Two-Minute Drill: Tretola creates ‘QB Controversy’ in Razorbacks 45-17 romp over UAB


Audio of Sebastian Tretola, Bielema, J-Will, Others Below

When a 6-foot-5, 340-pound starting offensive guard is lining up at quarterback and throwing touchdown passes, you’ve got your opponent seriously outmanned. Arkansas, being an SEC team, figured to have a few more quality players better than Alabama-Birmingham, but it was a significant disparity as it turned out. UAB’s receivers could not get separation from Arkansas defensive backs all day (until a last-gasp 33-yard throw against backups in the final minute), its offensive line couldn’t handle the Hogs’ quicker defensive front and linebackers, and the UAB defense was no match anywhere for Arkansas’ offense in the first half. The Razorbacks roared out to a 35-0 first-half lead, converted every key third-down conversion in the process and coasted to the 45-17 win. All UAB managed to do successfully was score the game’s last 14 points. Arkansas, meanwhile, made enough kicking game gaffes to lose to a good SEC team, but it was only slightly bothersome Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The Hogs also found a field goal kicker, as Adam McFain booted a 49-yarder. But the day will most be remembered for starting guard Sebastian Tretola’s turn as quarterback on fourth-and-goal at the UAB 6-yard line. Arkansas lined up to kick a field goal, then shifted into a swinging-gate-like formation with snapper Alan D’Appolonio as the last man on the left, making him an eligible receiver. But Tretola at quarterback? Yes, UAB was confused as everybody else was at first, not really reacting. Finally, as the Blazers rushed, D’Appolonio was wide open on the left side in the end zone and Tretola delivered the lob for a most unlikely touchdown. Bret Bielema said the Hogs had practiced the play four times over the past couple of weeks. D’Appolonio has two career catches, as he was on the receiving end of a fake punt and pass at Rutgers last year.

Alabama-Birmingham was supposed to be the accomplished passing team, even with redshirt freshman Jeremiah Briscoe having to sub for usual starter Cody Clements. But Arkansas put up the efficient passing numbers in the first half, with Brandon Allen hitting 13 of 17 passes for 172 yards. Three of those completions came on third-down situations on the Arkansas end of the field and kept drives alive that culminated in touchdowns. After a first throw was dropped, Allen’s first completion was a well-thrown 44-yard strike down the left sideline to Drew Morgan, who had a step on the cornerback. Allen found it difficult to keep up the onslaught with his arm in the second half, and UAB played closer coverage on Arkansas’s wide receivers, as Allen hit on just 2 of 7 tosses before retiring for the day in favor of his brother, Austin Allen.

Junior running back Jonathan Williams continues to have a spectacular season, and the Dallas-area product had 109 yards rushing by halftime.  But while the passing game may have fallen off in the third quarter, Williams didn’t, adding another 44 yards to end the day with 153 yards on 18 carries, an impressive 8.5-yards-per-rush average. He had a long run of 31 yards and scored the Hogs’ first touchdown on a 3-yard burst up the middle. Who saw this coming after his first carry against the fired-up Blazers’ defense saw him dropped for a yard loss on the game’s first play? Alex Collins also regained some of his recent form after a couple of down weeks, gaining 82 yards on 15 carries and also scoring on a 3-yard run. Williams was on the receiving end, wide open underneath the coverage, for a 17-yard catch and run for a score, Kody Walker ran 5 yards on a quick-hitter through the middle for a TD, and tight end Jeremy Sprinkle looked more like a tall wide receiver in taking in a 15-yard laser from Allen in the third quarter, the Hogs’ last score of the game.

Maudrecus Humphrey, a Bobby Petrino recruit out of Alabama who was kicked off the Hogs’ team after an arrest in 2012, is a starter for the Blazers at receiver, but his first catch of the game, on UAB’s second offensive snap, was snuffed out for a 1-yard loss. He would make a 16-yard reception later, but on the first play of the second half, Humphrey was running a slant from the left with nickelback Tevin Mitchel in front and safety Alan Turner bracketing Humphrey over the top. Mitchel flashed in front of Humphrey for an interception, the only turnover of the game by UAB. The Blazers’ passing game was mostly null-and-void until a 33-yard pass down the middle to Nyiakki Height for the game’s final score. Jeremiah Briscoe was 6 of 18 for  62 yards.

The attendance was announced as 61,800, which was probably at least 10,000 more than actually attended. Maybe it was even less than 50,000. The east side upper deck had just a few hundred fans, and the sections on the side of the lower east side were sparsely filled. Traffic around Fayetteville was easy for most to negotiate before the game. The fans that didn’t attend, however, missed seeing an offensive lineman throw a touchdown pass while the game was still in doubt, and they missed seeing senior linebacker Martrelle Spaight win the Crip Hall Award for the most outstanding performance by a senior in the homecoming game. Spaight had 3 solo tackles and 6 assists, including a tackle for loss of 4 yards. Spaight led a defense that totaled 8 tackles for loss totaling 33 yards, including one sack by cornerback Jared Collins for an 18-yard loss when UAB was threatening to score inside the Hogs’ 10. Arkansas also had four pass breakups and three quarterback hurries.

While Arkansas on Saturday may have solved its place-kicking deficiency and regained a lost punter, the rest of Arkansas’s special teams weren’t so special. In fact, they were downright awful and it would have been a catastrophe against an SEC team. When Toby Baker was given a chance to replace Sam Irwin-Hill as punter, he hit a low spiral only 36 yards, and the punt coverage broke down to allow speedy JJ Nelson a 35-yard runback to the UA 9. While our math is sometimes spotty, we think that’s a net punt of 1 yard. Irwin-Hill was back at the job the rest of the day and averaged 43.2 yards on four punts, including a long of 54 with perfect downfield coverage by the Hogs. Adam McFain knocked home the 49-yard field goal and all his extra points, getting them up high and quicker than the displaced John Henson, who had seen two PATs blocked in consecutive weeks. The kickoff coverage, manned by true freshmen on one side because of injuries, gave up a 100-yard runback by Nelson in the third quarter, right through a hole where those two freshmen were supposed to close but ran around blocks, Bielema said later. Then there was the always spotty punt fielding by D.J. Dean, who usually lets them hit the ground and role. In the fourth quarter, Dean somehow decided to try to pick up a punt that had bounded back upfield, lost it and UAB recovered (Arkansas would deny the Blazers near the goal line on fourth down after the miscue at the Hogs’ 26). Dean’s replacement, Demetrius Wilson, was so determined to do something when he got the chance, he went after a punt over his head inside the 10 yard line, touched it, and in the mad scramble the ball went through the end zone for a touch back. If you recall the disastrous fumble in the 2006 SEC Championship Game by the Hogs against Florida, it looked a lot like that only it didn’t result in a touchdown for the opponents.

Arkansas ran a delay draw play to Jonathan Williams for a first down early in the game out of the shotgun formation. Fans on message boards and sports talk radio had been pointing out that it appeared Arkansas attempted to pass on every shotgun snap to Brandon Allen … Another “why don’t they do that” situation was briefly addressed when the Hogs appeared to set up a screen pass to the left side in the first quarter, though a failure of one block resulted in a loss of four yards on the play … Former Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen, noted for his girth as a signal caller, tweeted congratulations to Sebastian Tretola during the game for usurping his position as probably the largest man to throw a touchdown pass. Lorenzen hit the scales at 260 during his Kentucky career. However, Tretola told the media afterward that he remembered a 400-pound lineman making a touchdown throw in a holiday bowl game in recent years. Nobody remembers him. They’ll remember Tretola. ESPN blew up the play on its highlights since the game was one of the few televised early in the day. A SportsCenter tweet about it had thousands of retweets.

Certainly Hog fans noticed that this year’s team has now bettered last year’s win total by 1, winning all of its nonconference games. The Razorbacks still look to end a 16-game SEC losing streak with four league games remaining. Two of those games are at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, against No.  24-ranked LSU on Nov. 15 and No. 3 Ole Miss on Nov. 22.

“I saw him tossing the ball around in practice [earlier in the season] and I talked to him about it some and went over a few things and we went with it. We had that play in our book for a couple of weeks and we were looking for the right opportunity and it came today. A play like that is a way for me to have a little fun with our team and bring them some energy. The team was so pumped when we dialed it up and even more excited when it was executed. We probably have a quarterback controversy now in the eyes of Tretola.” — UA coach Bret Bielema on left guard Sebastian Tretola’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Alan D’Appolonio.

“We ran the play and he snapped me the ball and everything went slow motion from there. I have a whole new found respect for Brandon Allen, you know what, because it gets hectic back there. I mean, D’Appolonio got open and I made the throw.” — Sebastian Tretola

“I’ve been saying it all along, I thought they were a great team. I made a mistake in the first half, I should have played more press [coverage on defense]. But to give Arkansas credit, their quarterback was very accurate, we had some third downs we should have gotten them off the field on. I think they played very well.” — UAB coach Bill Clark

Arkansas (4-4) will journey to Starkville, Miss., next Saturday to take on current No. 1-ranked Mississippi State in a game kicking off at either 6 or 6:15 p.m. (depending on the ESPN network that carries it).

Sebastian Tretola for the Touchdown

O-Lineman Sebastian Tretola for the touchdown (pass)!


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