It was far from pretty but Arkansas pulled way during the fourth quarter and hold on for the victory. There sure were a lot of ugly moments and some very good moments. Here’s a few things that stuck out this week versus Rice.
The Razorback defense was outstanding on Saturday. Despite a few officiating blunders and some star players being ejected for targeting the defense was well-coached and their tackles were crisp and looked to be in mid-season form.
The Arkansas running game looked to be improved from last year. Rocket Sanders provides better depth and will give Arkansas a 1-2 punch at the position. With the addition of a dual threat quarterback in KJ Jefferson the Hogs three headed monster compiled 235 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Can Arkansas do that against Texas on Saturday?
The passing game struggled throughout the afternoon on Saturday. Dropped passes, overthrown balls and a lack of timing was evident but not surprising with it being week one. Those things can be cleaned up before the Texas game.
Targeting penalty and its inconsistency has been terrible for a long time. It’s not the penalty that I don’t like because it needs to be in place but how it is managed. Should a team or its players be punished by sitting the rest of the game or first half of the next game? Heck no. This penalty has also become a defensive only call, too, which is quite unfair. Why can the offensive player not be called for targeting when that player lowers his helmet? It only makes sense.
The officiating was a little rusty. It reminded me of SEC basketball officiating when they wait to anticipate a call before actually blowing their whistle. The most notable penalty that shouldn’t have been called was the hold on Ketron Jackson during Jefferson’s touchdown run. Are the guys in stripes trying to make a name for themselves? I’ve rewatched the game twice since Saturday and Jackson’s hands were inside the shoulder pads of the Rice defender during his block. Jackson ended up releasing his man out of the block once Jefferson passed by and the defender started to turn around the other way.
Special teams has improved but there’s still too many mistakes. Firing Scott Fountain isn’t the move here, y’all. He did go out and find a very good kicker in Cam Little who is 1-for-1 on the year for field goals.
Punt protection was an issue once with a blocked punt by a defensive end coming in unblocked to recover the ball in Rice Owls territory. Punter, Reid Bauer also had a shanked punt that setup the Owls in plus territory.
A recovered fumble on the kickoff return wasn’t a great way to start the game but LaDarrius Bishop did make up for it by returning a kickoff 44 yards in the third quarter. Those things are also something the special teams can clean up before they play on Saturday. Special teams has been a blunder since 2018 and it needs to be fixed if Arkansas has any plans to rise from the depths of the SEC basement.