Brought to you once again courtesy of Bob Marley, Tito’s Vodka, and the immense satisfaction that comes with repossessing the homes of college football’s nouveau riche. Did you learn nothing from Ole Miss last year, TCU? Did you not see what haughtiness gets you? Surely you understood that welcoming Arkansas into palatial Amon G. Carter Stadium with signs mocking the intelligence of The Natural State could end in only one way, that being in overtime and at the hands of the son of Bobby Allen.
You built your fanciful house on sand, TCU, as horned frogs are wont to do, and train whistles and hand gestures and throat slashes were not keeping Austin Allen from crossing that goal line in the second overtime period last night. He was not so much the tip of the spear as the tip of the X-ACTO knife, pushed through the corrugated TCU defense by the Hogs’ offensive line until he broke the plane, broke your hearts, and broke the narrative of slow-starting Arkansas that really wasn’t that accurate anyway. Last week against Louisiana Tech wasn’t Toledo. Last night against TCU wasn’t Toledo, and next week against Texas State won’t be Toledo. Arkansas certainly doesn’t look as formidable as it was at the end of 2015, but the Razorbacks just notched another road win over another ranked opponent. That makes three in a row, so maybe that’s the narrative we should be discussing. Let’s talk some football.
Arkansas has not been able to match in 2016 the insane offensive efficiency that it achieved at the end of last season, but you can see the components coming together. The playcalling of Dan Enos seemed much more tactical last night against TCU than it was last week against Louisiana Tech. Old favorites were revisited, the flow of the Razorbacks’ drives seemed much less stilted, and chunk plays finally showed up to the party. Arkansas had five plays of 20 yards or more, all of them coming on drives that entered the red zone, and had several more plays of at least ten yards that kept the Horned Frogs’ on their heels. Like I asked for last week, Dan Enos utilized the lead draw and the play-action potential it creates as a base from which to attack. Arkansas battered TCU’s interior with draws and counters, and tested the Horned Frogs’ perimeter with tosses and end-arounds. Mismatches were created for Jeremy Sprinkle and Drew Morgan and Keon Hatcher, who saw targets on deep outs and deep hitches and intermediate crosses. Enos tested the entirety of the TCU defense for weakness, and attacked when he found it. Things were still a little cautious at times, but there was definitely a sense of attack that was absent last week against Louisiana Tech. This almost certainly stems from an offensive line that seemed much more comfortable with their responsibilities than they were a week ago.
As improved as the offensive game plan was, the plays still have to be executed, and Arkansas enjoyed the success it did because of tremendous individual efforts throughout the game. Dan Skipper’s field goal block is what got him a Helmet Sticker from the Game Day Final crew, but his first-quarter block in space that sprung Rawleigh Williams for 37 yards was perhaps just as impressive. Conversely, Williams’ bounce to the left after getting stuffed at the line on a crucial 3rd-and-five allowed him to pickup 22 yards on what seemed at the time might be the biggest play of the potential game-clinching drive for Arkansas. Jeremy Sprinkle made a couple of tremendous catches in huge spots, one to convert a 2nd-and-23, and the other for a touchdown in the first overtime.
And then we come to Austin Allen. All HE did was lead his second fourth-quarter comeback in as many starts, throwing the touchdown pass and catching the two-point conversion on the drive that tied the game. Then he refused to go down in overtime, just like his brother, and willed his body across the goal line with the help of some larger friends to capture victory. Dan Enos rolled Allen out and he had him drop back and stick his foot in the ground, and Allen executed whatever he was asked to do. He will make mistakes in future games, and Arkansas will not win every game this season, but if you are taking a wait and see attitude when it comes to Austin Allen and his ability to lead this team, you are wasting your time. He can. He is.
On the other side of the ball, Robb Smith is doing whatever he can to disrupt opposing offenses with his front four and minimize the pressure on his back seven. As Todd Blackledge mentioned last night during the telecast, this Arkansas defense may be more dependent upon its opponent to make mistakes than in previous seasons. This defense simply has to capitalize on opportunities to get off the field. Against TCU, a Brooks Ellis interception and a Dre Greenlaw fumble recovery, and some ill-timed penalties against TCU to give them 1st-and-20 or 1st-and-25 proved to be the difference. Not every offense that Arkansas faces will be as potent as the one they saw last night, but unless this squad improves greatly, nearly every week will be a stomach churning affair. But, really, what else is new?
Two weeks into the season, and Arkansas has beaten a Conference USA team by one at home, and bested a nationally ranked opponent in overtime on the road. And I still have no real idea of what my expectations for this team should be. I feel like any game they play could end up 14-10, or it could end up 45-42. Or anywhere between. Rawleigh Williams rushed for 137 yards, but I still don’t have 100% confidence in the running game. Arkansas shutout TCU for a half and held them to 7 points through three quarters, but ended the game allowing 572 total yards of offense. What will happen next? Could be anything. But I believe in Austin Allen. I believe in [HEAD COACH BRET BIELEMA]. And I believe Arkansas will beat Texas State next Saturday.
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 six-year-old into a southpaw ace in the bigs.