The Texas Bowl was one of those games were the advanced stats are totally unnecessary. If you watched, you saw what happened. Arkansas absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage, especially on defense, and didn't make any mistakes while Texas made plenty.
Let's start this brief recap with the Hog offense.
|Arkansas offensive production|
Junk time is filtered out, so each team's final drive was left off. Arkansas really won this game in the second quarter, specifically when Brandon Allen put the offense on his back for the final drive of the first half, arguably the finest drive of his career. For the game, his adjusted QBR of 90.6 is his best against an FBS opponent in 23 career starts.
A gold star also goes to offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, who used his month to prepare to roll out a gameplan that totally baffled Texas' elite defense. The Hogs were able to run and throw throughout the game, and wore the Longhorns down with 48 called rushing attempts. You probably noticed the main new feature: the Pistol. Arkansas ran more Pistol against Texas than in all other games combined in 2014. Why?
Well, my best guess from rewatching the game is that this was part of a specific gameplan. Arkansas knew that Texas' best defender was defensive tackle Malcom Brown, and that both defensive ends, especially strongside defensive end Shiro Davis, were the weak links against the run. The best way to run on weak defensive ends is to run off-tackle power plays that seal the edge (for this type of offense, the play is called "Power O"). Arkansas hasn't been very good at Power O this season due to the pulling guards being too slow. From a Pistol look, Allen was out of the way, and the guards (specifically Sebastian Tretola, who pulled most often) could take a wider angle on their pull-blocks. Essentially, the Pistol changed the angle of the run. Arkansas ran a lot Power O. For most of the year, the pulling guard runs had been the Lead Draw, which gives the linemen more time, but the Power O is a little more quick-hitting so that Brown didn't have as much time to blow run plays up.
The other reason for the Pistol may have been the benefit to Allen. I've written extensively on Allen's struggles passing from under center, so Pistol gave him a chance to survey the field a little better. This was especially important for this game, as Texas' pass rush is best straight up the middle. Allen still had some Longhorns in his face that affected throws, namely on a toss in the third quarter when he missed a wide open Hunter Henry on what would have been a touchdown. Overall, though, against the 4th-ranked Passing Defense S&P+, Allen's 7.1 yards per attempt is really impressive.
The backs and the line played well as usual, but the final gold star goes to Keon Hatcher. He set the tone with a nice early catch on the top of the Smash route, snagged a 15-yard reception on a 3rd-and-13 on the final touchdown drive, was the lead blocker for Alex Collins' big kickoff return that set up the touchdown before halftime (the biggest drive of the game in my opinion), caught the touchdown pass on third-and-goal, and did this. Quite a game. He finished with four receptions for 41 yards a touchdown, a rush for two yards, and a bunch of good blocks.
|Texas offensive production|
You will, in all likelihood, go the rest of your life without seeing a Power 5 team look that bad on offense in one game. It was pretty incredible. Texas went backward for FIVE consecutive drives from the end of the second quarter to the middle of the third quarter.
Here's the Key Stat of the Game: Arkansas had a spike rate (percentage of plays that go for no gain, a loss, or a turnover) of 25 percent. Texas' was 60 percent. Over half their offensive plays went for no gain, a loss, or a turnover. Ridiculous.
Texas' problems were all over. As I wrote in the advanced stats preview:
Most of Texas' offensive woes start up front, where injuries, suspensions, and lack of experience have caused Texas to get dominated in the trenches in many games.
Texas' line was completely helpless. Not only did it lose pretty much every one-on-one battle with Trey Flowers and Darius Philon, it also failed to adjust to all the twists, stunts, and blitzes the Hogs utilized, allowing guys like Dietrich Wise, Brooks Ellis, Martrell Spaight, and Mitchell Loewen to get some free runs at the backfield.
Arkansas has also performed well against mobile quarterbacks, forcing quarterbacks like Maty Mauk, Dak Prescott, Bo Wallace, Blake Sims, and Kenny Hill to stand in the pocket and not establish a run threat.
It sounds weird to say that an Arkansas defense is good against mobile quarterbacks, but that is indeed the case. I pointed out that Texas' running backs only get about 3.5 yards per carry, and Tyrone Swoopes (6.0 yards on non-sack attempts) was a key cog in their running game. Instead, he totaled minus-32 rushing yards, with three of his five rushing attempts being sacks.
Texas proved itself to be a significantly worse version of Ole Miss on offense. The Longhorns offered no help whatsoever to Swoopes (more on him in a moment), attempting two (2) rushing attempts with the backs in the second half. For the game, running backs Malcolm Brown and Jonathan Gray rushed 13 times for 34 yards. Texas' last successful run play was Swoopes' touchdown run in the second quarter, and the last successful run by a running back was a nine-yard scamper by Brown midway through the FIRST quarter.
Now for poor Swoopes. He got no help, for starters. His line couldn't block anyone when Arkansas straight-rushed and looked totally unprepared for Arkansas' stunts and twists. His running backs found no room and Texas abandoned the run anyway. His only reliable receiver, John Harris, was trapped on the Henre' Toliver island of doom (previous victims include Amari Cooper, Sammie Coates, and Malcome Kennedy) and none of his other receivers looked very good at all.
But man, he was bad. How that guy managed to put up numbers similar to Brandon Allen in 2014 is beyond me. Big XII defenses, I guess. I think the realization of how bad he looked came late in the third quarter when D.J. Dean lost track of speedy Daje Johnson when Johnson was bumped out of bounds. All quarterbacks are taught to throw wide open passes on the sideline back toward to the middle. Instead, Swoopes inexplicably launched the ball out of bounds, the only place you can't throw it. He one-hopped a couple of passes and overthrew a couple others. I think the most maddening part of watching Texas' anemic offense was that Swoopes never audibled out of clearly bad plays. Texas ran multiple zone reads right at Flowers and Spaight and unsurprisingly got dropped for losses every time. Swoopes didn't get out of a screen pass even when Arkansas backed out of a blitz on third down, and the play lost 10 yards. It's hard to see Texas ever catching up to Baylor and TCU (sounds weird to say...) and even Oklahoma and Kansas State with Swoopes at quarterback.
I wrote this about Texas offensive coordinator Shawn Watson back in Part II:
While the hire of Strong by Texas makes sense from a defensive standpoint, Strong’s Louisville offenses underachieved badly, and the concerns about his ability to coach offense have already carried over into year one in Austin. Strong recruited well, but an offense led by Teddy Bridgewater and a whole host of future NFL players wasn’t overly impressive in 2013. The Cards were in dogfights with Kentucky, Houston, Memphis, and Cincinnati despite having significantly more talent. The offense is very conservative and not very explosive.
Perhaps I should have specified that Charlie Strong didn't have to bring Watson with him when he was hired at Texas. It's almost as if he underestimated the influence Texas has. Watson hasn't been much of a coordinator without Bridgewater, and really wasn't that amazing with him, considering how good Bridgewater really was in college.
Overall, I thought Texas put way too much on Swoopes' shoulders. He would have had to throw for 300 yards for Texas to even have had a chance, which might work if Bridgewater is your quarterback, but it's really not a good scheme in the long run. I know it's hard with an offensive line that bad, but I thought Texas' offense looked completely overwhelmed.
Part of that is the benefit of the SEC. If there's an #SECBias, here it is: Arkansas' offense had a look of "ho-hum, another top-10 defense," while Texas looked out of its league. Texas had a really good defense, including a top-5 pass defense (in S&P+), but against top 10 pass defenses this year (LSU, Ole Miss, Texas), Brandon Allen was 33 of 60 for 417 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Totally unfazed.
I'll try to put together a season stat-recap and maybe get it published in the next few weeks. Until then, go Hogs!