The Arkansas Razorbacks may still be a Top 25 team at some point during the year or by the time the last regular season game has been played, but after Week 2 the Hogs are no longer worthy of the consideration needing to fine tune several aspects of the basics quickly.
In Week 1, Arkansas warmed up against UTEP racking up 490 yards of total offense. In Week 2 against Toledo, same kind of story, 513 total yards of offense except one thing was missing in both contests by the Hogs, a running game.
The stat line was deceiving against UTEP. The Hogs had 182 rushing yards against the Miners but one rush before halftime by Alex Collins covered 70 yards. The final rushing numbers show a 5.4 yard per carry average. Right where most college football team would want to be. Take away Collins long rush that did not go for a score or set up a score, thus was truly meaningless, the Hogs actually averaged 3.39 yards per carry.
Against Toledo the Arkansas rushing attack was finally exposed. The Rockets held Arkansas to 104 yards on the ground off 31 attempts for an average of 3.4 yards per carry. Collins had 54 rushing yards leading the way against Toledo off 20 carries, a 2.7 yard per carry average. The skewed stats in Week 1 had Collins averaging 11.2 yards per carry totaling 127 yards off 12 totes with one score.
In 2014 Arkansas was No. 24 in the nation in total rushing yards averaging 218 per game. Collins had a 5.4 yard per carry average and now injured tailback Jonathan Williams sported a 5.6 yard per carry average.
What Went Wrong?
In theory Arkansas should have picked up where they left off on the ground game. The Hogs returned four starters up front losing only right tackle Brey Cook to graduation. The reality is there are several differences but hopefully not all is lost with a little bit of tinkering.
With Cook gone Denver Kirkland slid over from right guard to left tackle pushing Dan Skipper to right tackle from left tackle. Mitch Smothers is still holding down the center position, and Sebastian Tretola is still at left guard. Frank Ragnow has taken over the right guard spot. Due to the lack of push up front in between the tackles maybe moving Kirkland back to guard would help the Hogs get better push off the ball in the middle? However, the trouble with a potential move is Kirkland left the Toledo contest in the fourth quarter with an unspecified arm injury.
The other glaring problem is not having Jonathan Williams on the field creating a one-two punch to help wear down the opposing defense by the second half. Junior tailback Kody Walker got five carries against Toledo, and third-team running back Rawleigh Williams recorded one rush. More help is needed to keep Collins fresh for late in the game.
In 2014 when Arkansas was running all over everyone in the SEC, one thing they were not doing is passing the ball, at least not well. Brandon Allen was the victim of a lack of creativity and common sense with former offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Now Dan Enos is the offensive coordinator and has brought his offensive bag of tricks with him.
In the past two games Allen, a third-year senior starter, has set career-highs in consecutive games passing for 308 yards against UTEP and 412 against Toledo. Against the Miners the 14-for-18 performance translated into four touchdowns. Against the Rockets, Allen completed 32-of-53 passes with a nice 60 percent completing percentage but could not find the end zone when it counted overthrowing tight end Hunter Henry on the would-be game winning drive on third down and clanking the final pass of the game on fourth down off the crossbar.
Allen has thrown for 720 yards in the first two games of the season, an Arkansas opening two-game record. The Hogs do not have the talent on the outside for Allen to keep up a 360 yard per game passing average through SEC play.
In Allen’s defense, Arkansas, unofficially but easily, had at least five dropped passes. Two other plays changed the complexion of the game dramatically against Toledo, a called back punt return for a touchdown and a called back Alex Collins run for a touchdown. Both plays were negated by penalties, another problem area for the Razorbacks but both plays would have offered a different outcome, more than likely, to the game, but the problems still persist.
The Hogs are young up and down the roster but have enough talent to have an 8-4 kind of season if a few things are corrected. If Brandon Allen is called upon to win games by himself in the SEC, the Hogs will be in for a long season.
Entering his third year in Fayetteville, head coach Bret Bielema has not won a SEC road game. Allen has also not won a SEC road game as the team’s starting quarterback. Arkansas has road games against Tennessee, Alabama, Ole Miss, and LSU this year making 8-4 a tough go as things currently stand for the Razorbacks.
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.