I’m not sure how much it means, but Arkansas just played their best game in Little Rock in five years.
And because of that, this will not go down as a particularly memorable game. For the most part, other than a substandard 2nd quarter, the Razorbacks dispatched Alcorn State with minimal drama, setting up the high-profile matchup next week against Alabama.
But today is about Alcorn State. Remember in spring practice or preseason camp when the ones would square off against the twos, and it’s all “these stats look great, but...”? That’s basically what these FCS games usually are. The only difference is that the stats and win both count.
It’s mostly all good. Austin Allen was good, completing 13 of 18 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns with no picks. Rawleigh Williams and Devwah Whaley both went over 100 yards, and Whaley’s 75-yard score was a game highlight. Jared Cornelius had over 100 receiving yards and caught two touchdowns. He also had a punt return touchdown that was called back for a penalty. T.J. Hammonds and LaMichael Pettway both scored their first Hog touchdowns. Henre’ Toliver returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown. I don’t recall seeing any major injuries. So things mostly went well.
But not all of it. There will likely be some teeth-grinding over Arkansas’ failure on 4th-and-short. This time it wasn’t in the red zone, so it wasn’t quite so dramatic this time, but there was nothing to suggest the problems against Texas A&M last week were a fluke. It’s not a concern at this point. It’s a deficiency. The only hope for this season is that the unit improves. The problem is a result of a few recruiting misses, and the more highly-touted players they have signed have not developed as hoped. And Denver Kirkland leaving a year earlier than he probably should’ve. The result is what we have this year.
While Arkansas mostly controlled the game the way they wanted to, they still showed some of the same defensive problems they showed last week as well. Alcorn State’s quarterback completed 13 of 19 passes and ran for 55 yards. Not optimal. But it didn’t really matter today. It may be emblematic of what we’ll see going forward, but I’m not disappointed with the defense today.
Also, why is this coaching staff so resistant to putting backups in games during blowouts? Austin Allen took a well-documented beating against Texas A&M last week, has Alabama next week, and was still in the game until about 5 minutes remaining. And when Ty Storey did come in, he did not attempt a pass. This isn’t just a question about this game. Last year, when Arkansas was blowing out Tennessee-Martin, Austin Allen only attempted one pass. Alex Collins was in the game long enough to score five touchdowns. Is this a thing?
So that’s it for the noncon season. Arkansas has seven more conference games remaining, and likely the two most difficult ones are up first. Time to go to work.
I also feel like this needs to be said, the official attendance today was just under 47,000. Yes, it’s disappointing that Little Rock no longer sells out and the lack of attendance is a reason to move the game to Fayetteville, but those 47,000 people are heroes. Understand, those people bought expensive tickets to a game few people cared about, with a kickoff time nobody likes, with no guarantee of also getting a ticket to any other big game. For many schools, part of the reason these games are scheduled is because they get tacked on to season ticket packages. Fans are basically forced to buy them. That’s not the case here. Not a single person attending the Alabama and Ole Miss games the next couple of weeks had to buy a ticket to the Alcorn State game. These people bought tickets and fought traffic just to see this game. They deserve credit for that. I could have gone for free and I still stayed home.
There may have very well been more fans in Fayetteville, and if this game was tied to the ticket package for “The Best Home Schedule Ever!” it definitely would have, but if it wasn’t we’ll never really know how many would have showed up.
Anyway, I would be surprised if Arkansas didn’t have a pretty full house in War Memorial next year since the Florida A&M game is the season opener. And the (speculated) 2018 game against Vanderbilt will likely be full if we know that’s the last game in the stadium.
That’s it from this year’s venture to War Memorial. We’ll have more breakdown in the coming days as we usually do, but now, for all intents and purposes, it’s Bama Week.