SDS recaps every team’s 2013 regular season:
- Alabama: It all came down to the Iron Bowl
- Arkansas: More SEC-ready athletes wanted
- Auburn: Malzahn orchestrates the biggest turnaround in college football
- Florida: Gators welcome a philosophical change on offense
- Georgia: Injuries and lackluster defense halted championship run
- Kentucky: It all starts with the quarterback
- LSU: Defensive personnel losses just too much
- Mississippi State: Strong finish will carry momentum into 2014
- Missouri: Respect was earned in 2013
- Ole Miss: Despite disappointing finish, Rebels on pace for breakout 2014
- South Carolina: Tennessee loss crushed championship dreams
- Tennessee: Vols just need more athletes
- Texas A&M: Defensive struggles overshadowed explosive offense
- Vanderbilt: Fresh ink all over the football record book
Final Record: 3-9 overall, 0-8 SEC
2013 was a tough first year for head coach Bret Bielema. The Hogs won just three total games and finished 0-8 in SEC play for the first time in history, including a nine-game losing streak to close out the season. Although they never quit, there were times I’m sure several wanted to.
The Hogs started 3-0 with three decent showings against very bad teams, but things got real – as expected – on the road trip to Rutgers. Had the Rutgers game been won, the Hogs would have carried a 4-0 start and added momentum into SEC play. Things could have been different.
Arkansas had the fourth best rushing offense in conference play, running for an average of 190 yards per game behind freshman Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams and a beefy offensive line. But the passing game was brutal, averaging just 147 yards per game in league play. The Hogs threw just eight touchdowns the entire season in league play, compared to 10 INTs. That won’t win many games. Brandon Allen completed less than 50 percent of his passes on the season, and only one Hog in senior Javontee Herndon had more than 30 catches with 31. It wasn’t all Allen’s fault. Receivers dropped multiple passes and couldn’t get open much throughout the season. There’s a lack of playmakers on the outside for the Hogs.
The Hogs had SEC-caliber players in the front four. With bookends Chris Smith and Trey Flowers, along with tackles Bryan Jones, Robert Thomas and freshman Darius Philon, they competed well in trenches. The Hogs finished third in sacks with 28. However, there’s a noticeable lack of size at linebacker, and it killed the Hogs when trying to stop opponents’ running games. And much like last year, the secondary play was forgettable at times. Arkansas gave up 25 passing touchdowns on the season, the second most in the SEC behind Texas A&M.
Special teams play wasn’t bad at all. The Hogs finished fourth in the SEC in punting behind Sam Irwin-Hill and finished seventh in field goals behind Zach Hocker.
Here’s a look at the team stats:
|Category (SEC rank)|
|Scoring Offense||20.7 PPG (12th)|
|Rushing Offense||208.67 YPG (4th)|
|Passing Offense||148.5 YPG (14th)|
|Total Offense||357.2 YPG (11th)|
|Scoring Defense||30.8 PPG (12th)|
|Rushing Defense||178.42 YPG (11th)|
|Passing Defense||235 YPG (11th)|
|Total Defense||413.4 YPG (10th)|
One that got away: Two games stood out as the two that got away, and neither is the overtime loss to MSU. That one was obvious. The Hogs started 3-0 with wins against LA-Lafayette, Samford and Southern Miss, but a road trip loss to Rutgers killed the momentum. The Hogs had the Scarlet Knights 24-7 with less than eight minutes left in the fourth. Rutgers scored three unanswered touchdowns to win it 28-24. It was a gut-wrenching blow to the Hogs. The second game that got away came against LSU. The Hogs once again had the lead 27-21 heading into the fourth quarter. In fact, they had the same lead with under five minutes left in the game, and then freshman QB Anthony Jennings drove the Tigers 99 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with a little over minute left.
Offensive Stud: There were two in running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. Collins was the SEC’s Freshman of the Year, as he rushed for 1,026 yards and four touchdowns, and Williams was right behind him with 900 yards and four touchdowns. If the coaching staff can haul in some recruits to complement the running game, Arkansas will be in business.
Defensive Stud: Bookends Trey Flowers and Chris Smith were special all season. Flowers racked up 13.5 tackles for loss and five sacks, while Smith registered 11.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. Smith started off red hot but cooled down the stretch, and he graduates this year. Arkansas hopes they get Flowers for another season.
What’s next: Bielema needs consistency and continuity, meaning he has to keep his coaching staff together for at least another season. The Hogs must also get more SEC-caliber players in the system. They need more size at linebacker, and they need SEC-ready corners and safeties who are difference makers on defense. The Hogs also need to complement the running game with a passing game. There’s a lack of impact players at receiver. There’s much work to be done in Fayetteville, but Bielema’s proven track record should encourage fans it should get done. A bowl game in 2014 is a must.
Photo Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports