Five Keys Review
1. Run the Football
Arkansas enjoyed one of its best rushing effort of the season, gaining 161 yards on 27 carries (6.0 yards an attempt) in the 49-7 win against Kentucky in Razorback Stadium. Dennis Johnson led the way once again, rushing for 82 yards and two more touchdowns in the win. But he wasn’t alone.
Knile Davis bounced back from last week’s struggles (minus-4 yards) with a game-high 13 carries for 68 yards (5.2 yards a carry). He finally found some running room and, perhaps more important, didn’t fumble the ball during the soggy conditions.
Arkansas’ 161 yards was its second-highest rushing total of the season. The Razorbacks ran for 164 yards in the opener against Jacksonville State.
“We’re getting better,” Davis said. “Everything is kind of meshing together.”
2. Put Pressure on QB
The Razorbacks didn’t come close to their sack total at Auburn (eight) on Saturday night. But Arkansas put ample pressure on Kentucky’s struggling quarterbacks.
Ross Rasner turned in the first big play of the game when he came on a third-down blitz to sack Kentucky’s Jalen Whitlow to end the first series. Kentucky punted and Arkansas scored a touchdown on its first play to take a 7-0 lead.
Defensive tackle Jared Green also got his second sack of the season on a third-down play a little later. Arkansas finished with two sacks in the weather-shortened game.
3. Keep Forcing Turnovers
The Razorbacks failed to force a turnover for the fourth time in five games Saturday night. But this one didn’t matter. Arkansas didn’t have to do much, holding Kentucky to just 170 yards throughout the abbreviated game.
There was a bigger statistic Saturday: Arkansas didn’t lose a turnover in a game for the first time this season. Quarterback Tyler Wilson didn’t force throws that led to interceptions. The running backs held onto the ball in the wet weather.
It all contributed to Arkansas’ most dominant performance of the season.
4. Test the Secondary
Kentucky started three freshmen in its secondary Saturday, which sounded dangerous against the SEC’s top passing offense. It was. Wilson and the Razorbacks made the Wildcats pay beginning with the first play from scrimmage.
Running back Jonathan Williams slipped out of the backfield on a wheel route and ended up in the end zone 74 yards later for a 7-0 lead. Kentucky’s lack of experience on the back line was evident the rest of the night, too, as Wilson carved up the ‘Cats.
Wilson enjoyed his best statistical performance after throwing for 372 yards and five touchdowns. The senior found 10 different receivers in the win.
“We knew that they were going to have some freshmen playing,” Wilson said. “We could call an aggressive game plan and take some shots against them.”
5. Start Quick
Williams’ big play to open the night also proved to be Arkansas’ first touchdown on an opening drive this season. It got even better on the next possession, when the Hogs went 75 yards in 11 plays to take a 14-0 lead on Dennis Johnson’s 3-yard run.
The game was delayed for 65 minutes shortly after the second touchdown, making the quick start even more important for the Hogs. Arkansas wasn’t under pressure to come-from-behind when it returned to the field and continued to roll.
“We were rolling on offense just like how this offense should roll,” Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said. “That was fun.”
Players of the Game
Offense – RB Jonathan Williams (3 catches, 150 yards, 2 TDs)
The freshman earned his first start Saturday, lining up in the backfield with Dennis Johnson on the first play. He turned the snap into his first touchdown, too, with an electric 74-yard touchdown catch. Williams said via Twitter before the game he was going to score a touchdown Saturday and followed through. But he didn’t just settle for one score Saturday. Williams closed the first quarter with his second touchdown catch, taking another wheel route 77 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-0.
Defense – LB A.J. Turner (5 tackles, 3 solo)
Injuries pushed freshman A.J. Turner into the starting lineup Saturday and he responded by finishing tied for the team high in tackles (5). The freshman led all Razorbacks with three solo stops as well. He was part of Arkansas’ best defensive effort of the season, limiting Kentucky to 170 yards and 6 first downs in the win.
Special Teams – K Zach Hocker (7-for-7 on extra points)
Hocker has struggled with field goals this season, but remained perfect on extra points with a 7-for-7 effort Saturday. The junior also enjoyed another strong night on kickoffs, booting six of eight into the end zone for touchbacks. It included kickoff Hocker planted into the fifth row in the stands in the second half.
1 – Career catches for Arkansas receiver D’Arthur Cowan, who was the surprise recipient of a 9-yard pass from Tyler Wilson in the third quarter. Cowan hadn’t played this season and was on track to redshirt, but Arkansas changed course. Smith said after the game Cowan has to “step in and help us” the final five games.
4 – Rushing touchdowns for Arkansas senior Dennis Johnson this season, setting his career high. Johnson’s previous best was three in 2011 and he had just rushing touchdowns in his career entering 2012. Johnson has scored six total touchdowns this season and has 16 in his career (10 rushing, 3 receiving, 3 kickoff returns).
8 — The largest margin of victory for the Razorbacks against Kentucky entering Saturday’s game. The 42-point win helped Arkansas improve to 3-4 against the Wildcats. It also equaled Arkansas’ second-largest victory in an SEC game in school history, behind a 46-point win against Mississippi State in 2003 (52-6).
92 — Arkansas’ ranking in total defense after the Kentucky win (434.6 yards a game). It’s not great, but does signal a steady improvement from two weeks ago when the Hogs ranked No. 116 out of 120 teams (510.2 yards a game). Arkansas allowed 491 combined yards against Auburn and Kentucky.
Arkansas is off next Saturday, getting an extra week to prepare for Ole Miss. The teams will meet in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium on Oct. 27.
The Rebels also have the week off and, after beating Auburn 41-20 on Saturday, are celebrating their first SEC win under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. The victory snapped Ole Miss’ 16-game SEC losing skid, which dated back to 2010.
Arkansas has won two straight against Ole Miss, including last year’s 29-24 victory in Oxford. The game will be the first between the teams in Little Rock since 1992.
“We’re trying to resurrect the season and we’re starting off on the right foot. We’ve got two wins, and now we’ve got to build on that. It feels good. We’ve just got to stay focused and game plan for Ole Miss and get ready to try to go get another ‘W.’” — Arkansas running back Knile Davis
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau