Five Keys Review
1. Stop the Run
Tulsa was ranked ninth in the nation in rushing yards a game (248.8 yards), but was held down by the Arkansas defense on Saturday. The Razorbacks limited the Golden Hurricane to a season-low 106 rushing yards, which played a big role in the win.
Tulsa was able to grind out yards and pick up first downs in the first half against the Arkansas defense. But the group clamped down after a halftime challenge, limiting the Golden Hurricane to 22 rushing yards in the second half.
2. Protect Wilson
Arkansas only allowed one sack Saturday, but quarterback Tyler Wilson was planted on numerous occasions. It started on the first play of the game, when Wilson got a helmet in the chest and landed with a thud on the turf.
The quarterback needed a few seconds to get up off the turf on a number of occasions, but said he felt fine afterward. There’s no doubt the pass protection must improve before Saturday’s game against South Carolina’s swarming defense, though.
3. Limit Turnovers
The Arkansas offense struggled to score points Saturday and a pair of turnovers didn’t help the Hogs in a tight game. Tyler Wilson threw an errant pass that was intercepted by Tulsa in the first half. Receiver Julian Horton caught a pass and fumbled the ball in the third quarter, setting up Tulsa’s go-ahead field goal.
The two turnovers gave Arkansas 21 for the season, which is the most in the SEC. Only 12 other NCAA teams have committed more turnovers than the Razorbacks.
4. Make Special Plays
Arkansas didn’t turn in a special teams touchdown Saturday. But the Razorbacks were much better on special teams in the Tulsa win than most games this season.
Punter Dylan Breeding was key, helping the Razorbacks flip the field with a 69-yard bomb in the first half. Freshman Nate Holmes returned to punt return duties and showed some flash, including a 25-yard return. Defensive tackle D.D. Jones also got his big paw on an extra point attempt, helping the Hogs hold onto a 13-12 lead.
5. No Lulls Allowed
It happened again Saturday. Arkansas jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter for the third time this season. But, once again, the Razorbacks let it slip away.
Tulsa outscored the Razorbacks 12-3 in the second half to close the gap to 13-12 at halftime Saturday. The Golden Hurricane eventually took a 15-13 lead before the Arkansas offense briefly snapped out of its funk, going 76 yards on four players to regain the lead for good early in the fourth quarter.
Players of the Game
Offense – RB Dennis Johnson (22 carries, 109 yards, 2 TDs)
Receiver Cobi Hamilton may have won the Crip Hall Award, but Dennis Johnson’s efforts were critical to the win Saturday. Johnson followed his 161-yard performance against Ole Miss with another 100-yard effort. It was the first time he has gone over the 100-yard mark in consecutive games in his career. Johnson also was Arkansas’ second-leading receiver, catching 3 passes for 43 yards in the win.
Defense – DE Chris Smith (8 tackles, sack, forced fumble)
Arkansas junior Chris Smith told defensive coordinator Paul Haynes he was going to get a sack during the Tulsa game. It took nearly 60 minutes, but Smith accomplished it Saturday. His sack and forced fumble in the final minute wrapped up the win for the Razorbacks. It was the only sack of the game for Arkansas and just the fifth Tulsa’s offense – a quick passing attack – had allowed this season.
Special Teams – P Dylan Breeding (3 punts, 175 yards, 58.3 average)
Dylan Breeding continued to prove why he has become one of the nation’s best punters, averaging 58.3 yards on his three attempts Saturday. It included a booming 69-yarder, which helped Arkansas flip the field in the first half. Arkansas stopped Tulsa on three straight plays inside the 20 and got a field goal to take a 13-6 lead on its next possession. Breeding now ranks sixth in the nation in punting (46.2 yards).
8 – Number of touchdowns Arkansas running back Dennis Johnson has scored the past four games. It took awhile, but the Razorbacks have found their workhorse out of the backfield and it has helped them go 3-1 over the stretch. Johnson – who had 10 touchdowns in his career before 2012 – has scored nine so far this season.
31 — Arkansas receiver Cobi Hamilton’s streaks of consecutive games with at least one reception. Hamilton extended the streak in the first quarter, leading to an 11-catch, 177-yard performance. Hamilton’s consecutive reception streak is the longest among active players in the SEC. He has caught a pass in 42 of his 48 career games.
293.5 — Average yards allowed by the Razorbacks in the past four games. It’s a big improvement, statistically, from the first five, when Arkansas’ opponents averaged 510.2 yards a game. The improvement has helped the Razorbacks climb to No. 72 in the nation in total defense (413.9 yards).
Arkansas begins the final three-game stretch of the season, traveling to play No. 12 South Carolina. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. and will be part of a CBS doubleheader.
The Gamecocks (7-2) had national title aspirations after racing out to a 6-0 start this season, but consecutive road losses to LSU and Florida in October dampened those hopes. South Carolina, which lost running back Marcus Lattimore to a brutal knee injury in the 38-35 win against Tennessee two weeks ago, has had two weeks to regroup and prepare for the Razorbacks after last Saturday’s bye week.
Arkansas has dominated recent games in the series, winning three straight and five of the last six against the Gamecocks. It includes last season’s 44-28 win in Fayetteville and a 41-20 victory in Columbia, S.C., in 2010.
“Everybody had to step up their level of toughness. I knew it was going to be a tough game from the start. The first play we had max protection called, and they got through and hit me right in the mouth. So I knew it was going to be a tough game from the start. It was just a matter of gritting your teeth and getting through it and who wanted to win it more.” — Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson on the Tulsa win.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau