Five Keys Review
1. Stop the Run
Arkansas wasn’t awful defensively the first half despite the 24-0 deficit. Alabama had 32 yards on eight carries in the first quarter and bumped the total to 80 yards on 19 carries at the half. Turnovers and special teams gaffes were the problems, putting an already overmatched defense in plenty of bad situations in the first half. For instance: Two Alabama scoring drives started inside the Arkansas 5.
Mistakes hurt the Hogs once again in the second half, but the defense didn’t put up much of a fight either. Alabama ran for 145 yards in the second half and it included 98 in the fourth quarter, when the Crimson Tide ran for two more easy scores.
Alabama finished with six rushing touchdowns from four different running backs Saturday. Starter Eddie Lacy led the way with three scores.
2. Win Turnover Battle
Arkansas’ self-inflicted wounds played a major role in the embarrassing loss. The Razorbacks, who struggled with turnovers in its first two games, committed five more in the loss. Even worse, all five resulted in Alabama touchdowns.
Freshman Brandon Allen threw two interceptions, although one can be blamed on receiver Cobi Hamilton after the ball slipped through his hands. Running back Knile Davis lost two fumbles in the second half. Dennis Johnson lost another on a kickoff.
It could’ve been worse. Arkansas fumbled eight times Saturday, recovering five of them. The Razorbacks are now 119th in the nation in turnover margin, committing 10 turnovers and gaining only two for a minus-8 ratio through three weeks.
3. Protect Your Quarterback
Arkansas’ quarterback didn’t absorb the kind of vicious blows dished out by the Alabama defense in last year’s win. But the Crimson Tide still finished with four sacks, three of which came when Brandon Allen was manning the position.
The sacks weren’t just on the line. Allen must take responsibility for one after holding the ball for too long. But it all added up in the disappointing day for the Arkansas offense, which was shut out for the first time since 1995 in the loss.
4. Sound on Special Teams
Critical special teams mistakes have played a big role in Arkansas’ losses to Alabama. It was no different Saturday. The Razorbacks went toe-to-toe with the Tide in the opening minutes, but the game changed when snapper Will Coleman launched the ball over punter Dylan Breeding’s head. Alabama cashed in on the mistake on the next play, scoring its first touchown to begin the rout.
Coach John L. Smith blamed himself for the gaffe, turning to Coleman in place of regular snapper Alan D’Appollonio for punt coverage reasons Saturday. It backfired on the Razorbacks, who also lost a fumble on a kickoff return in the third quarter.
5. Make McCarron Uncomfortable
Alabama’s quarterback didn’t have to do much Saturday, calmly leading the Crimson Tide to easy scores because of Arkansas’ mistakes. He was very efficient, though, completing 11 of 16 passes for 189 yards with a touchdown.
Arkansas tried to put heat on McCarron, but failed to register a sack or much pressure Saturday. One example: Arkansas linebacker Ross Rasner showed he was blitzing from his safety spot too early on one play in the second quarter. McCarron changed the play at the line of scrimmage, flipped a quick screen to Amari Cooper and the receiver raced 20 yards to the end zone to push the lead to 17-0.
Arkansas, which tumbled out of the Associated Press top 25 poll last week, was not ranked once again for obvious reasons after the 52-0 loss to Alabama. The Razorbacks were ranked No. 21 in the USA Today Coaches poll before the Alabama loss, but tumbled out after Sunday after their second straight loss.
Six Southeastern Conference teams are ranked in this week’s AP poll: Alabama (No. 1), LSU (No. 2), Georgia (No. 5), South Carolina (No. 7), Florida (No. 14) and Mississippi State (No. 23). Each is ranked in the USA Today Coaches poll as well.
4 — Number of times before Saturday’s 52-0 loss Arkansas had allowed more than 50 points and was held scoreless in a game. It was the first time since 1943, when Tulsa beat Arkansas 61-0. The other three were losses to Oklahoma (108-0 in 1918), Texas (52-0 in 1916) and Texas (54-0 in 1894).
58 — Arkansas rushing yards, including a 31-yard loss on a snap that sailed over punter Dylan Breeding’s head. It was the fifth straight season Arkansas finished below 100 yards in rushing against Alabama. The Razorbacks have lost each game.
69 — Points Arkansas has been outscored by since losing quarterback Tyler Wilson to a head injury against ULM. The Warhawks outscored the Razorbacks 27-10 to close out a 34-31 overtime win on Sept. 8. Alabama beat Arkansas 52-0 on Saturday.
436.7 — Yards allowed a game by Arkansas’ defense, which ranks 93rd in the nation. One week after allowing 550 yards to ULM, the Razorbacks surrendered 438 against the Crimson Tide. It included 255 (145 rushing, 110 passing) in the second half.
Arkansas may not be playing the top team in the country Saturday, but the Razorbacks won’t get a break. Rutgers, which is off to a 3-0 start under first-year coach Kyle Flood, travels to Fayetteville to play the Hogs in Razorback Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and the game will be televised by ESPNU.
Rutgers is coming off a 23-13 win in its Big East opener at South Florida, which was played Thursday night. Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison had 41 carries for 151 yards with a 41-yard touchdown. The Scarlet Knights also forced four turnovers.
The game will be the first meeting between the programs. It’s also the first time Arkansas has played a current member of the Big East.
“I know I’m not going to stop working. I’m not going to let the man beside me stop working regardless of what the outcome of this football game was.” — Arkansas DT Alfred Davis, when asked if he’s worried the Razorbacks’ slide won’t end.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau