While only a few things have gone right for Arkansas, the chic pick this past offseason to make major noise in the SEC West, a rare road win against its East Division counterpart, Tennessee, may be exactly what the doctor ordered for the reeling Razorbacks.
After all, I heard about a million times in the offseason how the winner of this tilt would hold the key as it was thought to be a battle between two teams poised to take over the mightiest conference of all after posting 7-6 records the previous season.
Both teams were lead by third-year coaches with a ton to prove to fan bases starved for success after wetting their appetites with wins in lower-tier bowl games. While UT’s hype was more of a product of solid recruiting meeting fans’ expectations, Arkansas managed to completely dismantle a couple of ranked SEC foes in back-to-back shutout wins toward the end of the season.
But what the media and fans failed to realize was that Arkansas would more than likely have to switch its identity as a stout defensive team to one led by the offense after losing many key players on defense to graduation and early entry into the NFL draft.
And while it was feasible that a veteran-laden, and talented, offensive unit could pace the Hogs to the upper-echelon of the conference, it was highly unlikely, as SEC winners usually have the defensive side as their linchpin. (At least the ones with sustained success.) Not to mention that Arkansas would be breaking in a new offensive coordinator at a crucial time in this regime’s time on the hill.
But even with all that said, the season is still young and Arkansas has a prime chance to make a ton of noise. It has to be feeling confident about the 24-20 victory over the Vols.
But the play that put the Vols on ice really stood out for me as a combination of great play-calling and execution.
With the Vols down 24-20, clinging to one timeout with about 2:15 left, they desperately needed a stop on third-and-2 to have a modicum of hope at winning. After being dominated with a ferocious between-the-tackles rushing attack, which saw the Hogs’ tandem of Alex Collins and Rawleigh Williams III both top the century mark, it was a play designed at getting the Hogs out in space that had the biggest impact at the moment of truth.
(Click here to read why I believed the Hogs’ run game would shine despite the preseason loss of its best running back.)
And it was truly beautiful to see.
This particular play is a variant of the old 90-flip play designed by former St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Mike Martz back in the Greatest-Show-On-Turf era of the late ’90s/early 2000s. Arkansas OC Dan Enos did a great job, conceptually, of forcing the defense’s hand by bluffing your basic Power play with a pull from the opposite guard (and a lead from the fullback).
It’s been long noted that if you want to be a great play-action team, you must pull your guards. The rest of the line did a great job of sealing the action, and the Hogs were provided the benefit of the unblocked defender, edge defender Corey Vereen, biting with back-side pursuit.
This left Collins, who originally sold the Power but hit them with a counter step, with only the approaching safety to beat out in space; it looked too easy.
The Toss-Counter is an underused space eater for teams with a vast amount of Power concepts. It was great to see it unleashed at a crucial point in the game as a counter to the inside work.
Now the Hogs receive the chance to make people forget about those earlier losses as they travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the University of Alabama.
I hope to see more timely calls like this one.