Grounded Hogs look for a lift

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Thursday, October 12, 2017
Arkansas running back Devwah Whaley is tackled by several South Carolina defenders during a game Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, in Columbia, S.C.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas running back Devwah Whaley is tackled by several South Carolina defenders during a game Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, in Columbia, S.C.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The overall numbers say Arkansas' rushing attack is above the middle of the pack in the FBS, ranking 47th with 185.4 yards per game.

The visuals from Saturday told a different story.

Hogs on the run

Arkansas ranks 47th in the country in rushing with 185.4 yards per game. A look at their rushing statistics in each game:

Opponent;Rush-yards;TDs;YPC

Florida A&M;45-236;4;5.2

TCU;31-129;0;4.2

Texas A&M;45-226;3;5.0

N.Mexico St.;51-230;3;4.5

@S.Carolina;32-106;1;3.3

Totals;204-927;11;4.5

The Razorbacks managed just 106 rushing yards in their 48-22 loss at South Carolina.

The tally broke down like this: a 23-yard run by David Williams on a stretch play over the left side; one scramble and one called run by backup quarterback Cole Kelley for 11 and 12 yards, respectively; a 12-yard lateral to T.J. Hammonds on the right edge; and 28 other runs that combined for 48 yards.

The average was 3.3 yards per carry.

"I think there was a couple of runs we missed, but at the end of the day we didn't hold up physically like we thought we would," Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos said.

In essence, the linemen, tight ends and backs lost too many one-on-one blocks against the Gamecocks. The Razorbacks were hoping for more against a team that ranked 73rd nationally against the run and had been allowing an average of 153.6 rushing yards per game.

"I think in the run game, we never did really get it going," Coach Bret Bielema said. "There were a couple of plays early on where you had glimpses of what we want to be.

"When we can't run the ball effectively, nothing else really ever seems to work. So I mean, I think that's our formula and obviously when that doesn't happen it backfires really throughout the whole program."

The Razorbacks look to crank up the running game again Saturday at No. 1 Alabama, which has been stingy against opposing ground games. The Crimson Tide lead the nation by allowing just 73.3 rushing yards per game. They are fourth in allowing 2.57 yards per carry, and tied for third in allowing two rushing touchdowns on the year.

"It's gonna be a huge challenge," Enos said. "We'll have to get creative in a lot of the things we do with them in the pass and run game. We'll have to pull out all the stops and be creative."

Running backs coach Reggie Mitchell was asked about the creativity the Razorbacks might show.

"You know what, we're going to do some things that are a little bit different, but that's for us to know and them not to," Mitchell said. "But we're going to continue to do the thing we've done.

"Last year we were able to move the ball on them. We had some turnovers that cost us, but again we're looking forward to the challenge facing the No. 1 team in the country."

University of Arkansas, Fayetteville quarterback Austin Allen -- who passed for 400 yards with 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions against the Crimson Tide in last year's 49-30 loss -- recognized the importance of being able to run against Alabama.

"It starts up front, taking the right technique, getting on the right guys and getting movement," Allen said. "If you can get movement, lanes open up for the running backs to hit the hole.

"It's also on the running backs to make something out of nothing. Not every run play is going to be blocked up perfectly."

Senior center Frank Ragnow, a preseason All-SEC choice, said it has been difficult to run against Alabama throughout his career.

"I think I'm just trying to emphasize physicality and just knowing that it's going to be a war, going to be four quarters, and you have to be ready to go every single rep," he said. "I feel like if we execute and we decide in our mind that we're going to be physical and play the way we're supposed to play, then we can have a chance."

Mitchell has allotted a similar amount of carries to his three top backs. Devwah Whaley has 54 carries for 246 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Chase Hayden has 50 carries for 274 yards and 4 touchdowns, and David Williams has 50 carries for 235 yards and 5 touchdowns.

The Razorbacks average 4.5 yards per carry, with Hayden at 5.5 yards per carry, followed by Williams (4.7) and Whaley (4.6).

Mitchell said South Carolina did a couple of things on defense to which the Razorbacks didn't react well.

"It's just a matter of getting after guys," he said. "We were moving the ball early on and then in the second half a couple of things happened and we were moving the ball then got behind the chains. We just need to do a better job of staying ahead of the chains on first down."

The Razorbacks have done some shuffling on the line outside of Ragnow and left guard Hjalte Froholdt. Freshman Ty Clary started the first four games at right guard but was replaced by right tackle Johnny Gibson last week.

Gibson, left tackle Colton Jackson and Paul Ramirez have been getting the most work at tackle, though 10-game starter Brian Wallace has a chance to get back in the rotation.

Gibson suffered a minor knee injury against South Carolina but is expected to start at right guard again this week.

Arkansas ran for 73 yards against Alabama last year, 44 against the Tide in Tuscaloosa in 2015, and 89 in a 14-13 loss in Fayetteville in 2014.

Sports on 10/12/2017

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