Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
This is not the beginning of the end for the Hogs
Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman reacts following a penalty call, Saturday, October 8, 2022 during the second quarter of a football game at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville.
The wheels have not come off the Arkansas football program.
What happened Saturday in Starkville, Miss., was not the beginning of the end. It was several things, including injuries that started with quarterback KJ Jefferson, and it is hard to lead a team from the sidelines, although he tried.
Almost everyone comes out of a game with Alabama hurting physically. Arkansas made some mistakes, but Mississippi State had an almost perfect game plan.
The pass-crazy Bulldogs, notorious for the Air Raid, came out running, and and that caught the Razorbacks a little flat-footed.
It opened up the passing game, and by the time the game ended 40-17 in favor of the home team, the Bulldogs had rushed for 173 yards and three touchdowns. That’s 51 yards more than their previous average.
Before playing Arkansas, they had five rushing touchdowns in five games. It was a great game plan by Mike Leach, who expected less.
Will Rogers used shovel passes, screens off misdirection and threw well enough downfield to total 395 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bulldogs exploited every weakness, and there were plenty of those, especially with an Arkansas defense that had three key players out with injuries and everyone else bruised and banged up.
The Razorbacks desperately need to play Off Weekend this Saturday instead of Brigham Young, which is 4-2 on the season. But that isn’t going to happen.
Part of the frustration is because after beating a good Cincinnati team, a South Carolina team that beat Kentucky last Saturday and a solid Missouri State, the Razorbacks were 3-0 and ranked No. 10 in the nation.
Hopes and expectations jumped for a team that was overrated. It's just like last season, when the Razorbacks started 4-0 with wins over Texas and Texas A&M and were ranked No. 8 in the nation.
They then went to Georgia, who proved they were overrated by blanking them 37-0. That was followed by a loss in a winnable game at Ole Miss, then a 15-point home loss to Auburn.
Then something positive happened. They played UAPB, an FCS team, and after leading 45-0 at the half, both teams agreed to 12-minute quarters in the second half when Sam Pittman rested his starters.
Then Arkansas got a bye week, and everyone started getting healthy again. The Razorbacks won five of their final six games, with the only loss coming at Alabama 42-35.
That may not happen again. No one can predict the future, and while they may not get a New Year’s Day bowl, this team is going to be in a bowl game.
They face another good quarterback this Saturday in Jaren Hall, who has completed 129 of 188 pass attempts for 1,558 yards, 14 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions.
However, last Saturday when the Cougars lost to Notre Dame, they ran only 46 plays and were on offense just 19 minutes, 5 seconds to the Irish’s 40 minutes, 55 seconds.
If the game was at a neutral site or in Fayetteville — or if Jefferson was sure to play — the Razorbacks might be favored instead of being 2 1/2-point underdogs.
The Cougars will be out to make a statement against an SEC opponent. It will be a hostile environment, and the 4,551-foot elevation could be an issue.
Whatever happens, the Razorbacks will come home to get healthy before facing five teams who have quarterbacks who aren’t being mentioned for the Heisman Trophy or even all-conference honors.
Last Saturday, Arkansas limped into Davis Wade Stadium and limped out after Mississippi State played an almost flawless game.
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