Brandon Allen had the best game any Arkansas quarterback has ever had. He made all the plays and looked effortless in tossing precision shots into the end zone or squeezing balls into a tiny window. It's just a shame that this performance is going to look different without that "W" next to it. He finished 30 of 43 for 406 yards and 7 touchdowns. What an incredible performance to watch.
Alex Collins did what he could but State sold-out against the run all night. With 8 or 9 in the box the offensive line was completely outmatched and both Collins and Kody Walker were never able to really get to the second level. Collins finished with 53 yards and averaged a very un-Collins-like 2.8. Walker couldn't get that much, totaling seven yards on seven carries. The whole team accounted for only 73 yards on the ground, but everyone can attest State neutralized the run game at the expense of the air attack. Overall I wish we had seen some more diverse rushing calls, as only a handful weren't power up the middle.There was only one sweep by a receiver, which came on a 9-yard carry to Jared Cornelius. Perhaps one of those plays would have been more effective at the end.
What a great night to be one of Allen's targets! Hunter Henry gave a huge jolt to his Mackey campaign by playing one of the better games I've ever seen from a TE. He blocked as well as he usually does, but added 7 receptions for 129 yards and 2 scores, including the 39 yard strike from BA that saw him drag a defender into the end zone. Speaking of TE performances... Jeremy Sprinkle has really blossomed this season. Sprinkle hauled in 6 passes for 47 yards and 3 touchdowns. State had no answer for the tight ends, seemingly leaving one wide open on every play. It's truly amazing when the play of two TEs overshadows two WRs that combined for 12 catches, 165 yards and 2 TDs as Drew Morgan and Jared Cornelius did. Like I said, it was a great night to be on the field with BA.
This unit has been so frustrating to watch. They continuously seesaw between amazing strength, to glaring weakness. In pass protection they were solid as ever. They kept Allen clean and upright on his way to making history, although we had to run out of the pocket a few times. However, they were unable to help the running backs find any great openings. I know there were seemingly 20 players in the box all night, but I'd like to think that the largest O-Line in football could muscle something out.
The whole defense stood up in the 3rd quarter and stifled the State offense. Part of that is thanks to the play of Deatrich Wise, Tevin Beanum, and Taiwan Johnson. Wise was nasty in the third, sacking Dak and knocking the ball out of his hand. Johnson proceeded to scoop the ball and tumble another 15 yards to set the hogs up for another quick score. The defense was lights out during that third quarter, just too bad it had to end.
As we all know by now, Dak Prescott threw for 508 yards and 5 touchdowns. No unit on Arkansas' defense could stop him other than the third quarter. Additionally, there didn't seem a whole lot the defensive line could do when State wanted to run the ball. I still get mad thinking of all the 3rd and ones Dak was able convert at will. That does not reflect wall on the D line.
The coaches said it best after the game, there really is no depth here. Arkansas basically only plays Brooks Ellis and Dre Greenlaw at this point. Ellis every snap. Missed tackles, bad assistance for the line, and exposed in coverage all happened. Shout out to Ellis though for doing everything he could. He racked up 15 tackles which basically means he was in on 1 out of every 6 tackles made by the defense on Saturday. It wasn't one of Greenlaw's better games, as he finished with just four tackles.
I'll give this group a freebie for that ridiculous one-handed catch and run by Fred Ross, but that's it. This unit was exposed all night, took terrible angles, and generally were made to look unathletic in the open field. There were long passes of 55, 45, and 44 completed and 2 receivers combined for 20 receptions almost 250 yards and 3 TDs. Let that soak in.
The best player, was Kevin Richardson for making 10 tackles, breaking up 3 passes, and for making that heads up INT. That said, he also dropped what should have been an easy interception in the second quarter, and Mississippi State ended up scoring a touchdown on the drive. Overall, though, Richardson has been playing pretty well over recent weeks, so give him some credit.
Take a deep breath. Ok, thumbs up to Josh Harris for forcing that fumble on the kickoff that helped propel Arkansas back into the game after falling behind early.
As for the kick at the end of the game...Alex Voelzke's whiff on Beniquez Brown allowed Brown to block Cole Hedlund's kick as easily as possible. The blockers had to know that with the game possibly on the line, the Bulldogs would put forth as much effort as possible to block the kick. It wasn't a simple extra point.
Toby Baker punted well. The returns and return coverage were both fine. But in the end, the difference in the game is that Arkansas didn't convert a field goal and Mississippi State did.
I want to say though, that I'm not entirely sure that with 39 seconds left that Dak doesn't score again, or at least set his team up for the go ahead field goal. I still can't believe we lost.
I could almost taste that AP poll ranking and that 9-win season. I was so excited at the opportunity to see the Hogs play in the Citrus bowl, a mere 4 minutes away from my house. It's a shame that this game has to leave such a terrible taste in our mouths despite beating both LSU and Ole Miss in back to back years. All I can say is hang in there Hog fans, and that I'm proud of our team for not quitting when the season seemed lost. Here's to two more wins.