FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas was outmatched in most areas Saturday as the No. 16 Hogs (4-2, 0-2 SEC) fell 49-30 to No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0).
Several of the typical areas of concern for the Razorbacks again were painfully evident against the Crimson Tide — particularly run defense and pass protection.
At SEC Country, we went to the film Sunday to look at the biggest takeaways from the Razorbacks’ second loss of the season. Here’s our film session breakdown of the game:
Run defense shredded by the Tide
Arkansas’ run defense has been a glaring weakness in both losses this season. Two weeks ago, Texas A&M rushed for 366 yards, and now Alabama goes for 264 yards on the ground. Arkansas ranks 83rd nationally in run defense and is giving up an average of 180 rushing yards per game. That’s a stark contrast to last season, when the Hogs were 12th in the country against the run at 116.5 yards per game.
A number of things contributed to the poor run defense Saturday. It must be noted the Crimson Tide do this to almost everyone. They are regularly among the most talented teams in the country at running back and on the offensive line. Alabama executed very well against the Hogs.
But Arkansas took bad angles, tackled poorly, got caught out of position and at times appeared to lack effort. Alabama had runs of 56 and 57 yards in the first quarter. Those big plays set up the Tide’s offensive game plan, which thrives off play-action passes.
The 56-yard run came by running back Joshua Jacobs on Alabama’s opening drive. The big mistakes on this play were made by linebacker Dre Greenlaw (No. 23) and safety Josh Liddell (No. 28). Greenlaw didn’t take on a block and filled the wrong hole, leaving a huge lane for Jacobs to run through. Liddell compounded the problem by whiffing on his tackle attempt. Jacobs wasn’t brought down until he was inside the 5-yard line.
The 57-yard run, by running back Damien Harris, came on Alabama’s next possession. Liddell again made a poor attempt at a tackle just beyond the line of scrimmage. Greenlaw and safety Santos Ramirez overran the play, and Harris finished the run at the 5-yard line.
Hogs burned by play-action passes
As previously mentioned, those runs helped set up play-action passes for Alabama later in the game. This play is a perfect example. Because the running game had been so effective, the linebackers and safeties immediately ran toward the line of scrimmage on the fake. Tight end O.J. Howard ran wide open up the middle of the field.
Is effort becoming a concern for the defense?
The defense also appeared to show a lack of effort on some of Alabama’s big plays. On this 56-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Harris, some Hogs looked to quit on the play. Others failed in attempts to make the tackle.
However, it’s only fair to point out one of the players who missed a tackle on Harris’ score forced a turnover with great hustle later in the game. Freshman linebacker De’Jon Harris (No. 8), who played in place of Greenlaw after he left with a foot injury, didn’t quit on a big completion from quarterback Jalen Hurts to wide receiver ArDarius Stewart. He ended up forcing a fumble that the Razorbacks recovered. Arkansas couldn’t capitalize after the turnover, but it momentarily gave the Razorbacks a chance to get back in the game down 35-17 in the third quarter.
Allen battered again behind poor protection
It was another long game for quarterback Austin Allen behind poor pass protection that continues to show little improvement. Some of the problems Saturday were a result of an immensely talented opponent, but there’s also plenty of blame to place on Arkansas’ offensive front. Even a bad offensive line should be capable of not allowing a pass rusher to have an unimpeded path to the quarterback regularly. Arkansas hasn’t proved it can do that. Here are two concerning examples from Saturday, both a result of poor play by left guard Hjalte Froholdt.
Run blocking not much better
The offensive line also hasn’t done a great job run blocking for most of this season, a trend that continued against Alabama. Arkansas had 21 carries by running backs for 82 yards, an average of 3.9 yards per carry. While that’s not terrible, it isn’t good enough with so much of the offense based around a productive running game.
Froholdt is a capable run blocker, as are left tackle Dan Skipper and center Frank Ragnow. But the right side of the line frequently is overmatched against quality opponents.
Look at the right side on this play. Right tackle Brian Wallace and right guard Jake Raulerson double-teamed an Alabama defensive lineman and still got pushed into the backfield, stuffing the run and resulting in no gain.
Allen to Cornelius producing big gains
Junior wide receiver Jared Cornelius had his third consecutive game of at least 100 yards receiving, with 146 yards on 5 catches. He has catches of 57, 38 and 35 yards during his impressive three-game stretch and leads the SEC with 21 yards per reception.
Cornelius is arguably Arkansas’ most-polished receiver in a deep group and has the full trust of Allen. These two always seem to be on the same page.
The bad call
Coach Bret Bielema was incensed and drew a 15-yard penalty after the Razorbacks had a touchdown negated by a holding call on Wallace in the second quarter. Arkansas ultimately had to kick a field goal to cut its deficit to 28-10.
In no way did this call decide the game, but it was a huge play at the time. On the replay, it appears Bielema had good reason to be upset. Watch Wallace on the right side of the line. The Alabama defender he blocked appeared to do nothing more than spin and fall on his own.
Bielema announced after the game Greenlaw had broken his foot and likely would miss the remainder of the season. That’s a really tough loss for the Hogs defense. Greenlaw has started every game this season and started 11 as a true freshman a year ago. He’s expected to be replaced by true freshman Harris.
Here’s a look at the play Greenlaw appeared to have been injured on. Look in the middle of the field around the 2-yard line and you see an Alabama lineman dive into Greenlaw’s legs. Almost immediately after, Greenlaw has a noticeable limp.