushing game has got to be the Tech fans cheering after the Defense stopped Williams for a 4 yard gain.
Not a whole lot to say here, and I'm absolutely ecstatic about it. Keon Hatcher and Demetrius Wilson did what they could with their pairs of completions. Have to give Drew Morgan a huge fist bump for bouncing off a big hit then selling out completely horizontal for the first down. That's the toughness we need. It's too bad he couldn't hang on to the one pass in the end zone when he dived for the ball. That would've been a game highlight. Honestly, we didn't need to pass and we didn't.
Woooo Pig Sooooieee! These guys completely hogged the line. Play after play, they neutralized their defenders. I swear it looked like the defensive players would freeze on contact. This rush-dominated game didn't happen by accident. The o-line tucked their shirts in and went to work. If they play like this every game we can compete with the big boys. And Dan Skipper even pancaked a defender with one arm, so that's cool.
I was disappointed with the d-line play. Most of it was the play calling so it's not their fault that we only rushed two and still gave up an 18 yard pass. I barely saw any pressure on Webb with four rushers. There wasn't a single sack or even QB Hurry on the stat sheet despite Davis Webb attempting 45 passes. Webb was too fast for them outside the pocket and spent the game upright. I will give credit to Darius Philon for his two tackles for loss and Trey Flowers for another. Credit to JaMichael Winston for a big swat at the line too.
Not to keep beating the same drum, but Brooks Ellis has become a standout linebacker for the Hogs. He forced the fumble early on in the game that was recovered by Taiwan Johnson and showed off his closing speed with excellent pass coverage. He finished the game with a huge pass deflection in the third and nearly picked the ball off before the second half ended. He finished with four pass breakups which is really impressive.
But the defensive MVP was Martrell Spaight. He picked off Webb's pass a couple of plays after the silly fumble on the double reverse at the end of the first half, and Spaight nearly returned the pick for a touchdown. It set up one of Williams' touchdowns on the very next play that sent Arkansas into halftime with a touchdown lead. Spaight also led the team with 11 tackles, eight of which were solo. Linebackers had great play, did what they could in coverage, and definitely showed up big when the Razorbacks needed them too.
The secondary showed lots of improvement this game, starting with the return of Tevin Mitchel. I was talking with a friend when the news that Tevin would play surfaced, I said we can either get the "good" Tevin, or the Tevin from last year. Let me tell you, "good" Tevin showed up and in a big way. He almost single-handedly shutdown Tech's first drive with two stellar plays on the ball. I think he set the tone for the corners after that. Of course there was the soft coverage that drives me crazy. Arkansas gave up too many third and longs, including the big 39-yard TD over the top. Then again, we also got to see Toliver with a great pick deep, and Rohan Gaines drop a crushing hit on a Tech receiver. It's hard to say where this unit would rank nationally after Saturday, but I can say they've shown big improvement and put forth a solid effort against a team that could very well have ripped them apart at the seams.
The more I think about his game the better I feel about the future of the Hogs. I knew we would get to this point some day, but let me just state how weird it feels to finally know what this team is capable of. This is a team that can compete in the SEC. Taking what we learned in this game and looking forward to NIU gets me pumped at the possibilities. I think Bielema is finally going to get the credit he deserves for creating the formula for success. Of course, the schedule is brutal, but look at it this way, we have 5 opportunities to upset a team ranked in the top 10. Let's do this.