Brought to you once more courtesy of Bob Marley, Tito's Vodka, and the awesome power of a thunderstorm. In their first thirty minutes against Arkansas on Saturday, Texas State collected one first down, 26 yards of offense, and a handsome paycheck. Following a quick call to verify funds, the Bobcats were more than happy to concede pride, respectability, and the last five minutes of the game in the name of safety from a storm system that never materialized. Weather, man.
It isn't difficult to forecast what would have occurred during those five lost minutes. For the other 55, Arkansas completely dismantled Texas State with a one-two punch of efficient offense and impenetrable defense. It was a clinical takedown executed without malice and without drama, as temporarily satisfying as a cupcake should be. After the first two weeks, it was welcome. It was fun. And now we can never speak of it again. After we finish here, of course.
After watching this offense for three games, I still can't figure out how I feel about it. They move the ball and they mix things up and they make exciting plays, but there is something about it that is just the slightest bit off. It doesn't seem easy. Which is not to say that the players are not talented or are not executing, but just that the unit is blindly groping for success more than forcefully seizing it.
Part of that may come from possibly the only criticism I will offer this week, which is the dichotomy of Dan Enos play-calling in a big game versus a cupcake. I understand that Enos and [HEAD COACH BRET BIELEMA] have things they want to work on, but Enos' philosophy is so matchup driven that forcing an issue really stands out against the rest of his play-calling. The drives that resulted in punts just felt different, from the first play. The Hogs have established their identity offensively, and it is one that should scare every team on the schedule. Let's be that offense full time.
That is admittedly a very small nit picked from an offensive performance that really was hard to find fault with. 226 yards rushing, 241 yards passing, 7.1 yards per play, six incomplete passes, and perfect in the red zone. Only one play of more than 20 yards, but, my goodness, it was a beaut, wasn't it? I was in the south end zone and had an ideal view of Austin Allen uncorking that pass to Keon Hatcher and it was perfection from the second he set his feet. We've got a quarterback, y'all.
More good things? Rawleigh Williams is displaying everything we have come to expect from a feature running back at Arkansas. Great vision, nimble feet, a general feeling of disdain for the whole getting tackled thing. Watching Williams shuffle and slide and drag his way to 121 hard-earned yards was a treat on Saturday. Not so good? The thought of Texas A&M's defensive ends matched up against Colton Jackson for four quarters next week. Pass protection from running backs is going to be so important because A&M is mean and fast and even if they play great our guys are going to get beaten some.
Though I do not and may never fully trust this season's defense, I am ready to praise them for sure tackling the likes of which have been seen very rarely in September around these parts. It seems we are bitching about missed tackles early in the season every year, but this bunch has really done a great job getting the ballcarrier to the ground. Except for, y'know, KaVontae Turpin.
Kudos to Jeremiah Ledbetter and the defensive line as a whole for a big game. They were a factor in nearly every single play, whether it was recorded on the stat sheet or not. McTelvin Agim got to flash a little of the explosiveness that has coaches and fans excited about his future.
The linebackers and secondary also put in another solid performance. Paul Rhoads has been in Fayetteville for less than one season, but already I am seeing some plays from defensive backs that I'm not accustomed to seeing. That's not to say I won't watch next week while peeking through my hands, because I absolutely will. Still, I'm at least hopeful.
A full house of more than 72,000 people welcomed Arkansas back home and were party to the kind of detached destruction that is simultaneously fresh in our minds and also seems a lifetime away. The Razorbacks were much the best on Saturday night, but games like Texas State are necessary. The season that began two weeks ago as a very weak disturbance and pulsed up after an unexpected shot of energy last week returned to friendly waters last night and found stability and organization. It's still early enough for things to fizzle out, but after three weeks the infancy of this season is over and the question of legitimacy has been answered. Our attention is now turned to a game that will go a long way in categorizing the strength of this team. There will be no shortened quarters against Texas A&M, nor will there be quarter given. It will be the biggest game with the highest stakes that Arkansas has played in several seasons, and if won, will propel the Hogs into an even bigger game with even higher stakes. Sports, man.
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.