Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy, has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, and has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Hogs, Frogs moving from dessert to entrees
Arkansas running back Devwah Whaley, 21, scores a touchdown during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Florida A&M on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Little Rock, Ark. Arkansas went on to beat Florida A&M 49-7. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
Since January, the Arkansas Razorbacks have talked incessantly about converting first downs on third and short and better protecting quarterback Austin Allen.
Talking doesn't necessarily equal doing, the Razorbacks learned the hard way.
The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, opened its season eventually frosting cupcake Florida A&M 49-7 last Thursday night at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
Likewise, the TCU Horned Frogs -- this Saturday's opponent at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville -- frosted cupcake Jackson State 63-0 last Saturday night at TCU's Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth.
However, before frosting their cupcake, the Razorbacks gagged on their first bites in Little Rock. Four plays into the game came their first offensive third and one of 2017. They wedged no room for running back Devwah Whaley. The Rattlers stuffed Whaley for no gain, compelling Arkansas to punt.
On Arkansas' next series, an unblocked Rattler struck Allen as he was delivering a pass. The pass was intercepted.
If silent thoughts among a crowd could be amplified, "Here we go again" would have blown out War Memorial's sound system.
Last season's nightmares that helped doom the Razorbacks to a disappointing 7-6 were recurring despite the team's vow not to be haunted again.
Maybe that turned out all for the best, Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema surmised postgame. On their next possession, the Razorbacks converted a third and three thanks to Allen extending a play to complete an 11-yard pass to tight end Austin Cantrell. They then scored on Whaley's third and four run from the five and rolled to a 21-0 halftime lead. The Hogs outscored FAMU 28-7 the second half.
So after initially biting their tongues, the Razorbacks finally did what they talked about doing.
"I think we hit some speed bumps in the first half, which was good to overcome," Bielema said. "Get those out of the way. As coaches, we always talk about the improvement between Game One and Game Two, and we're going to need that. But I thought our guys responded really well in the second half."
At least that was one "here we go again" that didn't come up again.
The Razorbacks closed their 2016 season losing 24-7 and 24-0 halftime leads to lose their last SEC game 28-24 at Missouri and lose 35-24 to Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl at Charlotte, N.C.
Coach Gary Patterson's Big 12 Horned Frogs, 11-2 and ranked seventh nationally in 2015, were a disappointing 6-7 in 2016 including a 41-38 double-overtime loss to Arkansas in September at Fort Worth. They finished 2016 losing three of their last four. However, TCU also expelled ghosts last Saturday while skunking Jackson State.
Frosting cupcakes Florida A&M of the lower division Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and Jackson State of the lower division Southwestern Athletic Conference served the Hogs and Frogs well for openers that started with dessert.
The nonconference entree for both awaits at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Fayetteville on CBS.
Sports on 09/04/2017
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