Bobby Petrino is not a dummy when it comes to game strategy. Over the course of the last three weeks, the Hogs have had the ability to test their weaknesses in each game.
Missouri State: Testing Offensive Passing
The Missouri State game was the first opportunity for Arkansas to learn its passing game against a real opponent and to test how well it functioned. As the Offensive line meshed together for the first time in real action, their play was a very important learning experience in pass protection because they must work well together in order for Arkansas to succeed this year.
The Hogs threw for 364 passing yards between Wilson (18/24 260 yards 2 TDs) and Mitchell (10/11 104 yards 1 TD) as they spread it out to ELEVEN different receivers. Arkansas’ rushing attack had very little impact even though the backs quietly picked up 104 yards rushing on the night. Wingo had 11 carries for 43 yards for a nice 3.9 average while De’Anthony Curtis picked up 37 yards on 5 carries himself. Kody Walker showed he could carry the load on the goal line with 2 TDs on 9 carries as well as 33 yards.
The defense wasn’t really pressured at all this game. Missouri State’s lone points came at the end of the third quarter against the 2nd string defense.
Joe Adams returned 2 kicks for TDs as he proved to be a terrible threat to anyone trying to punt.
New Mexico: Spreading the Love
Coach Petrino seemed to be looking for everyone to get game time experience against the Lobos as most of the bench played. Arkansas’ first string exited early in the 3rd quarter to allow depth players and young players some time against an actual opponent.
EIGHTEEN different playmakers ended up in either a rush/receiving column against New Mexico. Joe Adams also emerged as a RB option for Bobby Petrino as Joe ran 2 carries for 33 yards. Once again in the passing game, Wilson and Mitchell dominated the stat sheet with 478 Total Yards and 4 TDs between the two of them. 10 different WRs picked up a catch while 5 different RBs had a carry.
The defense didn’t get much of a challenge again as the first string left the game in the 3rd quarter. Young guys and depth players saw a lot of action late in the game.
Troy: Defensive Plan
The Trojans were the first test for the defense. Troy’s QB Corey Robinson threw for 3700+ yards as a freshman last season. The Razorbacks’ offense also learned to dig deep into the depth chart as Arkansas’ top two WRs Childs and Wright missed the game, Childs to be with his family upon his grandmother’s passing and Wright with a knee injury. The offensive line also had its first test against a stronger defensive front.
On offense, Petrino looked to establish Ronnie Wingo early on with the running game. Wingo responded with a nice scamper into the end zone early in the game for a touchdown. Wingo appeared to turn to his old ways quite a bit but still showed quite a few instances of knowing the right thing to do. He seemed to learn a lot against Troy. Dennis Johnson looked great and played well when allowed to stay in for more than 1 play at a time. I am expecting to see a lot of him in the very near future.
Young and inexperienced WRs also saw a lot of playing time. Horton, Wade, and Herndon saw significant playing time early on. Adams (8 Rec 109 yards 1 TD), Hamilton (5 Rec 82 yards), and Gragg (4 Rec 68 yards) all shined in the end though.
The offensive line looked pretty good in the first half. However, in the second half, they struggled deeply to keep Tyler Wilson from getting hit in the backfield. Despite a mix of inexperience and laziness, they corrected their mistakes in the 4th quarter. As for Wilson, he had some bad decisions throughout the game and needs work. His play this week is definitely an area of concern.
Troy’s spread offense was supposed to challenge Arkansas’ defense, and the Hogs knew as much coming into this game. Troy QB Corey Robinson threw 63 passes for the game. In the first half, Arkansas looked decent, allowing 223 yards on 4/8 3rd down conversions and only giving up 7 points. However, Troy missed an easy 3-point opportunity as their kicker sailed a 31-yard FG wide right. In the second half, the defense completely fell apart for a while as they seemed to become lazy. The Hog defense did not appear to be trying, and their performance had nothing to do with being tired or being incapable of stopping the Troy offense. In the 4th quarter, just like the Hog O-line, the defense woke up and started playing again to end Troy’s run.
Future of 2011 Season
What is in store for the rest of the 2011 season, you ask? Well, Arkansas will come out a lot stronger than most people think against Alabama (-13) and may surprise a lot of people who marked them off the BCS list due to the Knile Davis injury.
Rewatching these games, you will find very little out of Petrino’s main offensive playbook. We have seen many different schemes that we would not normally see in an SEC game throughout these past 3 games. We also have seen quite a few signs of things to come. Joe Adams has been lining up as RB for the first time in his college career. Dennis Johnson and Greg Childs have been sitting quietly, waiting and learning. We have NOT seen anything YET as far as offense is concerned. O-line still needs tweaking but will come together soon.
Arkansas defense has been shown as advertised. Our defense is still very opportunistic in nature and will give up yards. However, in the offensive nature of Arkansas, a “bend and not break” philosophy can work with the right players. Willy Robinson loves his Tampa Two coverage and will stick close to it throughout the season. I continue to believe that our defense has come together enough for us to achieve high dreams this season.