5 reasons Arkansas has struggled in 2015
Arkansas at Tennessee on Saturday is a game for which most of us have been waiting months. SEC West up-and-comer versus SEC East up-and-comer. That was the thinking at July’s SEC Media Days, anyway.
Not so much now. Both teams are struggling. Arkansas is 1-3. Tennessee 2-2. It’s still a game Saturday everyone wants to watch, but it’s getting closer to sheer curiosity than entertainment value.
That said, Arkansas shows occasional signs of turning things around. It’s a whole mess of little things that have spoiled the early results. Here are the top five.
Take the names away and just think about this. If I said your favorite team was going to be without its leading returning rusher, a 1,000-yard guy; its leading returning receiver, a senior and good friends with the quarterback; and its second- and fourth-leading returning receivers, too, how would you figure said team would do? They’d probably struggle to win, right? That’s what’s happening. Jonathan Williams was lost for the year in fall camp. Keon Hatcher was lost after one game. Cody Hollister after two. Jared Cornelius after three. Adjustments have taken time and will take more. It’s been hard starting behind the eight ball.
Paired with those injuries, largely the loss of Williams, it has been difficult for the Razorbacks to determine just who they were on offense. Last year Arkansas had a top 30 rushing attack and a top 100 passing one. This year quarterback Brandon Allen threw for more than 300 yards, including one 400-yard effort, in each of the team’s first two games. The running game had 182 and 103 in those same two games. One was a win against UTEP. The other a loss to Toledo. The balance was far better against Texas A&M, though, and this struggle seems to be fading.
This struggle though, seems to be getting worse. The total number of Hogs penalties has gone six, nine, five, 11. Arkansas is the most penalized team in the SEC. And isn’t just the sheer number, it’s the timing. At least four different occasions has the team had an opportunity to tie or take the lead been wiped out because of an infraction. Even if everything else cleans up, this, more than any other, can frustrate possible wins.
In continuing theme of one struggle begetting another, those penalties have hurt Arkansas in this area, too. The Razorbacks have been in the red zone 18 times. Good enough to be middle of the SEC pack. They’ve scored on 12 of those tries, a clip of 66 percent. That’s second to last in the league, behind Vanderbilt. When it comes to touchdowns, not just overall scoring which counts field goals, too, Arkansas is slightly better at 11th of the 14 teams in the SEC.
Allen and coach Bret Bielema are 0-10 in games decided by 10 points or less in the three years the head coach has been at Arkansas. They’ve never come from behind in a fourth quarter to win a game and have squandered fourth-quarter leads more than a handful of times. Allen has drawn the fan base’s ire for his continual fourth-quarter struggles. If it doesn’t get fixed, he’ll go down as the best two-conference-wins quarterback the school has ever seen.