Arkansas Review

Arkansas Review

A little over five months ago, Smilin’ Bobby Petrino was riding high around campus with the wind blowing thru his hair and a hot blonde, well, helping him enjoy the ride.  The Hog fans (and Mrs Petrino) were none the wiser as they all happily readied to witness the ultimate rise of Arkansas football.  But, a funny thing happened along the way to the mountain top.  When Petrino mysteriously wrecked his motorcycle, he not only wrecked himself but he simultaneously wrecked the entire Razorback football program.  As a result, the Arkansas team and its fans have now gone completely limp as evidenced by losses to La Monroe and this pathetic performance against Alabama.  I guess “what goes up, must come down” and such is the case with Bobby Petrino’s coaching career and the Arkansas football program.  Cialis, anyone?  I hope the Hogs consulted their physician after the four hours of abuse they took on Saturday – mercy.  One thing is for certain, Arkansas AD Jeff Long certainly won’t be in a bathtub holding hands with John L Smith at the end of the season.  No, I think it’s time for this little piggy to go to market to find himself a new coach…

So, with a lame duck interim coach who had just declared bankruptcy, a starting QB who was declared unfit for duty and a game plan that centered around pretending Wilson might play (no, seriously – I think this was the only plan they had), it wasn’t surprising that the Hogs’ hopes for a victory sailed away with an errant punt snap early in the first quarter.  Once Dylan Breeding went all Landon Donovan on the football by kicking it thru the end zone, he kicked open a Crimson Tidal wave of points that wouldn’t stop until Bama mercifully used a walk-on to run the football.  Had the game continued any longer, Saban would have been forced go into the stands and give jerseys to anyone wishing to participate in the “Running of the Hogs.”  In Pamplona, the running of the bulls ends in a slaughter and, oddly enough, in Fayetteville the running of the hogs ends the same way.  Bacon anyone?  Or, do you prefer Dreamland?  Well, however you like to dine on your swine, let’s see what’s cooking……….in the Notes!

Alabama on Offense

What a nightmarish day for new Bama Offensive Coordinator Doug Nussmeier.  I mean, how do you choose a play when EVERYTHING works?  Running plays went for five yards a pop.  Passing plays went for ten yards per attempt.  The starters scored.  The second string scored.  The third string scored.  And, each time he put the play sheet down, he had to pick it right back up again because the Bama D caused another turnover.  Coach Nuss even put in Blake Sims and the simple “zone read” running play and yet he went untouched up the middle of the Arkansas defense and into the end zone from 27 yards out.  As predicted, this was all possible because the offensive line came out with a nasty disposition bent on  sending the little piggies crying all the way home.  The OL was so effective even walk-on Ben Howell averaged 3 yards per carry!  Folks this wasn’t Dixie Howell – it was Ben Howell at the moon!  Oooh.  Pig.  Shooey.

After experiencing a less than stellar day against WKU, Alabama spent Saturday working on getting back to the basics of the Saban offensive philosophy – a balanced offense predicated on good ‘ole ground and pound.  The Tide offense started slowly but once it gained momentum, Coach Nuss could have let Big Al spin the playbook Wheel of Fortune and it would have been just as effective.  Alabama gained 213 yards passing and 225 rushing and inserted the reserves with over 5 minutes to play in the third quarter.  No matter what they did, everything worked and it resulted in the largest victory Alabama has had over an SEC opponent since 1948 (55-0 over AU).

Silver Lining:  I won’t give the OL the gold medal but they certainly get a silver medal for giving up zero sacks this week.  Only a poor performance by DJ Fluker kept this from being a gold medal effort of lining the Bama pocket.  DJ continues to struggle in pass protection (and he whiffed numerous times in the run game as well) and he was beaten badly both inside and outside.  On the inside rush, AJ was able to hit Yeldon quickly out of the backfield.  But, on the outside rush, AJ had to try to throw it to his mom in the stands.  This has been a consistent issue and is something to watch in the upcoming games.  DANGER Will Robinson!

Ground and Pound:  Some of the blocking in the running game was absolutely textbook.  Chance Warmack had a tremendous game both at point of attack and as a pulling guard – he was awesome and overpowered everyone in his way.  Barrett Jones had a fantastic game as well.  They successfully were able to turn their defenders and pancake them to allow our backs to run for five to ten yards before experiencing the first contact.  Once they got their timing down, it became a lot of fun to watch.  Gary and Verne actually laughed as Lacy rushed in virtually untouched for a 10 yard TD past the flattened Hogs.  You know, I think only Jessica Dorrell spent more time on her back than the Arky defenders…

Click, Click, Boom:  Eddie Lacy looked mighty, mighty good Saturday.  On his first TD run, he hit two Arky defenders at the four yard line and drove them backwards.  A third Hog had the audacity to hit him at the one yard line but Lacy simply knocked him and his two buddies into the end zone for a TD.  Perhaps his best run was on a play that was nullified by a holding penalty.  Somehow, Eddie was able to hurdle a defender AND powerfully flatten a second defender who made the poor choice to come up and tackle him.  While the burst isn’t all the way back, the power certainly is.

The Youngest Ones in Curls:  AJ found DeAndrew White, Kenny Bell, Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood all day on simple curl routes.  My favorite:  after hitting big Michael Williams on a hot route in the flat, Bama ran the same pattern once again a few plays later.  This time, the Arkansas LB rushed out to defend Williams which, naturally, opened up a huge throwing lane to Norwood.  Great read by AJ.  The W2W4 told you that the Hogs played their DBs way off the WRs and this was evident all day long, particularly on the curls.  Only a Norwood drop made this a less than perfect day for the WRs.

Hot Stuff:  By my count, AJ audibled (HOT ROUTE!) on three occasions that resulted in big plays.  The first was the aforementioned hot route to Williams.  Later, he checked to a run play that resulted in an 11 yard run for Eddie Lacy.  The best, though, was an audible to throw a quick hitch to Amari Cooper which allowed Christion Jones to get out in front and level the poor little piggie who stood in the way.  The result was a TD pass to Cooper on a sweet play!

Jesse the Body:  Mt Cody meet Mt Aussie!  Big, badJesse Williams got his chance to play the role of Mt Cody as the fullback in the heavy goal line look.  Sure, Jesse ran the wrong way but he took three Razorbacks with him which allowed Eddie Lacy to walk in.  Later, Bama had another goal line situation and he wasn’t out there so I kinda wonder if the staff was a little miffed about him going the wrong way. 

Backup Singers:  As we’ve said before, if AJ were to go down for any length of time, you’ll likely see a Phillip Ely and Blake Sims duet.  I LOVE the zone read look that Sims gives us and each time he’s come into the game he’s either freed himself or Kenyan Drake for a TD.  This week Sims’ ball fake on the zone read fooled all 11 Arkansas defenders, the announcers and the CBS camera crew and it allowed him to waltz thru the middle of the Arkansas defense untouched for a 27 yard TD run.

Shake and Drake, Baby, Shake and Drake:  That little stop and start move that Drake has is ridiculous and I’m officially calling it the Shake and Drake!  Nasty!  I guess he was the Gatorade player of the year in Georgia for a reason, eh?  If you need to find a reason to watch the FAU game, Shake and Drake is a good enough reason to me.  Boy is he fun to watch!

Alabama on Defense

I truly believe the ENTIRE Arkansas game plan revolved around making Saban think that Tyler Wilson was going to play.  Arkansas coach John L Smith had Wilson go thru the charade of putting on his pads, his jersey and his helmet and even asked him to pitch the pigskin around during warm ups.  OH NO – Wilson is gonna play?  And then – HA, he’s not playing!  Gotcha!  Ok, John L – now what?  Um.  I don’t know.  Currently I’m on the phone with a bankruptcy attorney who is telling me I need to find some way to keep my job.  What?  Too late????  Damn….

If anyone can please tell me what the Arkansas game plan was, I’d truly be interested in hearing it.  It’s incredibly hard to sit down and write-up an accurate review when, in all honesty, there’s simply not much to talk about from the Arkansas side of the ball.  I mean, you try writing about a three-year old trying to knock down a wall with a Q-tip.  It was like we were all stuck in season three on Lost when absolutely nothing happened for an entire season – you kept waiting for an “a ha” moment but there never was one.  “Lost” probably best describes the Arkansas offense….and defense….and punter….and fan base.  It’s got to suck to be an Arkansas fan right about now…

Muther Hubbard:  Ha – I kinda like that one because Adrian Hubbard is one bad mutha.  He recorded a sack and spent quite a bit of time in the Hogs’ backfield.  He’s special and so much fun to watch.  He’s a key reason Alabama has not been scored upon in the last NINE quarters.

This is Not Barney Stinson:  Big Ed Stinson wants to be, wait for it, Legendary and he quietly continues to show up on film each and every Saturday.  There’s a reason no one can run on Bama and he’s a big part of it.

I’m Your Handy Man:  You know, I think this may be the best set of hands the secondary has ever had.  Think about it.  Milliner is a return specialist, as is Belue.  Clinton-Dix, Lester and Sunseri all have good hands as well.  This crew may set a record or two this season for picks.  As it stands, Bama is plus 11 in turnover ratio and that’s in large part to this group.

Belue Bayou:  I can’t tell you how impressed I am with Deion Belue’s ability to lay the wood.  For a kid who was knocked as a hitter, each week he’s showing why he’s one of our starting corners.

Twilight Zone:  CBS did a fantastic job of showing how a Nick Saban zone is different from your average zone.  Vinnie Sunseri lined up across from an Arky WR in the slot and appeared to be in man to man.  As the WR crossed and entered the middle of the field, Vinnie released from him and picked up another WR who was crossing into his zone.  Vinnie gets the Golden Earring as he baited the Hogs’ QB into the throw – a textbook example of how difficult a Nick Saban zone defense can be to read.

Off the Leash:  I love watching the young pups on defense get some playing time.  Pagan, Pettway and Devall (boy is he fast off the edge or what?) looked particularly good as did Tyler Hayes. 

Alabama on Special Teams

If you haven’t guessed it by now, I’m a Cade Foster fan.  And, if you don’t like it, Cade will come over and bench press your car and then throw it into your attic.  The kid sure has some guns on him!  Of course, that hasn’t helped his kicking much.  He was pretty good as a freshman but then he fell off drastically last year.  I don’t know if Cade spent some time with Dan Marino (LACES OUT, DAN!), the Rockettes, or if he visited the famed kicking Grammaticas in the off-season but baby’s got a new pair of shoes this year.  Foster pumped out eight touchbacks on Saturday which was three more than Alabama had all of last season.  For those of you who want to knock him for missing his 52 yard field goal, consider these little facts.  First, he’d already hit a 51 yarder earlier in the game which made him the first Bama kicker since 2008 to connect on two 50+ field goals in the same season (he hit a 51 yarder against Michigan).  Second, the 52 yarder hit nearly halfway up the upright – he crushed it…on a slick field…in a heavy downpour…on the road.  It was such a good day for Cade, the only kickoff that wasn’t a touchback resulted in a fumble that he, himself, recovered!  What a day!

It wasn’t quite the same kind of day for Cody Mandell who suddenly found himself punting like Howie Mandel once again.  I’m hoping this is just an aberration because he killed it during the first two games.

By the way, it took me a few tries but I figured out who delivered the hit of the game.  If you go back to Christion Jones’ first punt return, Clinton-Dix destroyed some poor dude that was twice his size.  I’m guessing he said “Ha Ha” as he stood over him!

Looking Ahead

As we said earlier in the week, with the exception of LSU, Alabama’s main opponent each Saturday will be Alabama.  In fact, with all due respect to the Tide’s future opponents, Alabama’s toughest competition likely comes during the week against their own scout team – no, I’m not kidding.  With talent oozing out of every position, Alabama appears so much bigger, stronger, faster and deeper than anyone else they line up against. 

So, how can Alabama get beat?  Committing seven penalties for 74 yards is one way to get beat.  Contributing turnovers to your opponent would be another way.  And, of course, giving up six sacks or getting your starting QB hurt could permanently derail this Miami bound train.  Later this week, we’ll take an in-depth look at what could possibly derail the A-Train but, for now, it looks like it begins with Alabama…and ends with a trip to Baton Rouge.

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