Jim Harris: Two-Minute Drill – Arkansas 24-Southern Miss 3


Arkansas 24-Southern Miss 3

Alex Collins Arkansas 24-Southern Miss 3

HOW ARKANSAS WON: The Razorbacks relied more on their defense than they expected to going in, as starting quarterback Brandon Allen left the game in the first quarter after injuring his right (throwing) shoulder at the end of a 5-yard scoring run. His backup, A.J. Derby, had not taken a major college snap as a quarterback, and it was obvious (especially when Derby couldn’t field his first shotgun snap and was shaky on others) that the Hogs would be very careful with him. So, led by end Chris Smith’s three sacks and linebacker Jarrett Lake’s 13 tackles, including one on a fake field goal, the defense kept the Golden Eagles out of the end zone all game. Southern Miss did manage 254 yards of total offense and rushed for 119 yards, or 30 more than the Eagles had gained total in the previous two games. But the offense was all between the 30s except for one early drive to the Hogs’ 2 that was thrown backward starting with tackle Robert Thomas’ backfield stop, leading to Corey Acosta’s 27-yard field goal. A long USM field goal was short and a third drive ended in the futile fake. Arkansas got Derby settled down in the second half, Jonathan Williams scooted 45 yards for a touchdown and Alex Collins ran 7 yards for a third score. Zach Hocker had a 42-yard field goal in the second quarter and all three PATs in a game that UA coach Bret Bielema admitted “wasn’t sexy.”

WHY USM LOST: When Chris Smith and the Arkansas defensive line turned up the intensity, the Golden Eagles didn’t have much of an answer and their nation’s longest losing streak reached 15 games. Smith had a career high three sacks, including two back to back late in the first half when USM threatened. The Golden Eagles, who had 10 total turnovers in losses to Texas State and Nebraska, kept the miscues to two Saturday and also picked a Brandon Allen pass in the first quarter, right after Arkansas end Trey Flowers had deflected and then intercepted an Allan Bridgford throw. Kendrick Hardy had a 49-yard touchdown run wiped out by an obvious hold on a receiver downfield, and USM failed to get a touchdown after a first-quarter drive to the UA 2. Corey Acosta hit one short field goal, was short and wide right on another, and the Eagles seemed to telegraph a fake field goal after reaching the UA 21. Bridgford competed just 17 of 33 passes fort 133 yards and two interceptions. Compared to the first two weeks, though, that was a big improvement for USM.

DERBY DAY: As the backup quarterback, junior college transfer A.J. Derby gets only a fraction of the snaps that Brandon Allen typically receives in practice. Also, the same plays that work easily for Allen don’t necessarily suit Derby’s skill set. So Arkansas’ offensive coaches and head coach Bret Bielema had to settle Derby down at halftime and get him a package to move the football while getting Southern Miss out of stacking the box with 8 or 9 defenders to stop the Hogs running game. Derby threw just one pass on first down all day, but it was a short swing left to fullback Kiero Small for 6 yards, right after he’d hit flanker Julian Horton crossing over the middle for 11. The pass to Small was especially important as it gave play-caller Jim Chaney his first second-and-four or better in more than a quarter, and it also left USM guessing what was coming next. And what came next was maybe the play of the game, as Jonathan Williams found running room over the left side, broke clear, zigged right and zagged left to set up his blocker and finished a 45-yard touchdown gallop for a 17-3 Hog lead.

Derby finished the day completing 4 of 6 passes (3 of 4 in the second half) for 36 yards. He also gained 10 yards on one carry in the second quarter by narrowly avoiding a sack and finding room in the middle to get a Hog first down.

As for Allen, his shoulder injury was termed a bruise, and he told the coaching staff he expected to be back to practice for Rutgers. Bret Bielema said he held Allen out as a precautionary measure, and Derby made Allen’s return unnecessary, but Allen was in a sling on the sidelines.

Running back Alex Collins continues to show he was accurately rated by the recruiting gurus last year. Most had him a four- or five-star recruit and one of the   best high school running backs in the nation out of South Plantation High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. On Saturday, Collins became the first freshman in Southeastern Conference history to rush for 100 or more yards in his first three games. He also became the first freshman running back in D-I football since Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma to accomplish the feat.

Collins finished with 119 yards on 25 carries. Sophomore Jonathan Williams had 118 yards on 16 carries and has long passed his total rushing yardage for his freshman season, when he gained 247 yards as the third back behind Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson. It marked the third straight game for both to top 100 yards rushing.

It’s hard to remember the last time Arkansas completed fewer than six passes in a game. The Hogs had just three completions on the 2006 LSU game at Little Rock, a 31-26 Tigers win. That same season, Arkansas needed just 7 of 10 passing in routing then No. 2 Auburn 27-10, because Darren McFadden completely destroyed the Tigers on the ground that day. On Saturday,  Brandon Allen and A.J. Derby combined for 6 of 11 passing for 69 yards. Allen was intercepted from the USM 40 for the Hogs’ only turnover.

Speaking of turnovers, Arkansas’ takeaway margin for the season returned to 0 on Saturday with two interceptions by the Hogs while turning the ball over just once. However, the Hogs were fortunate to get one fumble back in the first quarter when Javontee Herndon couldn’t get a handle on a bouncing rugby-style punt inside the UA 10-yard line. One official first signaled a USM recovery, but that was quickly switched Arkansas’ way by referee Penn Wagers.

Last year, Arkansas had a miserable minus-19 turnover margin, worst in the country. The 2013 Hogs have four takeaways and four giveaways in three games so far.

Even though Brandon Allen couldn’t play anymore Saturday, Coach Bret Bielema said the injury was thought to be a bruise and Allen should be back for practice early next week. Offensive tackle Grady Ollison left the game in the first half with what was deemed and ankle injury but X-rays didn’t show anything major. In his stead, true freshman Denver Kirkland saw his most action at right tackle and appeared to perform well. Most of Arkansas’ running game in the second half seemed geared toward the left side, behind tackle David Hurd and guard Mitch Smothers.

“A.J. [Derby] got more and more comfortable out there. Couldn’t ask for him to handle that second half any better. I thought our coaches did a nice job with him, getting some plays they felt comfortable with him.” — Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema.

“It’s great to have those two guys [Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams] go over 100 yards. As an offensive line, we didn’t do exactly the things that we needed to do today to help them. They should have more yards. It’s a pride thing for us, and when A.J. [Derby] came in, we wanted to rally around him.” — Arkansas center Travis Swanson

“I thought our guys, again, fought and played hard. But obviously you’re going to have to score more than three points to give yourself a chance. I thought we moved it at times well enough to give ourselves a chance to stay in the game and try to force them out of what they want to do, which is control the game, run the football, play action.” — USM Coach Todd Monken

NEXT WEEK: Arkansas (3-0) travels to Rutgers (2-1) for a nationally televised (ABC or EPSN networks broadcast) game in Piscataway, N.J. Kickoff is 2:30 p.m.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,