Arkansas football: Defense huge again as Razorbacks continue to defy expectations
Alabama couldn’t slow down the Ole Miss offense, so why should Arkansas be able to?
As little sense as it might make, that’s exactly what happened Saturday. The Razorbacks yielded little all afternoon en route to a 33-21 victory against the Rebels.
As they defy expectations, Arkansas is starting to make a habit of causing quarterbacks coming off explosive weeks to come down to reality. Matt Corral was the latest victim.
Corral passed for 365 yards and 2 touchdowns in a shootout against Alabama before facing Arkansas. He threw 6 interceptions against the Razorbacks, including 2 that were returned for touchdowns.
One of those happened to be the game-sealing play. Ole Miss had a chance to take the lead, trailing 26-21 with just more than 3 minutes to play. Two plays into the drive, Corral threw another interception to Arkansas’ Grant Morgan. He took it all the way back to secure the victory.
This pick-6 on the game winning drive. Arkansas STAND UP pic.twitter.com/UJG2V8WquW
— MyBookie CFB (@MyBookieCFB) October 17, 2020
The defense made plays like that all afternoon. Razorbacks cornerback Hudson Clark will have a strong case for defensive player of the week after coming away with 3 interceptions. He is a walk-on. That’s the type of season Arkansas is having.
Receiver Treylon Burks also shined in his return from a knee injury, securing a one-handed touchdown grab that ended up on many highlight reels throughout the day.
Arkansas WR Treylon Burks with an absurd touchdown catch. pic.twitter.com/ZGFSknPhKN
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) October 17, 2020
Burks finished with 11 catches for 137 yards and the touchdown. He added a weapon that Feleipe Franks had missed the past couple of weeks and showed that this offense might not have reached its potential yet.
But attributing the victory to anything but the defense would be unfair. It’s something that is starting to become a trend with Barry Odom as the defensive coordinator, as the Razorbacks have sneakily been among the top half of defenses in the SEC through four games.
Granted, their opponents outside of Georgia are a combined 4-8 so far, but the defense — and team — is clearly far better than it ever was during the past two seasons. The Razorbacks are 2-2 and would be 3-1 if not for a botched call late against Auburn.
At some point, they are no longer a surprise. That might be now.
The defense already turned in a performance like this in Arkansas’ first win. Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello entered that matchup fresh off an SEC-record 623 yards and 5 touchdowns against LSU. The Razorbacks held him to 313 yards and forced 3 interceptions.
Auburn’s Bo Nix passed for just 187 yards against the Razorbacks last week.
Arkansas has a bye next week before a matchup with Kellen Mond and Texas A&M. That suddenly doesn’t seem as scary as it did a month ago, when the Razorbacks were still in the midst of the worst SEC losing streak in school history.
That streak is now long gone, and with the victory Saturday, the home losing streak is, too.
The Razorbacks have a tough road ahead. They are still facing what athletic director Hunter Yurachek dubbed the most difficult schedule in college football history, with games against Florida and Alabama also in the future.
So grabbing more victories is only going to get more difficult. But there are games such as Missouri, LSU and Tennessee that could be winnable.
The Razorbacks are already past where we thought they’d be this year. How much further can they go?