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What we learned about the Arkansas Razorbacks in week two

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas is 2-0 on the season and 1-0 in SEC play after the 44-30 win over South Carolina on Saturday. This is the first time that Arkansas has started 1-0 in SEC play in back-to-back seasons since 2003 and 2004.

Overall, Arkansas played a great game.

The final score makes the game seem a lot closer than it actually was.

South Carolina had the ball only trailing 21-16 at the end of the third quarter, but the Arkansas defense came up big forcing a three-and-out. The game wasn’t really in jeopardy after that, but a sloppy fourth quarter led to the margin of victory only being two scores.

It’s still only the second week of the season, and Arkansas has another week to get things cleaned up before a brutal five-game stretch in their schedule.

What We Learned

Arkansas Rushing Attack Shines

The Arkansas offense has been great all-around two games into the season, but the running game was on another level Saturday. Arkansas finished with 295 rushing yards and FIVE touchdowns on Saturday.

Rocket Sanders led the way with 156 yards and two touchdowns and had the best game of his Arkansas career so far.

Arkansas was able to run the ball almost at-will on Saturday. They also had the ball for almost ten minutes more than South Carolina. Having that kind of dominance over an SEC team is a great sign going forward.

Sam Pittman is not shy about what he wants his team to do. Control the line of scrimmage, control the clock and wear the opponent down for four quarters.

Over the first two weeks, Arkansas has been able to do exactly that.

Building off of those first two games is going to be key for the rest of the season. If Arkansas is able to replicate that success against more SEC competition, this season could be special.

Conservative Play-calling

This one is definitely just a minor issue I noticed Saturday, but it’s worth pointing out.

Arkansas came out of the locker room at halftime up 21-9. The first drive ended after eight plays and the only passing attempt came on third and long.

South Carolina got the ball and scored a touchdown to make it a one-possession game.

After getting the ball back, Sanders busted a run for 47 yards, but the drive stalled, and Arkansas failed to convert a fourth and inches.

Thankfully, as I mentioned earlier, the defense forced a three-and-out, Arkansas scored a touchdown on the next drive, and South Carolina was never within one score again.

Arkansas got the win. That’s the most important part.

However, if this football team is going to take another step and compete with the likes of Alabama and Georgia, they’re going to have to start putting teams away early when they have the chance.

That’s where being aggressive comes into play.

Don’t get away from what was working earlier in the game. Take some shots. Mix it up. Keep the defense guessing.

When you’re in the SEC, you can’t let teams hang around.That’s how you get upset at home like Texas A&M was on Saturday. Luckily, the conservative play-calling didn’t let that happen this time.

The Drew Sanders Show

Saturday was a great day if your last name was Sanders.

Rocket Sanders had a career day at running back and Drew Sanders had one at linebacker.

The 6-5, 233-pound junior transfer from Alabama proved why people were so high on him in the offseason.

His stat line from Saturday is insane.

Sanders recorded 11 tackles, eight solo, three for a loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles. He also had a pass breakup and quarterback hurry.

That performance earned him the honor of Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week.

Following last season, many Arkansas fans questioned how the Hogs were going to replace senior standouts Grant Morgan and Hayden Henry at linebacker.

Safe to say that Drew Sanders has answered those questions and then some.

Having Sanders emerge as a playmaker comes at a critical time, as it was officially announced that star safety and captain Jalen Catalon will be missing the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury requiring reconstructive surgery.

Penalties, Penalties, Penalties

Penalties were a major reason why the final score was closer than it should have been.

There were a few controversial pass interference calls that shouldn’t have been called, but the other penalties are mistakes that just can’t be made.

There were THREE illegal hands to the face penalties called against the Hogs, which Sam Pittman pointed out in his postgame presser.

“The hands to the face…I certainly haven’t seen that in practice, and I watch every rep of everything,” said Pittman. “I don’t believe we’ve had one before, but we’ve got to get it cleaned up.”

Through the first two games, Arkansas has amassed 17 penalties for 185 yards which is uncharacteristic of a Sam Pittman-coached team. The good news is that those issues usually get corrected after the first couple of weeks in a season.

Expect Coach Pittman and his staff to have an emphasis on limiting those mistakes in practice, and hopefully we’ll see fewer and fewer penalties as the season progresses.

Up Next

Bobby Petrino will make his return to Fayetteville for the first time since his infamous departure over a decade ago.

Petrino will be bringing his 2-0 Missouri State team into Razorback Stadium this Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. and can be seen on SECN+ or ESPN+.