The Hogs just keep finding ways to win.
Things looked bleak in the second quarter when Arkansas fell behind 10-0. Tennessee was following the Texas A&M model of dominating time of possession, running the ball, and being patient on offense. The Razorbacks were shooting themselves in the foot, missing a short field goal and wasting another drive that entered Vol territory.
But the Hogs managed to get things to halftime down only 13-0. Then the third quarter happened. The Hogs opened with three straight touchdowns to lead 21-13 after just 10 minutes. All Razorback scoring in the game happened in a 9-minute window of the third quarter. Tennessee’s debilitating quarterback problems finished them off in the end and the Vol offense went nowhere after halftime.
Let’s take a closer look at how it happened.
Grading the Hogs
- Offense: B. All 24 points came in the third quarter and the offense looked really rocky late while trying to run out the clock, but overall, it’s not a bad performance against a solid defense. The run game worked once again as the offensive line continued to gel. Two of the three sacks were on RPOs, so they weren’t the line’s fault.
- Defense: B+. Tennessee is a mess offensively, but credit once again to Barry Odom for having a good plan. The Hogs had too much give early on, but they contained the Vol offense and forced long field goals so things didn’t get out of hand while the offense was bumbling. Once Jarrett Guarantano left the game with an injury, Odom switched to a stacked box and forced Brian Maurer to win the game with his arm. Nope. Maurer led a pair of three-and-outs and that’s where this game was lost for the Vols. By the time Harrison Bailey came into the game, the clock was working against them.
- Special Teams: C. A.J. Reed missing a short field goal was embarrassing, but he sorta made up for it with a 48-yard make that made it a two-possession game.
- Overall: B. The Hogs simply outplayed the reeling Vols. There’s no fluke here. No pick-sixes required.
Advanced Stats Recap
(NOTE: Confused by any of these stats? Check out the advanced stats glossary.)
- The short answer? Big plays. Arkansas had ‘em, Tennessee didn’t.
- Arkansas was seemingly outmatched on both lines, but the Hogs somehow played the more-talented Vols to a standstill in the trenches.
- It’s nice to be confident in your quarterback and watch someone else flail around with three different quarterbacks.
- When Sam Pittman was hired, there was talk that he might be “in over his head” as a first-time SEC head coach. While Pittman has had some learning experiences (chasing points against Auburn, no punt safe against Ole Miss), there was only one coach in over his head Saturday: third-year Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt. Jim Chaney’s third-quarter play calling hurt Tennessee, but Pruitt’s decisions down the stretch — timeouts strategy, going for it on fourth down while in field goal range, quarterback mismanagement — should cause Hog fans to have sympathy for Vol fans. We’ve been there. Very recently.
The Hog offense was good but not amazing, doing all of its damage in one quarter. The defense shut down the quarterback carousel, and it’s clear the Vols were scared to attack downfield from the opening snap. They used Guarantano as a scrambler really well, and once he was out, the life went out of this offense.
Big plays. Big plays. Big plays. Arkansas hit several in the passing game, mostly on standard downs, and Trelon Smith, De’Vion Warren, and Feleipe Franks all recorded explosive runs.
What about Tennessee? From the Stats Study:
With its conservative, run-heavy approach, Tennessee owns the conference’s least-explosive offense. While the Vols are decent at staying on schedule offensively, they’re very bad when they get knocked off schedule.
The Vols did, in fact, stay on schedule (73% leverage, 51% standard downs success, on a 76% standard downs run rate). They were also extremely unexplosive, meaning they found themselves needing very long drives with a lot of third-and-short conversions to score. So what happened next?
And while Tennessee is decent at staying on schedule (6th in leverage rate), third downs have been a huge problem. That’s not a recipe for success in this type of offense. Key to Texas A&M’s dominant performance last week was a +26% marginal third down conversion rate. Tennessee is less likely to pull something like that off.
The Vols were -9% on marginal third downs. That’ll do it. Tennessee also posted a 26% passing downs success rate, which is pretty bad.
The line stats at the bottom of the graphic are also worth noting. Tennessee had a huge advantage in all of them, on both sides of the ball, but the Hogs run offense and run defense battled the Vols to a standstill, even recording slightly higher line yards on standard downs and a better run stuff rate. Take a bow, Derrick LeBlanc and Brad Davis.
Explosiveness is such a huge part of football. Both teams’ lines opened holes at the same rate, but Arkansas got better production from its backs (7.7 bonus yards per opportunity vs. 2.8). Smith in particular was great for the Hogs. Rakeem Boyd (19 carries, 65 yards) wasn’t amazing but he did have a 53% rushing success rate so he was at least efficient.
Disaster area for Tennessee. In the Stats Study, this graphic was all Razorback red when Tennessee had the ball. Sure enough, the Vols couldn’t throw. From the Stats Study:
Tennessee’s passing game is reliant on downfield passes. Without the long ball, Guarantano is a below average quarterback and Tennessee lacks the weapons to do much.
Guarantano was 5 of 8 for 42 yards before exiting with a head injury in the third quarter. The Vols had three (3) completed passes go for 10+ yards in the whole game. Their only 20+ yard completion was on the meaningless final drive.
The Hog offense, meanwhile, had another efficient day from Franks, who completed 75% of his passes and averaged 8.5 ANY/A. The huge passes to Treylon Burks and Mike Woods really broke this game wide open.
Win Probability Added (WPA)
This stat tracks the changes in ESPN’s Win Probability created by individual plays and players. Here were Arkansas’ biggest performers:
- Feleipe Franks +42%
- Blake Kern +23%
- Mike Woods +23%
- Treylon Burks +11%
- De’Vion Warren +9%
- Trelon Smith +8%
- Hudson Henry +4%
- Rakeem Boyd -5%
It was interesting to see Blake Kern steal critical snaps and receptions from Hudson Henry, who after a strong performance against Texas A&M I thought was taking control of the tight end spot. Kern has good hands and it appears the plan is to keep rotating. This was Kern’s game.
And for Tennessee:
- Jarrett Guarantano +13%
- Josh Palmer +10%
- Jalin Hyatt -3%
- Jabari Small -9%
- Harrison Bailey -12%
- Eric Gray -18%
- Brian Maurer -19%
Maurer was really not out there very long to do that much damage to Tennessee’s cause. And despite claims that Tennessee should have gone back to running the ball in the third quarter, that doesn’t hold up, as Gray was minus-18% on 34 action plays. Tennessee’s success on offense in the first half was largely not Gray but Guarantano, who converted a 3rd-and-8 with his legs and a 3rd-and-5 and 3rd-and-9 with his arm. Tennessee’s first-half success was, for lack of a better word, lucky, and they regressed to the mean in the second half.
The Hogs head to the Swamp on Saturday for the Feleipe Franks Bowl against top-5 Florida. The Gators thumped Georgia on Saturday so this one will be a long shot. Still, the Gators’ defense is vulnerable so the Hogs will try to create some fireworks.