Brought you you once more this week courtesy of Bob Marley, Tito's Vodka, and the soothing salve that schadenfreude provides after the smooth walk you thought you were in for turns into a raggedy ride. Things didn't appear exactly finely tuned for Arkansas in their 42-24 win over New Mexico State on Saturday afternoon, but they could have been much worse. So, so much worse. Georgia gave Tennessee their worst home loss in more than a century. Alabama beat Ole Miss by SIXTY-THREE POINTS. THAT IS NINE TOUCHDOWNS. And LSU lost, at home, to Troy. Troy. From the Sun Belt. We know how bad that is. It was so ugly Saturday that Mississippi State lost to Auburn by 39 points and nobody has really noticed yet because they still can't look away from Ole Miss' mangled corpse lying motionless in Tuscaloosa and, hey, can we at least get a body bag or sheet or a towel or something down there? There's kids and whatnot.
Yes, there was plenty to nitpick in Fayetteville, but picking nits out of an 18-point win is much more palatable than dissecting inexplicable or embarrassing losses week after week. 2017 is all about relativity, and after witnessing how Saturday could have gone, I believe I'll save some of the nastiness for when it's really warranted, likely next week after playing South Carolina, but most definitely in two weeks after the Hogs journey to Tuscaloosa themselves. But that's then, and this is now, and as for now, there's a win to discuss. Let's talk some football.
Arkansas' offense finally returned to the boring, thudding efficiency that pundits typically pitch as Bret Bielema's hallmark but seems to appear only against opponents of lesser caliber. Regardless, when that efficiency does show up, it's beautiful, and the Arkansas box score from yesterday's game is pristine. 264 yards through the air with 230 more on the ground, more than 41 minutes possessing the ball, and 11 conversions to continue drives out of 13 opportunities to do so. Devwah Whaley led the rushing attack with 119 yards, including the last 70 rushing yards of the day. Prior to Whaley's flourish at the end, production between he and Chase Hayden and David Williams was virtually identical. It's much too early to call them a three-headed monster, but maybe start tossing around some trio-centric nicknames in your head.
Austin Allen enjoyed a return to previous form as well, completing passes at a high percentage and effectively mixing up easy completions with longer throws down the field. He's just starting to develop trust in his receiving corps, and Jonathan Nance is establishing himself as his go-to, and Austin Allen desperately needs a go-to. That, and time to throw. It's amazing how much more comfortable he looks when he doesn't have to keep 80% of his brain locked in lizard mode. Attaboys to the offensive line for keeping him upright, as well as that beautiful run blocking. Bask in the praise. Soak it in. Then go out next week and earn some more in a game that matters.
Things were a little shakier for the Hogs on the other side of the football. Allowing any quarterback to throw for 344 yards is never a good thing, but allowing that type of production in a non-conference pay game is hard to excuse. With that said, New Mexico State's Tyler Rogers earned every yard, placing touch pass after touch pass with precision that reminded me of the performance that Kentucky's Andre Woodson gave in Razorback Stadium ten years ago.
The Hogs mitigated the effects of Rogers' great day by allowing the Aggies just 11 yards rushing with a long run of only eight yards. That gets the job done every single time, and is a great statistic to see just one week after Texas A&M seemingly had a long read-option touchdown run placed permanently in their back pocket for whenever it was needed. Tackling was sound and penalties were minimal, and while the overall defensive effort may not be so much worthy of praise, considering the opponent, it also isn't worthy of too much scorn. It was what was necessary. LSU can't say that this morning.
That brings us to the team specialists, who enjoyed a quiet day with only one punt and zero field goal attempts. Zero field goal attempts, despite Bret Bielema having fired his place kicker two games ago. Zero field goal attempts, despite being 0-fer for the season and surely understanding the need to inject some confidence into that unit for some moment down the road when they will be called upon. Zero field goal attempts despite not one, not two, but three fourth downs within field goal range in the second half, the last of which resulted in a turnover on downs and left the starting quarterback rolling around on the ground in pain in a game that was already safely decided. I was livid. You should have been, too. It was foolish and it was dangerous, and mark my words, it will be recalled at some point later in the season when Arkansas sees a red zone fourth down in a close game.
Yesterday's victory brings Arkansas' record to 2-2, snaps a two game losing streak, and sets up a brutal October with road games at South Carolina, Alabama, and Ole Miss sandwiching a home game against Auburn. Winning two out of those four is an attainable goal, and keeps the chances of a successful season alive, but it all but requires beating South Carolina in Columbia next week because the idea of victory against Alabama or Auburn seems laughable right now. Arkansas has the offense to score on the Gamecocks, and likely has the defense to stop them, but rest assured, if a win is to be attained at Williams-Brice next week, some kind of craziness will have to be overcome. Let's hope it doesn't involve a field goal.
I'll see y'all next week.