Jim Harris: Two-Minute Drill – Razorbacks Beat Ragin Cajuns 34-14

The Razorbacks nearly doubled up Louisiana-Lafayette in total yardage, 522 yards to 274, had the ball for 15 minutes more than the Ragin’ Cajuns, and saw two running backs rush for more than 100 yards in a game for the first time in six years in steamrolling the visitors 34-14. Bret Bielema brought a physical mentality to his Hogs over the off-season, and it was apparent throughout in the season-opener on Saturday. Pass protection for Brandon Allen was superb on all but one play, and the play-action off Arkansas’ successful running game gave Allen time to find receivers running wide open at times. Allen passed for 230 yards on 15 of 23 passing.

The Ragin’ Cajuns had no answer for the Arkansas running game despite committing eight men to stop it and playing cover one with man coverage on the corners virtually the entire game. The ULL defensive line was usually manhandled, and the secondary had trouble keeping up with Arkansas’ mix of wide receivers and tight ends. ULL forced one turnover but committed two, a fumble and an intercepted pass off Terrance Broadway. ULL was supposed to have an edge at quarterback with Broadway’s running and passing, but Arkansas’ Brandon Allen easily won that battle. Broadway had some early passing success until Arkansas took out the strongside linebacker and played nickel pass coverage (4-2-5) in the second quarter in taking over the game. After gaining 121 yards on their first two possessions, the Cajuns added just 156 more yards over the next three quarters, and just 27 in the second period when the Hogs took total command. ULL also didn’t help itself on it first possession when Stephen Brauchle missed a 27-yard field goal.

The game had two moments where it could have changed the Ragin’ Cajuns’ way in the third quarter. Arkansas led 20-7 coming out of halftime, but freshman Hunter Henry (who had a sterling first half with four catches) fumbled after a reception at the ULL 44, giving the Ragin’ Cajuns their best starting field position yet. However, two plays later, defensive end Trey Flowers roared in and smashed Terrance Broadway, forcing fumble that rolled upfield before it was recovered by Arkansas’ Austin Jones at the Cajuns’ 49. The Hogs then drove 49 yards in six plays to pad their lead to 20, pounding behind freshman back Alex Collins and then scoring on a short toss and bulldozing run at the right sideline by fullback Kiero Small.

ULL did signal it wasn’t going away that quickly, driving 75 yards mostly through the air to cut the lead to 13. But in one play, Jonathan Williams restored the Hogs’ 20-point edge when he started right, then reversed his field and outraced the Cajuns 75 yards for the score. John Henson’s PAT to follow would be the last points of the game.

Brandon Allen’s play-action fakes were splendid, and none was better than the one he made that allowed Javontee Herndon to get comfortably behind the secondary for a 49-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter that gave the Hogs the lead for good. Allen nearly didn’t lead the speedy Herndon enough, but the senior receiver reached his left arm out to pull in the catch away as the defender was closing near the goal line.

Senior Chris Smith received the preseason All-SEC accoladess, but junior Trey Flowers had huge game Saturday for the Razorbacks. Flowers had two sacks, three tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Arkansas showed some defensive wrinkles after giving up 121 yards on ULL first two possessions, and the Hogs managed a three-and-out early in the second quarter with an impressive pass rush on third down that featured Flowers coming in over the center plus pressure from outside. Flowers also disrupted the play early in the game with ULL on the Hogs’ 5 with a heavy rush that led to a short field goal attempt that was missed.

Tevin Mitchel led the Hogs with 7 tackles, along with weakside linebacker Jarrett Lake. Lake was victimized early in the third quarter in coverage on a wheel route that resulted in a 31-yard gain, ULM’s longest play of the day. That set up a 2-yard TD run by bruising tailback Alonzo Harris, who was held to 56 yards on the day.

Alan Turner took over at strong safety when Rohan Gaines moved to nickel back in the second quarter. The depth chart had indicated the backup strong safety would be Tequintion Coleman, better known by the coaches and teammates as TQ. Bret Bielema explained later that ULL’s wide open, mostly passing game fit Turner’s skills better than Coleman’s, who is a solid run stopper and tackler. Turner had 6 tackles on the day, including 3 unassisted.

Arkansas kept Broadway contained, giving up 24 yards to the quarterback but then dropping him for 25 yards in losses. Broadway passed for 171 yards on 15 of 28 passing.

The attendance was announced as 69,801, but four full sections and the smaller ends in the upper east deck were completely empty, and observers from the outside told us the same was true on the west upper deck. On the other hand, the green bleachers atop the south end zone stands were nearly filled. Those seats are priced cheaper than any other in the stadium.

And many of the fans who did show were exiting by halftime. There were large gaps in the stands where fans had been in the first half in the last two quarters as it appeared Arkansas was in total command. Heat index figures for the game were said to be 103 degrees.

Veteran observers of Hog football said this may have been the hottest opener since 1998, when Arkansas opened the Houston Nutt era with an impressive win over Louisiana-Lafayette as well. But that game kicked off at 6 p.m. It also wasn’t televised like this one was, by Fox Sports Net. There also wasn’t an east deck or a large south end zone area in 1998.

Arkansas was the worst team in takeaway margin in Division I football last season, finishing the year at minus-19. Beginning with the opening win over Jacksonville State, the Hogs were in the negative column all season, only winning the turnover battle once, in the 24-7 win at Auburn. On Saturday, though, the Hogs were a plus-1 in turnovers, giving up a fumble but taking away two miscues from the Ragin’ Cajun

“Physicality, I think we won. I appreciated the Louisiana-Lafayette coach [Mark Hudspeth] was very complimentary at the end of the game. The key for us, though, we’re the only team in the SEC that plays eight straight games before a bye week. Our last game of the eight-game stretch is at Alabama, the two-time defending national champs. For us to be where we want to be in eight weeks, we have to get better each and every week.” — Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema

Arkansas (1-0) plays the first of two games in Little Rock, facing Football Championship Subdivision program Samford (1-0) at War Memorial Stadium at 6 p.m. The game will be carried by the Razorbacks’ pay-per-view network, and we understand several thousand end zone tickets remain for sale.

Below is audio of Bret Bielema’s post-game press conference where you hear him discuss the game from his perspective in detail.


Highlights of the game courtesy of the SEC Digital Network

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