A shootout in Fayetteville with a painful ending. The offense was rolling and the defense was rolling in the wrong direction for most of the game.
Here is a detailed look at the charting data.
Such a rocky start to the season has turned into one of the most impressive performances by an Arkansas offense. On defense it has been in the sub-100 rank nationally for most of the year. I guess you can say they have been consistently bad against some high-powered opponents.
The Game Plan vs Mississippi State
The film shows that Arkansas looked to go with a higher percentage of passes early, a ton of play-action while taking some deep shots against the Bulldog pressure. It turned out pretty well on that side of the ball.
For the Bulldogs on defense it was a tale of contrasting philosophies. Manny Diaz sent pressure at Brandon Allen consistently but the Arkansas quarterback was able to stand in and complete pass after pass. Mississippi State was able to shut down the run game as Alex Collins was not able to get much going, which seemed to be the key point of their game plan.
More 2-back I looks in this game than any so far, and the Hogs were very difficult to stop. Enos mixed in some tricks and motion to Drew Morgan that helped to diagnose the coverage and make things easier on Allen. Overall this was an excellent game from a play caller point of view. Brandon Allen had extra pass protection when needed against additional rushers and a combination of play-action, 1 and 2 step drops with longer developing big plays kept Mississippi State guessing.
A record-setting performance from Allen in which he seemed to make every throw possible.The toughness he showed to stand in against unblocked blitzers and throw downfield was unbelievable.
Hunter Henry and Drew Morgan seemed to be open every play and Allen fit some throws in coverage. Morgan playing through a shoulder injury and making some of those catches in traffic was a big part of the reason Arkansas was able to score 50.
Inside the Red Zone, Brandon Allen was 7/9 with 3 TDs to Jeremy Sprinkle. Really makes you wonder what would have happened on that final drive if given a shot.
Dan Enos limited runs on 2nd down and short and went with play-action several times that caught Mississippi State in man coverage. This gave Drew Morgan, Hunter Henry and the other WRs some room to get open down field.
Collins picked up some tough yards when needed, but could not break anything, and had several tackles for loss in this one. Just too many in the box and too many plays where Diaz was sending a run blitz.
The defensive coordinators approached the game with opposite game plans. Robb Smith went with a plan to rush four a majority of the time and trying to cover with 5 DBs and 2 linebackers. It did not work, and the Razorbacks' personnel deficiencies were exposed as they have continuously all season.
Below you see where Diaz sent more than 4 on over 40% of all plays, and 80% if pass downs. If it was a 3rd and long he had a 5 or sometimes 6 man pressure dialed up. Brandon Allen was able to complete some huge plays in those situations, and State may have been better off playing coverage.
High-scoring shootouts like these frequently seem to come down to a few special teams plays.That's essentially what happened here. Both teams scored seven touchdowns, but Mississippi State made their field goal while Arkansas' was blocked. If the Hogs had made theirs, Arkansas probably wins because of Mississippi State's missed extra point and Arkansas' two-point conversion.
This one had its fair share of questionable calls on both sides of the ball for Arkansas. The pure inability to cover versus trips and backs out of the backfield has plagued this team since week 1. Heading into the final week of the season and a bowl game, those questions will still linger. The solution is simply gaining more experience and recruiting more talent and depth. Bielema will have this team back up and ready to erase last year's disappointment in Columbia and close out the season on another upswing.