Arkansas report card: Hogs' performance marred by fourth quarter collapse
The Hogs were on their way to near perfect day offensively, but bad penalties and questionable play-calling bring this grade down a notch. For much of the game, Arkansas’ offense looked sharp with a good mix of run and play action pass, but in the fourth quarter, the Hogs weren’t able to put the Aggies away. Arkansas accumulated just 63 total yards of offense in the fourth quarter and had three three-and-out drives as well. Overall, it was a strong game for one of the SEC’s highest scoring offenses, but the fourth quarter ineptness cost them greatly.
In an almost uncanny way, the Arkansas defense suffers the same fate as the offense. For nearly three and a half quarters, the Aggies had scored just 14 points and hadn’t accumulated any big plays on offense – a huge accomplishment for the Arkansas secondary. Then, in what seemed like five minutes, Kenny Hill and the Aggies did what they do best – air it out. The sophomore connected with his receivers for two huge passing touchdowns and eventually tied the game up with just two minutes remaining. Still, you have to give credit to Arkansas’ defense. If you polled fans before the game about how many points Arkansas would give up in regulation, I doubt many would have thought as low as 28. The cornerbacks were physical all game and the defensive line rattled Hill early with some significant pressure in the backfield.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
If it wasn’t for John Henson’s missed 44-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to put the Hogs up 10 points, this would have been an A+ performance for the Hogs’ special teams. As bad as Henson’s miss was late in the game, no one can discount the huge fake punt Arkansas ran in the latter portions of the first half. The Hogs made a shrewd audible at the line of scrimmage, duped A&M into rushing the middle and eventually sealed the edges, allowing punter Sam Irwin-Hill all kinds of room on the outside to run. Irwin-Hill showed off some SEC speed, taking it all the way for a touchdown to give the Hogs a seven-point lead at halftime. You would have thought former LSU punter and fellow Aussie Brad Wing had suited up for Arkansas yesterday.
A perfectly executed fake punt on top of a well-called offensive game plan had the Arkansas coaching staff headed for an A or A+, but the dreaded fourth quarter drops them to a B grade. Simply put, it’s unacceptable to lose a 14-point lead with a strong running game like the one Arkansas has out on the field. And even though its the players committing the mistakes, penalties always come back to the coach. For the Hogs to have eight penalties for 76 yards is certainly a far cry from their normal disciplined nature and that’s on the coaching staff. Unfortunately for Bielema and his staff, it probably cost them the victory in a game they should have won.
There’s no doubt about it – Arkansas is lightyears ahead of last season’s team and much farther along in their progression than many anticipated at this point in Bielema’s tenure. Arkansas pushed a Texas A&M team many consider to be a possible playoff team to the brink. It’s obvious that the Hogs will be competitive in every game this season with a real shot to win multiple SEC games. However, it’ll be tough to get taste of yesterday’s implosion out of their mouths for a while. They should have upset the No. 6 Aggies, but failed to shut the door and it eventually cost them. For the Hogs, they move into a bye week before playing Alabama at home, but it sure would have been a much more enjoyable bye week for Bielema and his staff had his team finished off the upset.