Arkansas Razorbacks Football Spring Season Wrap

Our key observations from today’s Arkansas Razorbacks football Red-White Game: Balanced on offense; tougher on defense with solid effort to make tackles; Patrick Arinze is a HOSS; a few holes to plug

FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas Razorbacks football team held its annual Red-White Game Saturday in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, with the Red Team defeating the White Team 34-27. A record crowd of 51,088 fans watched the game, recording a record attendance for the third straight year, and besting last year’s record of 45,250.

(Player and coaches quotes at the bottom of this post.)

The Arkansas offense finished the game with 540 total yards, recording 27 first downs en route to three offensive touchdowns. Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell split the majority of snaps at the quarterback position. Allen finished 11-of-16 for 158 yards and one touchdown, while Mitchell was 12-of-17 for 138 yards and one touchdown. On the ground, Patrick Arinze was the leading rusher with nine carries for 66 yards. Javontee Herndon caught six passes for 85 yards, while Demetrius Wilson had four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown and Keon Hatcher had five catches for 60 yards. D’Arthur Cowan and Jeremy Sprinkle also recorded touchdown grabs for the Red Team.

“I was blown away to see over 51,000 fans support us today,” Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said. “It’s a steady process. I like the progress we’ve made. The team responded very positively, with success on both sides of the ball. We’re in a great position and that gets me very excited.”

The Red Team got on the board with an early field goal. Mitchell led a 60-yard drive in eight plays that resulted in John Henson booting a 48 yard field goal.

On the next drive, Allen led the Razorbacks down the field for the first touchdown of the spring game. Allen drove the squad 75 yards and found Wilson in the corner of the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown pass and a 10-0 lead for the Red Team.

The teams engaged in a field goal competition at the end of the first quarter. Zack Hocker was 3-of-3, hitting from 27, 37, and 52 yards. With Henson also kicking a 22 yarder, the kickers recorded a total of 12 points for the White Team and gave White a 12-10 lead going in to the second quarter.

Late in the second quarter, Mitchell led a 90-yard touchdown drive to put the Red Team back on top. Mitchell found a diving Sprinkle in the end zone for a 26-yard reception and Red took a 17-12 lead. Before the half, Arkansas also added a late 55-yard drive, as Hocker kicked a 37-yard field goal, and the Red Team took a 20-12 lead into the locker room.

At halftime, former Razorbacks Jerry Franklin, Ryan Mallett, and Mitch Petrus were recognized on the field. Additionally, all of the 2012 senior Razorbacks were acknowledged as well.

In the second half, the Red Team put together a 55-yard touchdown drive to add to their lead. Nate Holmes got the first rushing touchdown of the day with an 18-yard scamper to the left side to give the Red Team a 27-12 lead.

In the third quarter kicking competition, the White Team added 15 more points on five field goals. Hocker went 3-of-4, making field goals from 27, 37, and 49 yards. Henson went 2-of-3, booting field goals from 22 and 32 yards, and the fourth quarter began with the score tied at 27-27.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Red Team regained the lead with a touchdown pass. A.J. Derby found Cowan down the left sideline, and the touchdown reception put Red ahead 34-27 for the game-winning score. The lead would hold, and the Red Team finished the game as the victors.

Defensively, both Tiquention Coleman and Will Hines had interceptions for the White Team. Coleman was the leading tackler as well, tying Ray Buchanan Jr. with nine stops. Taiwain Johnson had two sacks, while Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise and Brandon Lewis all had one sack apiece.

Highlighted Quotes from the Post-Game:

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema (opening statement) – “I tell my players all the time that it’s not going to be just this one moment when we realize we are where we want to be. It’s going to be a steady process to get to where we want to be. I think about it in my past experiences, as you get closer to a championship level team you begin to notice certain things. I made note of them in my mind, and I had a couple of those moments last week. We had an academic meeting on Thursday, and we went through the academics with them. There were three or four guys that I don’t think knew about the importance of academics to us, but I think we got that point across and really made progress. We had probably the best practice of the entire spring on Thursday and I’m not just saying that. I think our players felt it after we got done with an inside drill and a red zone drill and the kids were just excited and you could see it. Then we go into an alumni event with former players from all sports and people were coming up to me and saying how far we could go. That’s when I realized the support was there, and then to be blown away by 51,000 fans today that showed support for a program that wasn’t where they wanted it to be last year. Those things coupled with what we saw on the field today, gets me really excited.”

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema (on the team) – “I think we’re in a great position where a lot of people in the world of college football and the outside world don’t think a lot about Arkansas right now, but I guarantee you they will in short fashion. I really, really like the progress we made.”

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema (on the scrimmage) - “Specifically today, we went ones against ones. I thought it was a great way to tell our kids it was about business. They responded really positively, I like the way things panned out in the first quarter. We had success on both sides of the football. Our number one offense got clicking at times with the right personnel; we converted a touchdown and some significant drives. I thought our best one was at the end of the half to walk out with a field goal and put points on the board.”

C – Travis Swanson (on the spring) – “When we first walked through these doors, and he was announced as the head coach, we really didn’t know what we were stepping into. This spring we have learned so much about who he is as a person and a coach. This spring we made some huge steps. I wouldn’t say we are where we need to be, but we have summer and fall camp to get there. Overall this spring went great.”

C – Travis Swanson (on the offensive line) – “We took massive strides from where we were at. We were so used to one scheme and one set of technique work. It’s just completely different from this scheme we are in now with the attitude and the mentality that you have to have. I really feel like the transition that we made was the biggest amongst anyone on the team, but we handled it well.”

FB – Kiero Small (on spring practice) – “We came really far from not knowing a play in the first couple of days, jumping offsides. The first scrimmage we had a million offsides penalties, and I don’t think we had one today. Just things like that we can build on. Now we know to expect from the calls and so we got better these last couple of weeks.”

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FB – Kiero Small (on the run game) – “We are pretty much going downhill as you can see. We have Patrick Arinze out there just running straight at people, and that is what you need in order to win football games.”

DE – Chris Smith (on the game) – “Overall everything went good. We have to clean up a little on both sides of the ball. Overall everything went well though.”

DE – Chris Smith (on hitting quarterbacks now) - Quarterbacks are live now so Trey Flowers, Byran Jones and I are ready to hit them. It’s time to get real now.”

DE – Chris Smith (on playing in front of a spring game record crowd) – “It felt good. I felt like it was going to be like that because of Coach Bielema. It felt good to get the sickness away and hit somebody and get that adrenaline in your body. That was great to see.”

S – Eric Bennett (on playing in front of a large crowd) – “It felt like a real game with all those people there. We are just glad that the fans came out and showed support.”

S – Eric Bennett (on the play of the defense) –“We played well overall on defense. We just have to keep going and execute and go on from there. This is the first time we ever went offense versus defense and it went really well. We just have to go back and look at the film and correct the negatives.”

Arkansas kicks off the 2013 football season on August 31 by hosting UL-Lafayette in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

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