The Matchup: Arkansas vs Missouri State
When: September 3, 2011
Where: Fayetteville, Arkansas
Game Time: 7:00pm PM EST
TV: PPV / ESPN GamePlan (outside Arkansas)
The Razorbacks begin the 2011 season with a home game on Saturday, September 3 at Reynolds-Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. The Mo. State Bears are a member of the Missouri Valley Conference in the NCAA Div. I-AA, or FCS. The Hogs have never lost to Missouri St, and all indications are that they won’t lose this contest either. In fact, Arkansas should win this game easily, with many second and third teamers logging playing time in the second half. With Arkansas coming off a 10-3 season and a Sugar Bowl appearance, and the Bears finishing 5-6 in 2010, many are saying this could end up being a scrimmage game for the Hogs, as they completely out-class MSU in every way.
What You Need To Know About Missouri State:
Offensively, the Bears return 5 starters for a unit that averaged 425.5 yards (214.2 rushing & 211.3 passing ) and 30.4 points per game. Mo. State’s top two rushers are back in Sr. Chris Douglas (152 att. 1,051 yards 11 TD) and Sr. Stephen Johnston (147 att. 752 yards 5 TD). But the Bears may find it tough going on the ground this season after losing four starting linemen from 2010 to graduation. MSU also returns their top two receivers from last year in Sr. Jermaine Saffold (53 rec. 869 yards 5 TD) and Jr. Cadarrius Dotson (38 rec. 495 yards 1 TD). The big question is, who will be throwing the ball to them. Gone is leading passer and third leading rusher Cody Kirby at QB. The only quarterback with any game experience is Soph. Trevor Wooden, who saw very limited action in 2010.
As depleted as the offense might seem, it’s the Missouri State defense that looks to be the weak link for the Bears this year. After giving up 438.1 yards and 34 points per game in 2010 (281.5 through the air), the defensive unit also lost 6 starters. Sr. NG Mikel Ruder returns, but has been moved to DE in the Bears 3-4 scheme. Both starters at End from last season are gone. Only one starter returns in the linebacker ranks, in Sr. David Ingram. The secondary took a hit as well when both starting safeties used up their eligibility. Some good news though, is that both cornerbacks return in Soph. Howard Scarborough and Sr. Jimmie Strong. The bad news is that they are not very big, measuring in at 5’9” and 5’10” respectively.
MSU special teams weren’t that special last year either, and there is no reason to think they will improve much for 2011. Senior placekicker Jordan Chiles is back, but he only hit 38% of his field goal attempts (5 of 13) for the season. Sophomore Austin Witmer was a bit better (6 of 9 for 67%) in limited action. The two kickers combined to make only two attempts from 40+ yards on the year. Chiles is also the punter, averaging a respectable 38.3 yards per punt. The Bears had no kicks returned for a TD, but they did block a punt that was recovered for 6 points.
What You Need To Know About Arkansas:
This will be the initial proving ground for Arkansas’ new offensive line, which will feature 3 new starters, not to mention a new running back since Knile Davis is out for the season with that broken ankle. Who will start, Ronnie Wingo or Dennis Johnson? Will they be able to run the ball? Will the Line perform as everyone hopes? This will also be QB Tyler Wilson’s first start as the field general for the Hogs. Head Coach Bobby Petrino may leave Wilson in longer than one would think in order to get him as many reps as possible. Fans can expect to see a number of new receivers late in this game.
Mo. State may not be a high powered offense, but this will also be a first indicator as to just how good this veteran defense might be in 2011. I fully expect the defensive front for the Hogs to dominate this game. One player on the interior line that viewers might want to keep an eye on is Soph. DT Robert Thomas (6’3” 310 lbs. 5.0). Thomas is a Juco transfer, and has wowed coaches almost every day in practice with his explosiveness, strength, quickness, and never-ending motor. As of right now, he has supplanted last year’s starter Dequinta (D. D.) Jones at DT. The Razorbacks second team defense should do most of the work in the second half. Arkansas fans will get to see a number of Hogs play in this game, including some touted freshmen in DE Lonnie Gosha, LB Braylon Mitchell, and CB Tevin Mitchel.
With Arkansas’ superior size, speed, talent, and depth, the Hogs (as long as they are mentally prepared for the game) should waltz to an easy victory over the hapless Bears of Missouri State.