Dicey Victory – Arkansas 31-Samford 21
HOW ARKANSAS WON
The Razorbacks suffered through some surprising adversity against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent and displayed a lack of discipline and a touch of panic not seen in last week’s 34-14 season-opening win over Louisiana-Lafayette. Samford, which went 0-12 in 2012 but won its season-opener last week, had the 47,358 fans in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium sitting in disbelief as the Bulldogs led 21-17 after three quarters. But Arkansas’ running game, behind Alex Collins‘ 172 yards on 24 carries and Jonathan Williams‘ 126 yards on 17 tries, took over late in the third quarter and through the fourth quarter to push across two scores and control the final 15 minutes. Arkansas’ defense, shaky at best for much of the game, pitched back-to-back three-and-outs after the Hogs took the lead for good early in the third quarter. But the narrow margin of victory against an FCS foe left many wondering about Arkansas’ prospects in coming weeks, particularly in the SEC.
WHY SAMFORD LOST
The Bulldogs convinced the crowd, and likely the media, of how well coached they were, even with their head coach, Pat Sullivan, flat on his stomach back in Birmingham, Ala., getting over back surgery from earlier this summer. Samford had no turnovers while forcing two from the Hogs, and the Bulldogs played it smart with no risky gambles. Ultimately, though, Arkansas just had too much power in its running game and depth after Samford had played a solid three quarters behind quarterback Andy Summerlin, running back Fabian Truss and a defense that often was hard to block by the Hogs’ mammoth line. Truss had 103 yards rushing on 16 carries, while Summerlin completed 19 of 28 passes for 117 yards — mostly screen passes or short tosses in the flat that caught Arkansas giving up too much cushion or dropping linebackers too deep.
After struggling for run yardage in the second quarter and managing only a 53-yard field goal by Zach Hocker (his career long) in the period, one would expect some halftime adjustments with the blocking against Samford’s active four-front defensive line. It was hard to tell though, because Jonathan Williams fumbled on Arkansas’ second snap of the third quarter.
The changes, though, became obvious as the third quarter wound down, and Arkansas dominated in the final 15 minutes, running its way to two touchdowns and running out the last six-plus minutes of the game all on the ground. The Hogs rushed for 163 of its game total of 333 yards rushing in the fourth quarter.
Arkansas averaged 8.8 yards per rush in the first period, when they scored two touchdowns, and 7.8 yards per rush in the fourth quarter, when they also scored two touchdowns. But in the second and third quarters, the running was abysmal; the Hogs managed just 2.8 yards per carry in the second quarter and 3.8 in the third.
Defensively, Arkansas had trouble defending Samford’s screen pass for three quarters but eventually adjusted. Braylon Mitchell, who was getting his most significant snaps in his career at linebacker Saturday night, was burned in coverage early on, but he made a sterling defensive play early in the fourth quarter, quickly sniffing out a quick screen on third down near the left sideline and wrecking the play. It also marked the first of two back-to-back three-and-outs by Arkansas’ defense, and Samford never touched the ball after the second stop.
Three Razorback defensive starters were out Saturday. Defensive end Trey Flowers, this week’s SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week, had apparently hurt a knee last week though it wasn’t reported, and Flowers determined he couldn’t go Saturday night. Strong safety Rohan Gaines also had a knee injury last week that everyone knew about and he didn’t make the trip to Little Rock. Linebacker Jarrett Lake was left home for a disciplinary reason, Bret Bielema said after the game.
That meant a lot of snaps for some little-used players or young players. Braylon Mitchell moved to Lake’s strongside linebacker spot from the weakside, and junior college transfer Martrelle Spaight stepped in on the weakside, making his presence felt early. Alan Turner opened at strong safety, but Turner was victimized on a couple of big plays in the run and pass games. Redshirt freshmen JaMichael Winston and Brandon Lewis saw most of the snaps at Flowers’ defensive end spot.
After a solid opening game, Brandon Allen started off hot against Samford, hitting his first three throws in the Razorbacks’ 75-yard opening drive. But he tailed off considerably after that. Allen reached halftime 7 of 10, but he completed just 2 of 7 passes in the second half and seemed to zero in too much on senior receiver Javontee Herndon or the tight end.
Allen finally looked to Julian Horton for a big 11-yard completion for the Hogs’ initial first down, one that jump started the go-ahead scoring drive late in the third quarter. But his penchant for looking only for Herndon returned in the drive when the Hog offensive minds reached into their bag of tricks for a flea-flicker. Allen had only Herndon in mind as the receiver was running a post but was double-teamed and closely guarded. Meanwhile. Horton was running alone on the left sideline near the 20 with a cornerback trailing him by several yards. He would have walked in for a score.
Arkansas still scored on the drive early in the fourth quarter and never trailed again.
Allen passed for 125 yards, or 105 yards less than last week’s game with Louisiana-Lafayette. Samford had allowed more than 400 yards passing in a 31-21 win over Georgia State last week.
WON’T HAPPEN AGAIN
Alex Collins decided a celebration was in order after his first touchdown as a Razorback, a 2-yard blast through the middle in which Collins stayed on his feet and ran up to the stands, followed by his happy teammates. By rule, however, that was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and it drew the ire immediately from Hogs running backs coach Joel Thomas and a later admonishment from Bret Bielema.
Collins, who spoke with the media after the head coach, also promised he’d be stopping halfway into the end zone from now on.
Bielema was also not pleased with a 15-yard dead ball personal foul incurred by cornerback Tevin Mitchell after a good UA defensive stop, allowing the Bulldogs to have a first down at the UA 16. Fabian Truss ripped through the middle mostly untouched, dodging strong safety Alan Turner at the 5-yard line, for Samford’s first touchdown and cutting the Hogs’ lead to 14-7.
Arkansas was penalized six times for 65 yards. One critical call that slowed the Arkansas offense after scoring on its first three possessions was a second-quarter offensive interference call on tight end Hunter Henry that, to most observers except the SEC officiating crew, appeared to be holding. Instead of a 10-yard spot of the foul penalty, it was a 15-yard mark-off from the previous line of scrimmage. Bielema questioned whether that was the correct call as well in his post-game press conference.
“I told our guys in the locker room, you’ve obviously got to enjoy every win … Obviously they’re frustrated. I think we defined several things to show them how you can lose a football game. A lot of teams would have lost that football game. Give them credit, they took over in the fourth quarter when it mattered.” — Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema.
Arkansas (2-0) returns to its home field on campus to play Southern Mississippi (0-2), a 56-13 loser Saturday night to Nebraska on the road. The game is scheduled for telecast on the SEC Network (including KATV, Channel 7, in Little Rock) starting at 11:21 a.m. USM has lost 14 straight games, including everyles game in 2012 under one-year head coach Ellis Johnson. Former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monkin is the Golden Eagles head coach.