Jim Harris: All Access – Razorbacks Too Cute, Not Sexy in Victory

Razorbacks not sexy

Razorbacks Not Sexy in Victory But Get the Win

First impressions a couple of hours after Arkansas completed a 24-3 victory over Southern Mississippi, dealing what was a traditionally strong mid-major its 15th straight loss:

  • Arkansas has two outstanding players on both sides of the ball: ends Chris Smith (3 sacks) and Trey Flowers (1 INT) are the defensive equal to what the Hogs have on offense in the running back tandem of Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins.
  • Collins is a super freshman. Many great names in SEC history haven’t rushed for 100 yards or more in their first three games as a freshman. Whether they faced the likes of Louisiana, Samford and Southern Miss in their first three games, well, I’d have to research it deeper. I know Herschel Walker went up against such teams as Tennessee and South Carolina right out of the shoot.
  • Arkansas’ offensive coaches got a little too cute for this game. We saw fullback Kiero Small as the lone back taking a shotgun snap twice. First time, it worked in catching Southern Miss slow to react. So Arkansas tried it again later and it got nothing. Small also dotted the I with Patrick Arinze in front of him blocking when Arkansas got in the red zone. Two plodders, really. Small is a good football player and brings a lot to the table, but it looked like Arkansas was going out of its way to find any and all ways to try him out, with Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins both on the bench. That’s getting too cute.
  • Coach Bret Bielema had the perfect definition for this game: “It wasn’t sexy.” Nope. Where have you ever seen a defender’s helmet stuck on the back of another player’s uniform. At first, I thought the helmet was hooked in Alex Collins’ braids. Fortunately for Collins that wasn’t the case. Still, it took a couple of minutes of maintenance to detach the USM tackler’s helmet.
  • Alan Turner has seemed to be a step behind as the starting strong safety in the first two games, but his play took a big leap forward Saturday in place of Rohan Gaines, and we’re not sure when Gaines will be back in the lineup. Turner knocked away a pass in the end zone when USM got inside the Hogs’ 5 in the second quarter, and in the fourth quarter he made another nice bat-away at the sideline with a good break on the ball. Turner said after the game he didn’t think his first play, in the end zone, was as quick as it could have been, but it was a big success. Tying down that strong safety spot will go a long way to helping Arkansas at Rutgers. The corners will still have their hands full with Rutgers’ big receivers while still being a big part of the run defense.
  • That’s the real rub, the run defense. Can we make anything out of Arkansas giving up 119 yards on the ground to Southern Miss? Doesn’t sound that bad, until you realize the Golden Eagles had only gained 89 on the ground all year coming in. Arkansas also only had two takeaways from a team that had 10 coming in. The Hogs separated USM quarterback Allan Bridgford from the ball in the second quarter and didn’t seem to react to the ball at all, thinking the play dead as an incomplete pass even though no whistle blew.
  • Arkansas has some deficiencies at linebacker, but Jarrett Lake isn’t one of them. It became obvious how much he was missed, along with end Trey Flowers, in last week’s win over Samford. Lake had 13 tackles on Saturday. The senior weakside backer brought a leadership that was missing. But the Hogs have trouble in the middle that they’re going to have to work out in coming weeks, or the power SEC teams are going to destroy the Hogs right up the gut.
  • The real problem with 11:21 a.m. kickoffs in Fayetteville is that the arrival of 60,000-plus fans just to the campus itself is condensed into a much smaller time frame, rather than the way it works for a 3 p.m. or 6 p.m. kickoff. Traffic off exit 60 leading up Razorback Road was ridiculous in the hour before kickoff. Trust us, we were in the middle of it. The amount of traffic all moving toward the parking spaces, instead of lengthy tailgating before a game, made it like handling traffic LEAVING the stadium, the wait was that long to traverse a couple of miles. Thousands of fans were still outside the stadium at kickoff; and ESPN didn’t wait around getting this started. ESPN said 11:21 a.m. and that’s exactly what we got.

Would you consider a 6-yard swing pass to the fullback as perhaps the play of Saturday’s game? If not, perhaps the touchdown that followed that play was it.

Here’s the scenario: Backup quarterback A.J. Derby has been handled with kid gloves by the UA coaches up to this point and hasn’t thrown a pass on first down. But he just confidently found Julian Horton over the middle for a first down. So, play-caller Jim Chaney lets Derby have a safe toss in the left flat to fullback Kiero Small — probably the last option for Brandon Allen in this scenario but likely the only option for Derby.

The completion set up a second-and-4 from the USM 45.

Second-and-four is a play-caller’s dream, next to second-and-3, second-and-2 and of course second-and-1.

It sets up anything and everything. For Arkansas, it set up a run but finally it was a run against a defense that wasn’t stacked in the box.

“Our offense runs really well when we’re winning first down. After that pass to Kiero, their defense was on their heels and not knowing what to expect next,” Derby said.

In the first half, the shotgun snaps to Derby were an adventure after he replaced the injured  Brandon Allen, with the first one resulting in a 19-yard loss. He looked uncomfortable on the next three as well.

“It was just a lack of reps,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting the heat on it. We’ll get that worked out this week.”

Derby said that after Allen went out, he “had a lot going through my head but it was exciting to get out there.”

It was also exciting, and crucial as it turned out, for Arkansas to see him throw a pass on first down at least once Saturday.

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