Alabama is really really good again this season. Arkansas has improved this season. Those two points may get missed with all the other distractions going on after this game. On Saturday Arkansas posted its lowest totals in passing, rushing, first downs and pretty much every success rate on offense.
Somehow with all that, they were still ahead 7-3 in the 3rd quarter. That can be attributed to the dominance of the Arkansas defense which has steadily improved. Lets take a look at the details.
Forcing the Alabama offense into two turnovers and only 3 points late into the 3rd quarter is a feat in itself but does not matter when the ultimate result is still a loss.
The Arkansas offense capitalized on those turnovers and were able to score on a couple of big pass plays to Jeremy Sprinkle and Drew Morgan in the first half. Let's take a look at what they were able to do (or not able) in the passing game.
Arkansas came out with 5 wide on the first play and hit a big 15 yard completion to JoJo Robinson. But from then on the Alabama defense shut down pretty much anything beyond 10 yards. Allen only attempted one pass over 20 yards and that was the completion to Dominique Reed in the 4th quarter. A big part of that was the Alabama pass rush and Allen did not have much time for those deeper routes to get open, and he scrambled too soon on a few occasions.
For me, going 5/12 in the 0-9 yard category is acceptable, but this offense needed some more big plays to open up opportunities in the run game.
Drew Morgan has been steadily climbing up the targets chart the last few weeks. Another four catches but for only 15 yards due to the solid tackling of the Alabama secondary. Nothing is easy against that group, and Hunter Henry struggled to get open the entire game.
It has almost become automatic that teams double him in the redzone where he has been targeted 5 times. This has opened up some red zone opportunites for Morgan, and eventually someone like Reed or Kendrick Edwards will be left open in those situations.
As expected, just not much on the ground for Alex Collins and Rawleigh Williams. It was the old adage of getting behind the sticks leading to difficulties on third down. Up front Alabama was able to play solid against the lead draw the few times Arkansas ran it on passing downs, and there was just nothing outside on the edges.
The success rate shows just how tough it was to move the ball against Alabama. The overall gameplan was what you would expect. Throw short quick passes, try to blast the brick wall of the Alabama front seven for a few yards and hit some big plays in playaction. They were able to do that for the most part into the third quarter, but after giving up a few big plays on the other side of the ball all that was left was to gamble by throwing a few more which resulted in an interception late. Not real sure why Enos went away from the 5 wide stuff that he came out in to start, the reasoning was probably the fact that Arkansas was unable to play base protection on the pass rush and had to use Alex Collins or an extra back to chip. (Editor's note: that's the exact reason given by the coaches in the weekly press conference).
Arkansas ran more plays out of shotgun than under center.
In the second half Arkansas was forced to use more shotgun sets with 3 WRs (TEs as WRs) on 1st and 2nd downs. There was just nothing going in traditional 1 back and 2 back sets. Combine that stifling run defense with a pass rush that was putting pressure on the QB and the offense struggled to move the ball.Ž1
Dan Enos went with several bunch packages that had limited success in the second half and Dominique Reed was able to get open a couple of times in those situations.
Not enough can be said about the performance of the Arkansas defense against Alabama. The big 81 yard touchdown pass was a result of bringing pressure, but it was a gamble for Alabama as well. They blocked it with 7 vs the 5 pass rushers of Arkansas and that gave him the time he needed. When Arkansas did not send pressure Coker hit the short routes and Arkansas picked him off on 2 of the other plays that he took deeper shots downfield.
Brooks Ellis had another high caliber game and Dre Greenlaw may be playing himself into an All SEC Freshmen team spot.
This defense can heal and recover in the bye week and on the other side of the ball there are several players that would add production as well when they return. During the bye week I will put together a mid season chart showing some of the trends so far.