Arkansas Falls to Liberty, 21-19
Last week when Brian Harsin was let go after Arkansas beat Auburn, an extensive list of candidates has been floating around the CFB rumor mills. One name, in particular, happens to be Hugh Freeze, the current head coach at Liberty University. The game against Arkansas tonight was seen as his de facto audition for the Auburn job and the Hogs might have made him the front-runner.
The Hogs struggled mightily against Liberty in the first half. Arkansas was forced to punt the first 4 possessions, turned the ball over on downs the 5th, and was forced to punt again on the 6th. Liberty’s rush defense was absolutely devastating Arkansas’s offensive line, only allowing 24 yards in the first 24 minutes of the game.
Liberty, too, started slow, but after a partially blocked punt, liberty started their 4th drive with great position. Johnathan Bennett ended the drive with a 16 yard strike to Noah Frith. Liberty would only punt one more time going into half scoring 21 unanswered points.
It wasn’t until Arkansas’s 7th drive that they had any success. Raheim Sanders had 3 big chunk plays, who before the drive had negative yardage. On the 4th play of the drive, KJ Jefferson threw a beautiful pass to Trey Knox for a would-be touchdown, but the ball was bobbled and, subsequently, intercepted. Right before half, the Hogs would show a little bit of life with a 4 play 44 yard drive that ended with a field goal as time expired.
Liberty up 21-3.
Liberty received the ball to start the second half and drove the ball down to the Arkansas 16 yard line, but on 4th down Hugh Freeze opted to go for the first instead of kicking the field goal for easy points. Arkansas stopped Shredo Louis a yard behind the line of scrimmage for a turnover on downs. On Liberty’s next drive, then defense force and 3 & out and blocked the punt through the end zone for a safety.
The offense couldn’t do anything with the early momentum swings created by the defense, however. Arkansas would punt, turn the ball over on downs, and throw an interception on the first play of the drive, Jefferson’s 2nd of the game.
After the interception—which almost felt like the last nail in the coffin—true freshman Quincey McAdoo, originally recruited as a wide receiver, intercepted Bennett on their first play. Arkansas’s offense wouldn’t let this break slip through their fingers. On a 17 play, 84 yard drive, the Hogs scored on a 5 yard touchdown to Trey Knox. Arkansas converted three 4th downs on the drive. Sanders would convert the 2 point conversion bringing the score to 21-13 Liberty.
The Razorbacks had another great drive highlighted by a great effort 34 yard pass to Matt Landers and Trey Knox’s second touchdown of the day. Unfortunately, Arkansas’s rally fell short as Jefferson fell inches short of converting the 2 point conversion.
After a failed onside kick and with 1:10 left to go, Liberty ran out the clock in the victory formation.
Final score 21-19 Liberty.
Arkansas ended with 428 yards of offense, but it doesn’t properly illustrate the way they played. The offense was anemic for the first 3 quarters. The Hogs scored 3 points, gain 259 yards of total offense, and threw 2 interceptions before the 4th quarter. In the 4th, the offense showed some life and produced two consecutive touchdown drives consisting of 169 yards to make the final numbers look respectable.
The biggest disappointment was the offensive line’s play. Liberty had 14 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. Granted, a couple of those sacks were Jefferson hanging on to the ball too long, but it was visibly noticeable that the big guys up front were given all they wanted and more. All this just the day after Pro Football Focus announced Arkansas’s O-line was the highest graded in the country.
Highest-graded offensive lines in the Power Five:— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 4, 2022
Arkansas - 88.3
Minnesota - 84.9
Baylor - 83.8
4⃣ Florida - 83.3
5⃣ USC - 83.1 pic.twitter.com/Rq3dbOqA3g
Sanders and AJ Green seldom made it to the line of scrimmage before being touched in the first half. In fact, Sanders didn’t even break into positive rushing yards until the 7th Arkansas drive! Arkansas still finished with 144 yards rushing.
The passing game was better with 284 yards, but still littered with missed opportunities, bad passes, dropped balls, and uncharacteristic interceptions by Jefferson. Matt Landers again shined with his 3rd straight 100 yard game.
Arkansas’s defense was very good throughout the game and was locked down in the second half. The defense allowed 315 yards, giving up primarily in the passing game to Liberty’s Demario Douglas (7 receptions for 145 yards and one touchdown). Arkansas effectively crushed Liberty’s ground game in the second half and only allowed 91 yards on the ground in the game.
Drew Sanders led the defense with 9 tackles, 3 solo, 1 sack, and 3.5 TFL. Bumper Pool was close behind with 8 tackles, 2 solo, 1 sack, and one TFL.
Arkansas moves to 5-4 after their loss to Liberty and will take on LSU on November 12th in Fayetteville at 11:00.