Published September 5, 2011 - 7:25am
NEW: Discuss this topic in the Google+ community for SEC fans.
There was never really any doubt which team would win this game. Missouri State limped home with a nice paycheck and several wounds to lick. The Hogs scored on every possession in the first half, and never looked back in a 51-7 route.
This turned out to be a warm-up game for the rest of the season, and one Arkansas receiver put the other teams on the Hogs’ schedule on notice.
The Razorbacks rolled up 466 yards of total offense, and gave up only 163 yards to the Bears. In fact, Missouri St. didn’t have a sustained drive all night long, and the only reason they scored was a fumble by Arkansas QB Brandon Mitchell in Hogs’ territory. The Razorback defensive line lived in the Bears backfield all night long, disrupting play after play, and harassing Mo. St. QB Keirra Harris for most of the night.
The biggest story of this season-opening victory for Arkansas was Sr. wide receiver Joe Adams. Adams only caught one pass for 11 yards, which keeps his streak of games with at least one catch going. But it was Joe’s electrifying punt returns that excited the Razorback Stadium crowd of more than 70,000. Setting a new Arkansas record, Adams returned 6 punts for 174 yards and 2 touchdowns, of 61 and 69 yards.
The 69-yarder was one of the most exciting plays I have seen from a Razorback in the past decade. Arkansas Head Coach Bobby Petrino decided to put two men back for punt returns this season, so Adams and Fr. Marquel Wade were the deep men. When the ball came down, Wade couldn’t find the handle, and it was almost recovered by a Mo. St. defender. But Adams scooped up the pigskin, ran right, then changed his direction to the left, found a wall of blockers, and weaved his way up field and back to his right, slipping a handful of tackles, all the way to the end zone. The crowd erupted. Watch the video here.
Tyler Wilson had a solid night in his first start, completing 18 of 24 passes (75%) for 260 yards and 2 TD with no interceptions. Wilson’s back-up, Soph. Brandon Mitchell had a very good night as well hitting on 10 or his 11 passes (91%) for 104 yards and 1 TD.
Senior Jarius Wright led all receivers with 6 receptions for 108 yards and 2 TD. Cobi Hamilton, who started ahead of a slightly gimpy Greg Childs, caught 3 passes for 38 yards, while Childs had 29 yards on 2 catches.
Ronnie Wingo started the game at running back, and proved to be productive with 11 carries for 43 yards to go with his 3 receptions for 51 yards. Senior De’Anthony Curtis had a solid game rushing the ball as well, with 5 carries for 37 yards (7.4 ypc). Freshman Kody Walker got both of Arkansas’ rushing touchdowns on one yard plunges, finishing with 9 carries for 33 yards.
The Hogs defense was dominant all night, holding the Bears to 18 yards of offense at halftime. For the game, Missouri St finished with 84 yards rushing, and 79 yards passing.
Noseguard Byran Jones and strong safety Elton Ford led Arkansas with 6 tackles each, but it was OLB Alonzo Highsmith Jr that impressed Coach Petrino. Highsmith’s numbers were modest, finishing with 4 tackles, 2 for lost yardage. But for the entire first half, wherever the ball went, you could find Highsmith right there.
Sacks by Jake Bequette, pressure by DT Robert Thomas, middle linebacker Jerry Franklin’s leadership, an interception by Jerico Nelson, and solid coverage by the secondary. All of these factors led to a strong performance by Arkansas’ defense.
Arkansas’ special teams would receive an A- on a grading scale. Joe Adams’ punt returns elevate that ranking of course. Punter Dylan Breeding only had to punt twice all game long. He finished with a 41.0 yards per punt average, with a long of 50 yards. Kicker Zach Hocker was good on his lone field goal attempt of 32 yards, but inexplicably missed one of his extra point kicks, finishing 6 of 7. The kickoff returns totaled 1 for 18 yards by Marquel Wade. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Arkansas put in a little extra work on kickoff and punt coverage this week, after giving up a 15 yard punt return and a 30 yard kick return.
Arkansas can enjoy this victory for a day, but then it’s time to get back to work for the next game. The New Mexico Lobos come calling to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock next Saturday. Kickoff is at 6pm CST. No word yet on which television station will be broadcasting the game, but it will most likely be either CSS or Foxsports Southwest.