Rashad Madden and Moses Kingsley preview the ...
Arkansas vs. Texas A&M Review
Key matchup Arkansas pass rush with defensive end Chris Smith (42) and coverage vs. the Mississippi State passing game.
FAYETTEVILLE The Hogs dropped their conference opener under Bret Bielema, 45-33 to Texas A&M. The defense was predictably shredded, but the offense showed some new plays and some impressive meddle in the loss. Brandon Allen looks like a veteran starter, and it’s clear the offense is significantly better with him on the field.
Brandon Allen: Allen’s surprise return boosted team and fan morale, and upped the quality of quarterback play for the Hogs. Allen finished 17 of 36 for 282 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. His completion percentage finished below 50 percent due to going 2 of 10 for 32 yards in the fourth quarter, probably due to his arm getting tired. Through three quarters, Allen was 15 of 26 for 250 yards, three touchdowns and a pick, with an impressive 9.6 yards per attempt. His vertical passing threat helped open up the running game.
Hunter Henry: Henry became the first SEC tight end (freshman or not) to have a 100-yard receiving game when he grabbed 6 passes for 109 yards. He caught a 52-yard bomb on a wheel route and also showed the ability to work the shorter routes.
Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams: Collins rushed 16 times for 114 yards with a touchdown, getting most his yards on a couple of long runs. Williams rushed for just 53 yards on 10 carries, but added 4 receptions for 67 yards and two touchdowns, including a SportsCenter top 10 “grown man touchdown” on a short pass from Brandon Allen. Both backs ran with purpose and toughness, something they’ll need for the rest of the season. The Hogs dropped to a season-low 30 rushing attempts (28 called rushes) in Allen’s return.
Korliss Marshall: The true freshman made everyone wonder if Dennis Johnson had returned early in the first quarter. Wearing number 33, Marshall took the Hogs’ first kickoff out to the 35. Later, he had a 16-yard run on a quick pitch play. Expect him to figure into the offense more and more.
The Defensive Line: At the risk of sounding like a sore loser, the defensive line, especially the ends, were held throughout the game. New holding rules allowing some holding in between the shoulder pads make it harder to discern holding, but some Aggie linemen overstepped even that boundary. Even then, the defensive line was unable to get pressure throughout the game. Given the already obvious mismatch of A&M’s receivers against Arkansas’ passing defense, not getting pressure sealed the deal for the Hog defense.
Linebackers: This has and will be a weekly issue until major improvement is shown. Linebackers coach Randy Shannon knew he had a tough project ahead of him, so patience is necessary. Nevertheless, the linebacking corps was torched for various bubble screens in the first half, and zone handoffs in the second half. The secondary, for its part, actually looked decent given the challenges, but the linebackers had another bad day.
Deatrich Wise: The sack dance and increased playing time was pretty. The over-the-top celebrations, including a King Kong chest beating after tackling Manziel for a three-yard gain was ugly. The good certainly outweighs the bad here, as Wise among others are adding emotion and swagger to a defense that hasn’t had it in years. The D will have better days than Saturday.
Martrell Spaight: We have our first sighting of “Spaighting,” or what the coaches call what happens when Spaight hits an offensive player. In this instance, it was on a kickoff return. That was pretty, but Spaight, along with the rest of the linebackers, had a rough day on defense.
Coach Bielema: Game plan and coaching? Excellent. Pregame tumble on the Hog walk? Ugly. The only one that matters to Hog fans is the first one, and most of the “Houston Nutt 2.0” talk should vanish after the Hogs threw for nearly 300 yards, a feat that Nutt teams only accomplished a couple of times.
Here’s a way for the offense to involve Hunter Henry. Hogs go play action and Allen rolls to his left, appearing to be looking for Javontee Herndon on a post. However, Henry sneaks from the left side over to the right and runs a wheel route up the sideline. The Aggie safeties drifted with Allen to the left, and were out of position when Allen threw the bomb to Henry. The play went for 54 yards.
I asked Chris Brown (@smartfootball), author of SmartFootball.com, via Twitter what he would call the play. He said he’s been seeing it more and more around the college game and he would classify it as a wheel. Given the Hog coaches’ stated preference for stealing good plays from other schools, it’s not a stretch to imagine that they stole this one from another school running.
Arkansas broke the huddle with 21 personnel (2 RB, 1 TE) and aligned in an I formation before breaking out into Shotgun, 3WR. Williams is running a deep fade at the bottom, and Austin Tate has a “seam” route (a go by an inside receiver). On the right side, a post-in combo will keep the safeties from cheating to the left. Tate’s route draws the other safety off of Williams, while Allen throws what is called a ‘back-shoulder fade,’ one of the toughest throws in football, to make or to defend. The throw was not perfect, but it was pretty good, and the defender had no chance to intercept it. It was caught for a 19-yard touchdown.
On to the running game. The Hogs unveiled a new running play on Saturday, and ran it three times, for large gains each time.
We’ve discussed misdirection before, and how it is essential to a good power-running offense. We’ve also diagrammed the counter-trey before, but this is a “speed” version of it. Allen fakes the inside handoff to Small before quickly turning and pitching to Collins. The play develops much quicker than the counter-trey, and allows Collins to use his speed in the open field. Collins ran it twice, and Korliss Marshall rushed for 16 yards on this play as well. The photographed play went for a 9-yard touchdown.
The Hogs also ran the same play with a handoff rather than a pitch to Collins a couple of times: first, on his long run just before the half, and second, for a 19-yard gain in the third quarter. The handoff keeps Collins tighter along the offensive line.
These run game wrinkles were put into the gameplan to maximize use of Collins’ ability to see running lane and cutback lanes. It’s been interesting to see how Collins and Williams are being used within the offense. Collins looks like the feature back on first and second down, while Williams looks like the third-down and change-of-pace back.
Adam Ford is a senior journalism major at the University of Arkansas and an intern for WholeHogSports