Obviously I had to view this for what it was; an SEC team playing a program that is funded by going into dangerous places and allowing their players to be destroyed by much better competition.
Ultimately, I decided to grade this game by only examining the first half and treating Nicholls like they can compete with FBS teams from the Sun Belt or something. I also made sure to consider that this score is what we should be able to put on a team like this.
While Brandon Allen only attempted 5 passes - 4 of which were touchdown completions - I came away not too impressed. Obviously we didn't have him attempting anything difficult, but his incompletion with no pass rush on 3rd and 17 left me a little befuddled. On top of that, the wide open pass to Keon Hatcher for a 50 yard TD was uninspired. Keon had to come almost to a complete stop to catch the underthrown ball, and perform a juke to get to the endzone. I know the old argument that the only way that ball isn't a catch is if he's overthrown, but it makes me question his arm strength a little.
I can only describe this with a memory I have of being a freshman in high school on a street of 8 year old boys. They always wanted to play football with me after school, and even though I was not an athletic specimen at that age, I felt like Tony Dorsett playing against a team of Mogwai from the film Gremlins.
40 carries for 495 yards and 6 scores for an average of 12.4. Folks, that's only 44 less yards than Air Force put on them last week and we don't run a triple option. Basically it boils down to one more carry for Jonathan Williams (4 carries for 143 yards with a 35.8 ypa) away from hanging the same amount of rushing yards on them. WOW. Loved what I saw from every back. Thumbs up to Patrick Arinze who put on a blocking clinic. He looked great.
Not a lot to work with here. There were only eight completions for the entire game. Our receivers looked dominant against Nicholls like they should have, however I was most impressed with their blocking. Hand over fist, way better than last week. Of course it WAS Nicholls. I'm still waiting to see somebody emerge as the it guy. If I was K.J. Hill I'd be excited to get to campus. Overall, solid performances, but I wanted to be wowed.
Penalties! I know we had some young'ins starting, but there were still more penalties than I'd have liked. It's basically the only stat in which Nicholls was better than Arkansas. Really wasn't impressed by that. Building on last week, they looked great during play again. Ragnow played well I thought, as did Dan Skipper. Again, not a big test versus Nicholls so I won't prattle on. No sacks, or really any quarterback pressure, and the running backs ran wild, so that's about all you can ask for from the line.
I was feeling clairvoyant last week I guess. Taiwan Johnson played so big on Saturday (3 sacks, 4 tackles for loss) he's now the SEC leader for sacks. At only 255 pounds I still can't believe he's playing on the inside, but man his athleticism is on point. He was on the QB's scent all game and nearly added a forced fumble to his stat line. I don't want to go too quick without mentioning that Trey Flowers was inches away from a couple sacks that Johnson picked up. So while Johnson got the stats, Flowers should be given credit. Again, more great things from Darius Philon. This crew is looking solid as ever. I
I'm loving the play I see from Brooks Ellis. I'm going to be writing his name a lot this year. My one criticism goes for everyone on defense. LESS TRYING TO LAY THE WOOD, MORE WRAPPING UP! I'm so tired of them not wrapping up. It's fine against Nicholls but our SEC foes aren't going to fall down and quit. If we want a defense that's going to win games they need to tackle better. Kudos to Khalia Hackett for the forced fumble even though Arkansas couldn't get it.
This unit probably gets the worst grade of the game. They did force the only turnover, but I'm worried we are reluctant to play even awful teams in man coverage. I saw too much zone. We did have stellar 4-man pressure, but mix it up and test these guys! It's got me scared to see what we may be incapable of later on. I'm overreacting I know, but I'm tired of having the worst secondary in the SEC. Maybe I'm being too critical as well, but giving up 208 passing yards is inexcusable for this kind of competition. After all, Air Force only gave up 200. Side note, I thought Gaines looked fast and covered the field well.
One turnover? Really? One Turnover is not ok. We almost got that forced fumble via Taiwan Johnson, but honestly this had the making of a 3-turnover game. Shutting down the running game completely, and having a devastating pass rush should have made passes ripe for the picking. DJ Dean looked great all game doing a bit of everything. I liked what he brought to the punt return game and he notched the only turnover. The Razorbacks did force two fumbles but couldn't get either of them. A 0 +/- won't earn the Hogs a "B" this time around.
We put on the performance we were expected to. That makes me optimistic. This was the kind of FCS thrashing that I saw from Wisconsin 3 or 4 years ago and I liked that. Most importantly this was a win as far as the NCAA is concerned and means this drought is over! Yes it was Nicholls, but the Hogs need to build on this and look towards TTU. We should be happier than "pigs in $&%#" at this point because Tech is looking vulnerable. While I think Texas Tech will "play up to the competition" so to speak, I don't think it's unreasonable for all of Hogdom to expect a win next week. That will be a win to be proud of.
Final Grade: FCS W!