At long last, the Razorbacks kicked off against UTEP on a lovely afternoon in Fayetteville, and the game went pretty much according to script.
Arkansas basically did whatever it wanted to on offense for most of the game, scoring touchdowns on their first six drives and kicking a pair of field goals in the second half to beat the spread. About the only thing they struggled to do was connect on a big play with Dominique Reed, who was open on a few plays but was overthrown each time. Brandon Allen nearly hit him for a 90-yard touchdown just before halftime, but a pretty blatant pass interference penalty wasn't called, and that was that.
Otherwise, Allen had complete control of the offense. He was 14-for-18 for 308 yards and four touchdowns, tying a personal best. None of them were easy, short-yardage scores, either. Two of them were long passes to Keon Hatcher, and the other two were simple sideline screen passes that Drew Morgan and Jared Cornelius were able to take to the house.
The running game might be a little tougher to accurately describe. Alex Collins ran for 127 yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries, which is fantastic, but 70 of those yards came on a 4th down play just before halftime used to kill the clock. Take away that play and he ran for 57 yards on 11 carries, which is still good and over 5 yards per attempt, which Arkansas will take all day, but the sample size just wasn't that big.
Yes, until late in the game, when Arkansas was using freshman running back Rawleigh Williams III to run down the clock over pretty much the entire late 3rd and 4th quarters, Arkansas didn't resemble a ground-and-pound game much at all. They came out throwing, and again, until late, Allen was throwing much more frequently than Arkansas was running. That was something to be expected, as UTEP is known as a blitz-happy team, which left receivers open for the Hogs and Allen was able to find them. Hatcher led the way with six receptions and 106 yards, and five other players caught passes as well.
Arkansas' defense at times looked fantastic, as though they hadn't missed a beat from last season when the group was among the nation's best. But at times there was sloppiness. There were a few missed tackles and the Hogs were completely fooled on the first reverse UTEP ran that scored their only touchdown. Newcomer Jeremiah Ledbetter was a force on the defensive line and led the team in tackles with eight. Arkansas' three starting linebackers, Brooks Ellis, Josh Williams, and Khalia Hackett each had seven tackles.
Henre' Toliver had himself quite a few plays in the 3rd quarter. He tipped a pass and caught it deep in UTEP territory on the first play of the second half, setting up a 7-yard touchdown run for Collins on the next play. Tolliver also had a fantastic open-field tackle on the next third down to force UTEP's first three-and-out, which set up another easy Arkansas touchdown because the Miners screwed up the snap on the punt.
UTEP was pretty successful when they did pass the ball. They completed 14-of-19 passes for 146 yards. The Miners aren't known as a big passing team so Arkansas was probably focused mostly on just stopping their ability to run, but they did play well when they did.
Overall, hard to find too much to complain about. I think it's safe to say the game went about like most people thought it would. Toledo should provide more of a challenge next week in Little Rock. Interestingly, UTEP does play Texas Tech next week, so perhaps we'll get some indication of what to expect in Fayetteville two weeks from now.