Film Room: Arkansas-TCU

By: Jimmy Carter
Published: Monday, September 11, 2017
Austin Allen (8) of Razobacks attempts to pass the ball as Ridwan Issahaku (31) trys to block the pass at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday, September 9, 2017.
Photo by David Beach
Austin Allen (8) of Razobacks attempts to pass the ball as Ridwan Issahaku (31) trys to block the pass at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday, September 9, 2017.

— Five observations, with video, from TCU's 28-7 win over Arkansas.

Pass problems

Offensive coordinator Dan Enos only dialed up a few deep shots in Arkansas’ opener against Florida A&M. For various reasons, none really materialized.

The playcalling was more aggressive Saturday, but the result was the same.

Two games in, Austin Allen has recorded the two lowest yardage totals of his career. He and his mostly new batch of receivers looked out of sync against TCU, with Allen missing on throws he routinely made a year ago, receivers not creating separation on a consistent basis and apparent miscommunication that led to frustration like this late:

A week after throwing for a career-low 135 yards, Allen completed just 9 of 23 passes for 138 yards against TCU. Take away the 49-yard touchdown to a wide-open Jonathan Nance on a play-action bootleg and Allen completed 8 passes for 77 yards. Two of those completions (and 26 yards) came in garbage time on the Hogs’ final drive down 28-7.

TCU used its safeties to help defend the run much of the afternoon, which gave Arkansas’ receivers 1-on-1 opportunities. They couldn't make the Horned Frogs pay. The Hogs went for the home run over the top 5 different times and didn’t come particularly close to completing any aside from the Nance score.

TCU got pressure on Allen and forced a fumble on the first drive of the game and then got in the backfield on the final drive, too, but Arkansas’ pass protection was decent and afforded him time most of the rest of the day.

But receivers simply didn’t get open or Allen couldn’t get them the ball, sometimes a combination of the 2. The result was an ugly offensive performance, an uncommon occurrence during Enos’ tenure with the program.

The TV broadcast only highlighted these 2 instances, but there were other times Allen had time and went through his reads without finding an open pass catcher.

Quarterback and receiver weren’t always on the same page.

Even Jared Cornelius, by far the most experienced receiver on the roster, had a pair of drops. He, at least, has the valid excuse of rust, having missed fall camp with a back injury.

Arkansas has 2 weeks to prep for Texas A&M, time Bret Bielema said they’ll use to shorten the receiver rotation to about 5 guys in order to give them more reps and hopefully develop better chemistry with Allen.

Choosing those 5 will be an interesting decision-making exercise. Cornelius is a given and Nance has been the team’s best receiver so far. They and Deon Stewart are probably the only locks, which says a lot.

Jordan Jones is arguably the fastest player on the team, but the coaching staff wants him to be more consistent. Other than Cornelius, sophomores Stewart and La’Michael Pettway are the most experienced in the position group, but haven’t stood out the first 2 games. Stewart's knowledge of the scheme gives him an edge. Brandon Martin hasn’t been healthy, while freshmen Jarrod Barnes and De’Vion Warren may not have the playbook down well enough to earn the trust of the staff.

Allen was hit 11 times Saturday, 5 of which came on Arkansas’ nine-play final drive while trailing by three scores. The staff could’ve put in backup Cole Kelley to spare Allen some pain, but he and his receivers needed all the reps they could get as they try to develop chemistry that isn’t there at this point.

Run shut down

Arkansas’ starting offensive linemen tip the scales at 309 pounds, on average. TCU’s starting defensive line weighs in at an average of 271.5.

The Razorbacks’ starting tight end and fullback average 258.5 pounds. The Horned Frogs starting linebackers run 219, on average.

Despite the definitive size disadvantage, TCU's defense owned the line of scrimmage for the most part.

The final numbers are a bit deceiving: Arkansas ran for 129 yards and averaged 4.2 yards per carry, not up to its standards but not dreadful. Yet 89 of those yards came on 11 carries spread over two drives. On the game’s other nine drives, the Hogs ran for 40 yards and averaged just 2 yards per carry.

David Williams was the most productive of Arkansas’ trio of backs and ran for 65 yards on 10 carries. Devwah Whaley was bottled up, gaining just 32 yards on 11 attempts, while Chase Hayden only carried the ball twice. Two of Arkansas' 3 longest runs were Allen scrambles.

TCU countered Arkansas’ size by often loading the box, bringing its safeties down to get extra bodies around the line of scrimmage when the Razorbacks tried to run.

Arkansas seemed to struggle with the Horned Frogs’ quickness, including here, when it tries to get Devwah Whaley to the edge but left tackle Colton Jackson is beaten, which forces Whaley to cut back inside where the Horned Frogs are quick to fill.

Last year, Arkansas struggled to run against good defenses. The Razorbacks were held to less than 4 yards per carry 7 times and had trouble establishing a push up front.

Saturday had a similar feel.

Red zone woes redux

The game was won and lost in the red zone.

TCU converted 4 of 5 opportunities while Arkansas came up empty handed on both of its chances.

The Horned Frogs’ only miscue came on a fumbled snap on first-and-goal from the Arkansas 3, otherwise they likely would’ve been perfect.

Arkansas, on the other hand, couldn’t punch it in either time it did manage to sustain a drive and get inside the TCU 20.

Cole Hedlund’s missing a pair of chip-shot field goals from 23 and 20 yards was “unexcusable,” according to his head coach, but the Razorbacks having to settle for the attempts marked another recurrence of an issue from last season, when they ranked 10th in the SEC in scoring percentage (79.3) in the red zone.

The Razorbacks had first-and-10 at the TCU 11 late in the first quarter and faced a second-and-4 from the 5 after a 6-yard Devwah Whaley run. But they couldn’t get into the end zone on either of the next 2 downs.

In the late third/early fourth quarter, they failed to get points out of their first positive drive in nearly 2 quarters, a major deflator after the defense had managed to hold TCU to 14 points.

For as poorly as it played most of an afternoon that included 5 3-and-outs, Arkansas had a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter. But the Razorbacks’ inability to convert in the red zone was glaring again.

3-4 has mixed results

Arkansas’ defense deserves credit.

The unit didn’t shut TCU’s offense down, but it kept the Razorbacks in the game despite being on the field for nearly 34 minutes as TCU ran 73 plays compared to Arkansas’ 54, a stat that was 72-45 before the Razorbacks went on a 9-play final drive with the game out of reach.

Arkansas ran out of gas against the no-huddle Horned Frogs, but had its positive moments:

— Junior safety Santos Ramirez was a difference-maker. He had 8 tackles, an impressive interception, a big pass breakup while TCU was driving and a forced fumble. He missed one tackle, but was generally solid wrapping up.

— Freshman cornerback Kamren Curl allowed just one catch for 10 yards in his first start. TCU barely targeted him, a credit to his play. He did get beat for what should have been a deep touchdown that was dropped, but was overall solid in coverage all day in what amounted to an impressive debut.

— TCU had just 2 plays of more than 15 yards and only one of 20-plus, a 22-yard catch by Shaun Nixon. That’s major progress for an Arkansas unit that allowed an average of 5.5 plays of 20 or more yards a year ago.

The flip side is that the Horned Frogs were mostly content dinking and dunking it down the field through the air while spreading Arkansas out and running against a less-crowded box.

TCU ran for 195 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry. To put it in perspective, Arkansas allowed 205.5 yards per game and 5.9 yards per carry last year, which prompted the switch to the 3-4.

By using 3 and 4-wide sets, the Horned Frogs spread Arkansas’ defense thin and created running room. Take this drive from early in the second quarter:

Randy Ramsey is lined up in the flat on the second and third plays in response to TCU’s formation. The defensive end, Sosa Agim, is lined up inside right tackle Matt Pryor, allowing Pryor to down block him while TCU's tight end gets to the second level to take care of Grant Morgan on the second play and Dre Greenlaw on the third, which leaves a bubble for the Horned Frogs to gash nice runs.

Arkansas’ defensive front wasn’t consistently disruptive and was driven off the line on multiple occasions. Without extra bodies in the box, the Horned Frogs were able to generate a push.

Bijhon Jackson gets driven 8 yards downfield, Scoota Harris gets chipped out of the way and Randy Ramsey can't quite get to the back, leaving an open lane for a big gain.

It's essentially 6 blocking 6 on this play because Dwayne Eugene is coming from the opposite side. Jackson again gets blown off the ball, Morgan can't fill and make the play, Greenlaw gets caught in traffic and the safeties are playing deep.

The line produced no penetration and the linebackers didn't fill effectively on either play, but it's important to point out that by that time, the defense had been on the field for long stretches and was no doubt gassed.

It was an interesting give and take.

Arkansas accounted for TCU spreading the field, which meant the Razorbacks were able to mostly limit big plays. But it left them somewhat exposed inside.

Everything considered, the defense played well enough for Arkansas to win. The unit bent but didn’t break until late in the game.

It would have been a much more impressive performance if not for…

Third-down trouble

TCU was able to make hay on third downs all afternoon, demoralizing the defense and crowd alike.

The Horned Frogs picked up 10 of 14 third downs, keeping the sticks moving when needing to pick up 7, 1, 1, 1, 3, 10, 5, 1, 1, 6 and 12 yards, respectively. The four third downs TCU didn’t pick up were 10, 21, 4 and 13 yards.

Picking up five third-and-1s were the result of the Horned Frogs being content with playing underneath and taking what the defense gave them, which generally kept them in good down-and-distance scenarios.

But some of the third-and-medium and third-and-long conversions were back breakers, keeping an overworked defense on the field after it was in position to end the drive.

This third-and-7 was on TCU’s first touchdown drive.

This third-and-10 was on the Horned Frogs’ second scoring drive. An incompletion here would’ve meant a 43-yard field goal attempt.

This third-and-12 essentially iced the game, leading to the touchdown that extended TCU’s lead to 21-7 late in the fourth quarter.

Arkansas’ defense didn’t get much help from its offense, but finding ways to get stops in the above situations could have changed the complexion of the game.

The Razorbacks ranked last in the SEC in third-down defense a year ago, with opponents converting nearly 45 percent of the time. The defense showed improvement in some areas Saturday, but third down wasn’t one of them.

Stray Thoughts

— Have to figure Deon Stewart’s days as a kick returner may be numbered. His size (5-foot-11, 162 pounds) puts him at a disadvantage. He was decked on a few returns last year and obviously on the late return he fumbled Saturday. True freshman De’Vion Warren is bigger and one of the fastest players on the team. It has been some time since the Razorbacks have had a good kick return game. Going with a high-upside freshman may be in the cards.

— Will be interesting to see if Chase Hayden gets more of an opportunity moving forward. He danced a little bit on one of his 2 carries, which may have been the reason he didn’t get more work. He is easily the best of the trio of backs at creating something positive out of nothing and given the line’s run blocking issues, that may be a valuable skill moving forward.

— Dre Greenlaw finished with a career-high 17 tackles, including 9 solo stops. He was much more active than in the opener against FAMU.

— Arkansas went with a 2-man rotation at nose tackle, using Bijhon Jackson and Austin Capps while keeping converted offensive lineman Dylan Hays on the sideline. Capps was credited with half a sack and Jackson with a hurry, but TCU handled both pretty well.

— The stadium was full and the crowd was good early, but the offensive ineptitude and flow of the game sucked the life out of there. The loud boos were noteworthy. It seemed like the spirit of the fans broke sometime in the second quarter and it’s kind of hard to blame them.


Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.