Brought to you again this week courtesy of Bob Marley, Tito's Vodka, and the part of you, hidden away deep and dark in your soul, that is thinking Arkansas probably wins last night's game if Jim Chaney is the offensive coordinator. Don't go there. Do not go there. Nothing good can come from it. I went there last night, and it's scary because it's not the least bit true. Offense is not the issue. Offense cannot be the issue in a game where you only punt once, after the first possession of the game. And yet that thought survives, a horcrux burrowed into my already embattled psyche...
No. No, we have to talk about the defense. We have to talk about playing Texas Tech and stopping them twice. We have to talk about a complete and utter lack of a pass rush and the pressure that puts on an already perilous situation at linebacker. We have to talk about how that weakness gets critically exposed against spread teams that love to pressure that area of the field. Spread teams that the Arkansas schedule is chock full of. Spread teams that Bert has enjoyed sneering at during the off-season while apparently NOT ENSURING THAT HIS TEAM KNOWS HOW TO STOP THEM.
I don't know how to fix it. Blitz more? I know it's hard to blitz someone that plays as quickly as Texas Tech does. Stunts? Twists? More of them? Different ones? The Hogs are deep on the defensive line, but do they have the personnel to pull that off? Or does the defensive line just have to get better? That's what it feels like. That's what it looks like. It just looks like they suck at rushing the quarterback. And I know that Arkansas has been pretty spoiled in recent years when it comes to speed rushers. Jake Bequette ain't walking through that door. Trey Flowers ain't walking through that door. Chris Smith ain't walking through that door. So fix it, Robb Smith. We were supposed to have chicken salad this year, and you got a raise, and I don't much care what you have to work with. YOU PROMISED US CHICKEN SALAD. So get to work.
As we've previously discussed, linebackers are a major issue, but I'm not completely convinced they are as bad as they have looked so far this season. The past few seasons have given Arkansas fans loads of experience in drawing hope of future good play from present bad play, and that's what I am holding onto with this linebacker corps. I want to see more before completely writing them off.
Nothing about this defense is good. Things are either bad, really bad, or passable. It does not force timely, momentum-changing turnovers. It does not stiffen in the red zone. It does not make teams pay for getting into 3rd-and-long. It does not get itself off the field. It does not get itself off the field. It does not get itself off the field.
Offensively, far and away the largest problem I have is with playcalling. It just seems disjointed. Arkansas is playing the game exclusively inside a 20-yard box and putting zero pressure on safeties. The rushing attack certainly wasn't dominant against Texas Tech, but it was established enough that play-action opportunities were there. And Arkansas did use play-action some, but for the second consecutive week, I cannot recall a pass attempt over the safeties. The Arkansas defense was decimated because it was stretched boundary to boundary by Texas Tech, and that weakened it. The Arkansas offense has to weaken defenses by stretching vertically, or at least giving that threat. Take the box that the offense is running in and make it bigger.
I do like that Dan Enos has apparently brought a screen game with him to Fayetteville, and it appears to be an effective one. They are well set up, and executed at the last possible second. Right now, I feel like that is the most likely play to lead to a long score. And the Hogs need some long scoring plays, because the critical zone is a circus at this point.
I railed on Brandon Allen a lot last night. I also consumed Fireball last night. So I may have been unfair. He did go 16/21, and it is hard to criticize a quarterback who does that. Brandon Allen is not the reason Arkansas lost. He is not the problem with the offense. But I will say this. He's a fifth-year senior. A fifth-year senior cannot underthrow Jeremy Sprinkle when a touchdown is right there for the taking. A fifth-year senior cannot miss Hunter Henry running wide open behind the defense. A fifth-year senior cannot fail to seize scoring chances when they present themselves. Brandon Allen is not THE problem. But Brandon Allen failing to capitalize is A problem. And fairly or unfairly, not an insignificant one.
So there you have it. At the end of the day, this is just not a winning football team. And I don't really know why, except that it appears we are in a situation once more where, as Arkansas fans, we have to watch a team learn how to win. Because this team does not know, and the players on this team who learned last year have obviously forgotten. It's remarkable how even the football game was from a statistics perspective when you compare it with how much more polished Texas Tech looked in virtually every aspect. They made the right calls at the right times. They didn't make crippling mistakes at the exact wrong time. They cashed in when given a chance to score points.
Arkansas did none of those things. I will have absolutely no expectation that they will start doing them next week. I refuse to do that to myself.
I'll see y'all next week.
Trent Wooldridge will be that guy with enough bourbon. He loves the S-E-C chant and honks because he hates Texas. He puts honey on his pizza, demands aisle seats, and sees quitting golf as more of a hobby than actually playing golf. Follow @twooldridge and track his quest to transform his five-year-old into a southpaw ace in the bigs.