Grading the Five Keys

Grading the Five Keys

1. Tackle in Space — B

Tackling was an issue in Arkansas’ season-opening loss at Auburn and was an emphasis in the week leading up to Saturday’s win at Texas Tech. The Razorbacks knew the Red Raiders would get the ball to their talented skill players in space, putting pressure on Arkansas to tackle well. Arkansas wasn’t perfect Saturday. In fact, there was one Texas Tech play highlighted by three missed tackles. But overall, the Razorbacks were much improved and did their job against a talented offense.

2. Run and Score — A+

Arkansas completely dominated Texas Tech’s defense, battering it with a physical run game play after play. The numbers speak for themselves: 68 carries, 439 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns and 40:39 in time of possession. The Razorbacks planned to play keep away from the Red Raiders Air Raid offense and it worked to perfection. Texas Tech only had the ball for 6:05 in the second half as Arkansas ran the ball on 30 straight plays to end the game.

3. Curb Turnovers and Penalties — B-

The Razorbacks made some mistakes Saturday. In fact, there were two key turnovers in the first half that could have been disastrous. Jared Collins was hit by a punt that returner D.J. Dean waved off on the first series. It led to a Texas Tech touchdown to take a 7-0 lead. Alex Collins made a poor decision trying to pitch the ball with a defender wrapped around him on a trick play late in the half. It wiped out a scoring chance. But credit Arkansas for its ability to recover from the mistakes. The Hogs still took a 28-21 lead into the locker room and dominated the second half.

4. Put Pressure on Webb — B

Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb hadn’t been sacked entering Saturday’s game against Arkansas. The Razorbacks couldn’t get him on the ground, either. But Webb wasn’t exactly comfortable in the pocket throughout the night. Arkansas was able to hit Webb a few times, hurried him on other throws, batted some passes at the line and collected two interceptions during the 49-28 win. So Arkansas may not have added to its sack total this season, but the defense made its mark in the win.

5. Special Teams Success — B

It was a relatively quiet night on special teams. Arkansas made one major mistake when Collins was it by the punt, which Texas Tech recovered and eventually scored the opening touchdown of the game. But the Razorbacks were sound in all phases the rest of the night. Sam Irwin-Hill only punted once. Korliss Marshall returned three kickoffs. And Arkansas’ coverage teams didn’t allow a big return in the win.

Coordinators’ Corner

Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and defensive coordinator Robb Smith meet with the media on Sunday nights during the season. Below are some of their thoughts after Arkansas’ 49-28 win at Texas Tech:

• Chaney on if Saturday was a sign the offense has turned the corner:

"I think in our profession every week you’ve got to go prove yourself. We won that ballgame. Now it all starts all over again. We’ve got to walk in here on Saturday and redo it all over again. Do I feel like we have a measured amount of confidence? I’d say, yeah, I think the kids have some confidence right now. But the rubber hits the road on Saturdays here. That’s what time we’ve got to get our business done."

• Smith on his defense settling in after Texas Tech’s early strikes:

"I think our guys just got into a little bit of a zone where they kind of saw things as they were unfolding. We kind of let our aggressive nature take over a little bit, and I think that helped settle us down. We’ve still got to get better tackling at times, but I thought overall our guys played with great effort and were physical, and that kind of helped us throughout the course of the game."

• Smith on LB Martrell Spaight’s interception in the second quarter:

"I think it was a big boost. It gave our defense a lot of confidence at that point in time. We kind of were looking for a moment where we could respond and that was one of them right there. Just a great overall team thing. The offense picked us up a bunch and this was kind of a chance for us to do the same."

• Chaney on QB Brandon Allen’s 5-yard touchdown run:

"I thought Brandon’s scramble play was the best play he’s made since I’ve been with him. I was really proud of him. I had a call that wasn’t very good and he made it out to be very good. That’s what good quarterbacks do. When I make a bad one, they make me look good and he did. He made himself look good. It was a good play for our offense."

Players of the Game

Offense – Offensive line (Paved way for 438 rushing yards)

Running back Alex Collins had a big day. So did teammate Jonathan Williams. But Arkansas’ offensive front deserves plenty of credit for the domination in Lubbock on Saturday. The Razorbacks ran the ball 68 times for 438 yards, averaging 6.4 yards a carry. Arkansas leaned on its physical front to hold the ball for 40:39 on Saturday.

Defense – LB Martrell Spaight (11 tackles, interception)

The senior enjoyed one of the best performances of his career by collecting 11 tackles, including eight solo stops. But Spaight also turned in one of the biggest plays of the game when he stepped in front of a pass from quarterback Davis Webb late in the first half. His interception led to a touchdown that gave the Hogs a 28-21 lead.

Special Teams – K John Henson (7-for-7 on extra points)

There wasn’t one big highlight on special teams for the Razorbacks. Sam Irwin-Hill punted once. Korliss Marshall returned three kicks. So Henson is the choice this week after being perfect on extra point attempts. It helped Henson improve to 19-for-19 on extra points this season. He’s also is 1-for-1 on field goal attempts.

That Figures

2 — Arkansas’ NCAA rank in rushing offense after three weeks. The Razorbacks topped the 400-yard mark for the second straight game and are averaging 362 rushing yards. Arkansas still leads the nation in yards per carry (7.9).

4 — Pass break ups by middle linebacker Brooks Ellis. The sophomore was active in pass coverage, dropping back with success. Of course, Ellis wishes the number wasn’t quite as high. He dropped two passes that should’ve been interceptions. The Razorbacks had broken up six passes in two games, but had 11 at Texas Tech.

9.8 —Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams’ yards per carry this season, which leads the NCAA. Williams has rushed for 322 yards and 6 touchdowns on 33 carries. Alex Collins isn’t far behind. His 8.2 yards per carry ranks eighth in the NCAA.

17 — Number of passes Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen has thrown the past two games. Allen joked Saturday he hasn’t had to ice his shoulder for two weeks now after watching the ground game roll over Nicholls State and Texas Tech. Allen completed 6 of 12 passes for 61 yards against the Red Raiders.

30 — Consecutive run plays by the Razorbacks to end Saturday’s game. The streak began with Allen’s 5-yard touchdown run, which gave the Hogs a 35-21 lead. It ended with Arkansas downing the ball on the final three snaps to finish the win.

Up Next

Arkansas is back home to play its second game in Razorback Stadium. This time, the Razorbacks (2-1) will welcome Northern Illinois (3-0) to town.

The Huskies grabbed a 48-34 win at UNLV on Saturday, extending an impressive streak. Northern Illinois has now won 26 straight regular season games, including 17 straight on the road. It includes a 23-15 win at Northwestern on Sept. 6.

"I think anybody who knows anything about college football knows we’ve got a good opponent coming in here to play on Saturday," Chaney said. "I think our players are aware of that too."

Arkansas and Northern Illinois will meet for the just the second time. The first meeting came in 1994, when the Razorbacks won 30-27 in Fayetteville. Saturday’s game will be televised by ESPNU with kickoff set for 6 p.m.

— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau