Showtime: Hogs, Frogs sure to add flavor after vanilla openers

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Saturday, September 9, 2017
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema walks across the field before the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Florida A&M on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Little Rock, Ark.. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
Photo by Associated Press
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema walks across the field before the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Florida A&M on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Little Rock, Ark.. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)

FAYETTEVILLE -- From the unwritten pages of Football Coaching 101: Don't show 'em what you don't have to.

That logic applied neatly to old Southwest Conference rivals TCU and the Arkansas Razorbacks last week.

The Horned Frogs and Razorbacks both clobbered overmatched FCS opponents during the opening week, with the University of Arkansas beating Florida A&M 49-7 and TCU defeating Jackson State 63-0.

The Razorbacks did not try to throw over the top against the Rattlers, nor did they reveal any blitzes from their new 3-4 defense last Thursday. TCU likewise kept things pretty vanilla on both sides of the ball in its game last Saturday, and both teams played their starters a limited amount of snaps.

"I think there was a lot we didn't do on offense, defense," Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said. "We didn't bring a lot of variation on defense."

"They're a lot like us," TCU Coach Gary Patterson said. "We didn't show a lot."

More frills can be expected today, when No. 23 TCU takes on the Razorbacks at 2:30 p.m. The Horned Frogs will be playing at Reynolds Razorback Stadium for the first time since a 53-10 loss in 1988.

TCU, which has the nation's third-best road record (33-10) since 2009, will be looking to avenge last year's 41-38 double overtime loss to the Razorbacks in Fort Worth.

Arkansas aims for a Texas two-step over the Horned Frogs, a move the Razorbacks failed to complete against Texas Tech in 2015 after crushing the Red Raiders 49-28 in Lubbock, Texas, the year before.

Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen averaged 7.1 yards per pass attempt last week, 68th in the country, as the Razorbacks didn't air out any deep passes. Offensive coordinator Dan Enos said a couple of deep routes were called against the Ratters' three-deep zone but neither materialized.

"We didn't want to put anyone in harm's way and have them take a hit or anything like that," Enos said. "The game didn't really call for it. We'll keep our bullets in our gun and use them for another day."

Arkansas defensive back Kevin Richardson said that's the nature of early season college football if a marquee game follows a lower-profile one.

"A lot of people like to do that in the first game, especially against a FCS-type team," Richardson said. "They're not going to show everything, show all the threats they have."

Arkansas ran its bread-and-butter isolation plays, some stretch plays to the edges, a few of its standard play-action and bootleg passes, and a variety of screen passes. The Hogs did not try to throw to speedsters Jordan Jones, Deon Stewart or Jonathan Nance on deep routes.

Out of 20 passes, Allen threw four that traveled more than 15 yards from the line of scrimmage: a 16-yard pass for an interception, a 17-yard throw on which pass interference was called, a 20-yard play-action to Jarrod Barnes that went for a 26-yard gain, and a 21-yard throw to Stewart in the middle of the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown.

Allen threw three balls between 10 and 15 yards. He threw 13 passes of 7 yards or fewer, including four screen passes that were caught behind the line of scrimmage.

TCU stayed true to its tricky-to-defend run-pass options with quarterback Kenny Hill, running jet sweeps, pop passes, tunnel screens and its stretch plays to running backs.

But Hill, who ran 15 times for 93 yards against Arkansas last year, had one keeper against Jackson State. Tailback Kyle Hicks, who has an undisclosed injury, is questionable against the Hogs after not playing last week.

"I feel like they haven't even opened up their offense yet," Arkansas defensive end McTelvin Agim said of TCU. "We've got to push them to that. If we don't push them to bring out all the big guns and things like that, they'll be able to settle back and just do what they do."

Arkansas defensive line coach John Scott Jr. said the Razorbacks expect TCU to have formations and plays that are not on tape from last week, or even last year.

"It goes back to just being able to play our base defense and be able to adjust on the fly," Scott said. "Obviously when you see their first game and see when their starters were in there, there are some things you can take and learn from, but I'm sure they'll have a couple of tricks and gadgets and things of that nature for us."

Said Richardson, "We've been preparing for everything we've seen on film from last year and this year to just try and get us ready for anything they could possibly do. Coach Rhoads is a great coach and great at teaching us the types of scenarios we could face."

The game figures to boil down to a battle of tempos.

Arkansas would rather play ball control, shorten the game and limit the touches for Hill and the Horned Frogs' playmakers. TCU would like to speed things up, run as many plays as possible and wear out the Razorbacks' new 3-4 defense.

TCU's 4-2-5 defense, built for speed under Patterson, is scheming to limit the Arkansas ground game, which ran for 236 yards in the opener and 180 yards against the Horned Frogs last year.

"We feel like we can run pretty well," Patterson said. "The key for us is you've got to be able to play like Arkansas. You've got to play people that can come right at you. They want to break your will."

Arkansas' slower tempo held up for the first three quarters of last year's game, with a 13-0 lead at halftime helped by Brooks Ellis' 47-yard interception return for a touchdown.

The Razorbacks led 20-7 through three quarters. But after Arkansas failed to score on a first-and-goal sequence from the TCU 2, the Horned Frogs totaled 206 yards and 21 points in the fourth quarter, with nine plays of 10-plus yards, including a 34-yard punt return and a 64-yard kickoff return by KaVontae Turpin.

Both teams want to unleash features that will force the other to adjust on the go today.

"It'll be a competitive matchup," Arkansas defensive end T.J. Smith said. "We're going to fire all our bullets and their going to fire all theirs. Whoever goes down, that's the loser."

Enos and Allen said during camp that the Razorbacks had added "wrinkles" to the offense, but those were not on display last week.


More headlines

At a glance

WHEN 2:30 p.m, today

WHERE Reynolds Razorback Stadium

RECORDS TCU 1-0; Arkansas 1-0

RANKINGS TCU is No. 23 in the AP poll


COACHES Gary Patterson (150-54 in 17th year at TCU and overall); Bret Bielema (26-26 in 5th year at Arkansas, 94-50 in 12th year overall)

SERIES Arkansas leads 44-23-2 overall, 18-7-1 in Fayetteville


RADIO Razorback Sports Network, including KABZ-FM103.7, in Little Rock; KQSM-FM, 92.1, KIGL-FM 93.3, KAKS-FM 99.5 and KUOA-AM 1290 in Fayetteville; KERX-FM 95.3 in Fort Smith, Sirius 99, XM 192


2016 TCU-UA











2017 WEEK 1











"There's all kinds of stuff you work on in fall camp on our offense with a lot of stuff," Bielema said. "With different personnel or option game, all the different things that might come up. ... Every week you go in there with a certain plan. Sometimes you get to all of it, sometimes you need all of it, sometimes you get a little bit more."

Sports on 09/09/2017


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