All three of Arkansas’ starting receivers – Keon Hatcher (foot), Jared Cornelius (arm) and Cody Hollister (foot) – are out for the foreseeable future and two of the Hogs’ top three running backs – Jonathan Williams (ankle) and Kody Walker (hand) – weren’t able to play last week. Arkansas was so adamant in its power philosophy that it put five offensive linemen on the cover of this season’s media guide.
When Texas A&M and Arkansas meet in Dallas Saturday night, the Southwest Showdown will feature two teams headed in very different directions. Defensively, the Texas A&M Aggies yield 175.3 yards in passing and 161.7 yards in rushing.
Travel to the venue hasn’t seemed to bother Arkansas. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start time and it will be televised nationally on ESPN. That’s OK. I’ll just be at the Texas High School Coaches’ thing this year so I can referee. Bret Bielema needs this one in the worst kind of way after falling to Toledo and Texas Tech, and seemingly losing all of the momentum he picked up at the end of last season. In the matter of two weeks Arkansas has gone from darling to disaster, depending who you ask. Arkansas may not be quite as appealing as it was in August, but it’s far from a catastrophe. “You know, what we’re trying to get is a ball to bounce the right way, maybe a call here or there that will go our way”.
“We had a meeting early in the first week of practice and I said ‘Hey man, when [opponents] throw the ball, we’re playing with 10 guys”.
Things didn’t get any better following a loss to the Red Raiders when Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury called out the Arkansas coach. The fact that Kingsbury briefly broke character is telling, and should speak volumes about the level of disdain toward Bielema in Texas.
It “took a lot out of our football team”, A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said this week. As such, the the abiding philosophies of Bielema and the majority of football minds in the state could not be further apart. At least, that’s been the Bielema-coached teams of the past. On the positive side, Arkansas has collected more sacks than its given up. The Razorbacks’ lone problem is an inability to get off the field. But when it comes to third downs, Arkansas is better than only nine of the 127 other teams in FBS.
“I think just a break here or there”, Bielema said. He was the first A&M freshman with a 100-yard game in his debut, and had another one last week.
Other conference games are can’t-miss blockbusters each year – some over a period of decades (The Iron Bowl, Michigan-Ohio State, USC-UCLA), and some within smaller stretches of time (Florida State-Clemson, Oregon-Stanford, and Baylor-TCU in the present moment). Kyle Allen has the third highest quarterback rating of anyone in the SEC. “I think people see the flash plays but there are also times when that ball is getting up in there and it shouldn’t be”. The game against Nevada wouldn’t even have been that close if Texas A&M hadn’t had to settle for three red zone field goals. It doesn’t get any easier as the Razorbacks take on the 3-0 Texas A&M Aggies Saturday in Arlington, Texas.
The Aggie defense handed the Razorbacks their first sack of the season late in the second quarter, courtesy of Zaycoven Henderson. The hope tonight is for another omen – that Arkansas won’t continue it’s start to this year.