Favorite

On to Alabama 

click to enlarge QUARTERBACK AUSTIN ALLEN - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • QUARTERBACK AUSTIN ALLEN

With War Memorial Stadium's mystique and alleged efficacy dying by the year, it was at least comforting to watch Arkansas finally devour a purported cupcake there. Bret Bielema boosted his Little Rock record to 2-3, with those two wins coming against Football Championship Subdivision schools, after the Hogs pummeled Alcorn State 52-10 on Saturday.

The game's predictable outcome and snoozer pace at 11 a.m. on a gorgeous fall day didn't come without benefits. Noah Johnson, the Braves' deft redshirt freshman quarterback, did gash the Hogs on the ground a couple of times, proving that the Trevor Knight Lesson Plan still hasn't been fully adopted by Robb Smith & Co. It's been a persistent murmur among the fan base for a while now — "Mobile quarterbacks kill us!" — but it takes on a heightened sense of importance this weekend. And it's not just because Alabama is, you know, the best damn team on the planet, yet again.

Jacob Coker and Blake Sims were both reasonably mobile, and A.J. McCarron before that could surprise with an occasional bit of good footwork, but the Tide's new frosh signal-caller, Jalen Hurts, is the most pure "dual-threat" quarterback that Lane Kiffin has had to work with. He's of average build at 6-foot-2, 215 or so, but he's elusive and unafraid to extend plays with his speed.

The Hogs have been ultra-competitive the last two years against the Kiffin-led offense. The Tide's last trip to Fayetteville had them stinging after a loss to Ole Miss, and the Razorbacks were mired in a lengthy conference losing streak, but the game ended up 14-13 because Arkansas was nowhere near figuring out how to close a game. A shanked point-after and an early fumble out of the end zone kept that from becoming an upset of substantial magnitude, but it also buoyed the Hogs for the rest of the year as they unleashed the same physical defense on LSU and Ole Miss in consecutive home shutouts, and then pummeled Texas for the program's first bowl win in three years.

Last year in Tuscaloosa, Dan Enos' offense had not yet taken flight, so the Razorbacks again struggled to make headway against a Tide defensive front that has simply stripped the run game away from a team that relies so heavily upon it. That said, a game effort again by Robb Smith's defensive unit had Arkansas within shouting distance of another monumental upset until a long scoring bomb from Coker to Calvin Ridley late in the third quarter gave Bama a lead it would not relinquish in a 27-14 victory.

What Arkansas has learned from these losses, at least theoretically, is that Kiffin is stubborn as a play-caller. He took a deep shot despite the Hogs having a pretty salty pass rush and Coker having been erratic downfield to that point. With Hurts being more adept at moving in and out of the pocket, it affords the brash offensive coordinator a bit more slack in the leash, especially because Hurts does have a stable of reliable targets led by Ridley and tight end O.J. Howard, who unleashed two seasons of frustration on Clemson in the national championship game and seemingly won't be regressing to afterthought status.

Thus presents a quandary for Smith as he tries to game-plan. This Bama team lacks backfield experience but is again imposing along the line, and strong on the edges. Seeing how Brooks Ellis and Dre Greenlaw struggled to spy or stay in their so-called lanes against Texas A&M, it is scary as hell to think what a guy like Hurts can do if he gets to the edge on designed runs or scrambles. It also does not help that another true freshman, tailback Josh Jacobs, has been effective at dragging tacklers (granted, those guys from Kent State and Kentucky are probably easier to drag) while former No. 1 tailback Damien Harris has spent much of the last two weeks recovering from an injury he sustained against Ole Miss.

Defensively? Well, stop me if you've read this before, but the Tide are big, fast, nasty and smart. They have depth, too, which means that they are hustling five-star guys in and out of the lineup commonly, and that affords Nick Saban an incredible luxury, which is changing the scheme almost on the fly. Enos can obviously anticipate that blitzes at Austin Allen will be a regular thing, from multiple positions, because the Hogs' OL has been a source of consternation and instability so far. Against Alcorn, it looked like Brian Wallace was gaining comfort in his post, but make no mistake, this will absolutely require the best effort by both lines yet, because that is the core of the modern Alabama dynasty.

It's a night game on ESPN, and it will boast the Hogs at No. 16, the highest ranking they've attained under Bielema. A sellout crowd will be throaty and impactful, much as it was two years ago when a team struggling just to escape the SEC West cellar nearly upended the Tide. That kind of zealous turnout and that kind of inspired effort would do the trick this time around.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

  • Thumped again

    October 19, 2017
    Seems like a bad prescription for beating the all-pro assemblage of talent that dons Alabama garb year in, year out, but the Arkansas Razorbacks started their third quarterback in three years against the Crimson Tide, and the end result was predictable. /more/
  • The end is near

    October 12, 2017
    It has fast become gospel around here that if Bielema's staring at a smaller number on the scoreboard as he saunters into the locker room at the midway point of a game, there's no credible reason for Arkansas to take the field for the last 30 minutes of action. /more/
  • On to TCU

    September 7, 2017
    This opener was never endangered by weather, never in doubt on the scoreboard, and never remotely interesting. But it happened, Arkansas is 1-0 (unlike Baylor, UNLV and — chortle — Texas A&M), and the Hogs lost very little against hapless Florida A&M in a 49-7 walloping that may have been a sendoff to War Memorial Stadium. /more/
  • Game on

    August 31, 2017
    This entire opening game preview, I suppose, has a giant asterisk accompanying it. If the havoc that Harvey wrought upon Texas makes its way nor'easterly, then the Arkansas season debut Thursday night in Little Rock may be in jeopardy, and I suspect would not be rescheduled if such a cancellation came to pass. Arkansas may need that presumably easy win for bowl consideration later, but let's presume for the moment the Hogs do get to take on Florida A&M at War Memorial Stadium. /more/
  • Arkansas Razorback 2017 football review, part 3

    August 17, 2017
    Halfway through the Hogs' 2017 football season, which now will undoubtedly be played out in the memory of J. Frank Broyles, Pearls has the team sitting at 4-2, 1-2 after back-to-back road defeats against South Carolina and Alabama. /more/
  • Arkansas Razorback 2017 football review, part 2

    August 10, 2017
    The second leg of the 2017 Arkansas football season is no picnic, metaphorically or otherwise. /more/
  • Awwwwww. Big Bret Bielema shows off his little baby daughter

    August 9, 2017
    Razorback Coach Bret Bielema brought his month-old daughter Briella to his news conference this morning and cuteness ensued. /more/
  • Arkansas Razorback 2017 football review, part 1

    August 3, 2017
    By the time you read this, Arkansas will have put in about a week's worth of gridiron prep for a 2017 season that has such an odd feel, what with the deflating close of 2016 a distant but still germane development and the cast of skill and special teams players looking substantially different. /more/
  • Five big questions for Arkansas football

    July 20, 2017
    Among them: Can Austin Allen get a better handle on the job and rein in his emotions? /more/
  • Summer hopes

    June 22, 2017
    Bret Bielema is not, regardless of your possible venom toward him or the catastrophic way the 2016 season wrapped, going anywhere. /more/
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Beau Wilcox

  • Thumped again

    Seems like a bad prescription for beating the all-pro assemblage of talent that dons Alabama garb year in, year out, but the Arkansas Razorbacks started their third quarterback in three years against the Crimson Tide, and the end result was predictable.
    • Oct 19, 2017
  • The end is near

    It has fast become gospel around here that if Bielema's staring at a smaller number on the scoreboard as he saunters into the locker room at the midway point of a game, there's no credible reason for Arkansas to take the field for the last 30 minutes of action.
    • Oct 12, 2017
  • A win, finally

    Given all upheaval, foreign and domestic, Arkansas beating New Mexico State by a comfortable, if unremarkable, 42-24 margin on Saturday genuinely meant a hell of a lot.
    • Oct 5, 2017
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Guest Playlist: Flap Jones of "Not Necessarily Nashville" schools us on real country music

    "Not Necessarily Nashville," which airs on KUAR-FM 89.1 every Saturday, 7 p.m.-9 p.m., celebrates three decades of the "best of the rest of country music" Saturday, October 21 at the White Water Tavern with Brad Williams of The Salty DogsĀ & The Creek Rocks, and we asked host Flap Jones to curate a playlist for us ahead of that anniversary celebration.
  • Discussion: State killing of the mentally ill

    The Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and others will have a forum on mental illness and the death penalty at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Bowen School of Law's Friday Courtroom.

Latest in Pearls About Swine

  • Thumped again

    Seems like a bad prescription for beating the all-pro assemblage of talent that dons Alabama garb year in, year out, but the Arkansas Razorbacks started their third quarterback in three years against the Crimson Tide, and the end result was predictable.
    • Oct 19, 2017
  • The end is near

    It has fast become gospel around here that if Bielema's staring at a smaller number on the scoreboard as he saunters into the locker room at the midway point of a game, there's no credible reason for Arkansas to take the field for the last 30 minutes of action.
    • Oct 12, 2017
  • A win, finally

    Given all upheaval, foreign and domestic, Arkansas beating New Mexico State by a comfortable, if unremarkable, 42-24 margin on Saturday genuinely meant a hell of a lot.
    • Oct 5, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

October

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Thumped again

    • No new life for the Hogs this week. Gus will have the Tigers focused and…

    • on October 19, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation