Coming into Saturday night’s nonconference tilt with the Troy Trojans, the mood of Razorback Nation could best be described with a with an impassioned, Woo, Pig Sooie (WPS).
Now, with a trip to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama on the horizon, legions of the Razorbacks’ (sometimes not so) faithful seem to be experiencing Widespread Panic. (WSP).
After giving up a whopping 457 yards to an underappreciated Sun Belt Conference foe, and seemingly going through the motions to overcome the Troy Trojans 38-28 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium Saturday night, one can understand the angst of the Average Hog Fan.
But, while an early 24-0 Arkansas lead had Hog fans eyeing a pressure-free 42-0 result, anyone U of A fan who says they were expecting a shutout, or anything close to it is, well, blowing smoke.
Here are my deeper thoughts on Arkansas’ Week 3 victory:
What I Saw:
–Arkansas Quarterback Tyler Wilson looked like he had the “Weight of the World” on his shoulders during the second half. Seemingly every shot of the sideline following Arkansas’ 2nd half offensive possessions featured Arkansas Head Coach Bobby Petrino commiserating (READ: berating) Wilson. To his credit, Wilson seemed to hold his own, at times, without being disrespectful.
Petrino has publicly stated that he likes to test his quarterbacks as much as possible so that they will be mentally prepared for the rigors of SEC football—particularly on the road. He isn’t kidding.
Petrino’s seemingly incessant brow-beating of Wilson was so intense that, when Hog fans turned on the Mayweather-Ortiz pay-per-view prize fight after the Hogs win, the postfight interview featuring Floyd Mayweather Jr. and HBO announcer Larry Merchant, by comparison, seemed like a veritable lovefest.
Whether Petrino’s “tough love” will translate into calm nerves for Wilson this Saturday in Tuscaloosa is yet to be determined, but Petrino clearly wants more from his QB and he is not sitting around and waiting for things to change.
–Joe Adams continues to stake a claim as the “go-to-guy” on an offensethat has so many weapons it prides itself on NOT having a “go-to guy.”
When the momentum was completely in Troy’s favor—after the Trojans scored 14 points in 4 plays to trim Arkansas’ lead from 31-7 to 31-21 in a matter of minutes in the 3rd Quarter, there was “Old Joe” —Arkansas senior wide receiver and dazzling playmaker–Joe Adams—putting the Hogs on his back and helping them Climb to Safety a few minutes later.
For once, though, Spread Heads, forget the Widespread Panic songs and lyrics. Old Joe doesn’t move slow. With the ball in his hands, he’s gone faster than The Mississippi Coach can burn three timeouts.
What I Didn’t See:
–The Arkansas defensive line has been widely considered the strength of the unit, but after 3 weeks, the Hogs are still looking for an “Action Man” or two.
To be fair, Trojan QB Corey Robinson is no joke. He is a legitimate playmaker who gets the ball out of his hands quickly. Robinson passed for 3,726 yards last year as a redshirt freshman, including 272 yards and 3 TDs in a 41-38 loss at Oklahoma State.
Named Mr. Football in Kentucky as a high school senior in 2009, Robinson set a national record with a ridiculous 91 touchdown passes and only 4 interceptions during his senior season (that is not a typo).
That said, Troy threw the ball 63 times versus Arkansas. The Hogs, if their DL is as good as advertised, should have been able to tally more than 1 sack and 1 interception in almost six dozen chances.
However, 21st-ranked Clemson, who blew out Troy 43-19 last week after trailing 16-13 at half, (and just ended Auburn’s 17-game winning streak by thumping the War Damn Eagle Tigers 38-24 Saturday), was also only able to muster 1 sack versus Robinson and the Trojans.
That stat has me “Wondering” whether Arkansas’ lack of sacks was, more than anything, a by-product of Troy’s scheme, philosophy and talented QB.
–Arkansas’ cornerbacks were often in position to make plays against Troy, but instead of turning and finding the football, they were “Burned Faceless” as Arkansas allowed 373 passing yards. That has to change Saturday.
Arkansas will likely load the box (ie bring 8 defenders close to the line of scrimmage) to stop Alabama’s rushing game (unless the Hogs do what few are able to do against The Crimson Tide and control the line of scrimmage with their front four). That will leave the onus on Arkansas’ defensive backs to win one-on-one battles with big, physical and fast wide receivers—something they rarely did Saturday night against Troy.
What You May Not Have Seen
–Following its lackluster performance against Troy, the Guys Who Know Things in the Desert are singing a “Dog Song” regarding the Razorbacks. The opening point spread has Alabama as a healthy 12.5 favorite versus Arkansas. Yes, the line is a reflection of what the sports books think they needs to be in order to get an equal number of bets on both teams. But, it still raises concerns for a former gambler who knows that more times than not, the actual score is fairly close to the spread.
–On his weekly coaches show, yesterday, although he did not say it explicitly, Petrino hinted that Tuscaloosa may turn into “Surprise Valley”, Saturday, as he admitted that Arkansas spent a full week of Fall 2-a-day practices preparing for Alabama. On the same show, one Razorback confided that Arkansas has been eyeing this game since last season’s edition of the game in Fayetteville.
–Arkansas was “Travelin’ Light” when it took the field Saturday against Troy. Senior wide receiver, playmaker and Wilson security blanket Jarius Wright missed the game with a minor knee injury but likely would have played if the opponent had been Alabama.
–Fellow senior wide receiver Greg Childs also missed the game after being out of the week’s practices to be with his family following the death of his grandmother. All SEC defensive end Jake Bequette also missed the Troy game because of a hamstring injury.
Wright and Childs should be back for the Alabama game, but Bequette’s status will probably be a gametime decision. Thankfully, Arkansas senior runningback Dennis Johnson returned after missing almost all of last season due to a bowel injury and the first 2 games of this season due to a hamstring injury.
Look for Johnson, who rushed for 20 yards on 5 carries and also had 2 kickoff returns (including a nifty 35-yarder) should get more touches against Alabama, and has proven to be a big-game back.
What I Hope to See in Week 4
–The Arkansas defense needs a have a “Rebirtha” against Alabama. Coming into the Troy game, it had the swagger and the look of a senior-laden unit poised to establish itself as an upper echelon defense. Now, doubts linger, and the biggest bully on the block awaits.
Thankfully, the wait is almost over and the talk will soon be cheap. Saturday’s tilt with Alabama offers a prime “Proving Ground” and the hope that by 6 p.m. Saturday, the Widespread Panic in Razorback Nation will be gone, and Hog fans everywhere will be enjoying “Ribs and
Whiskey”, thinking, “Ain’t Life Grand” and letting out a long, loud, collective Woo Pig Sooie.