LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas used a fast start to put Alcorn State away early on its way to a 52-10 victory at War Memorial Stadium.
The Hogs (4-1, 0-1 SEC), now ranked No. 16 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, raced out to a 24-0 lead and cruised to their first win in Little Rock since 2013. It’s a difficult game to assess since the talent gap was so wide between these two teams, but let’s do it anyway.
Here’s SEC Country’s film session breakdown of the game:
Whaley has first big game
Several freshmen took advantage of the opportunity to show what they can do against an outmanned opponent Saturday, with the most notable being running back Devwah Whaley.
Whaley was surrounded by a ton of hype entering the season but hadn’t yet displayed his immense talent with minimal carries through the first four games. That changed against Alcorn State.
Whaley needed only 9 carries to rush for a team-high 135 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. He showed good vision, an impressive ability to make quick cuts and breakaway speed.
After Saturday, it’s likely Whaley is set to receive the majority of the playing time being starter Rawleigh Williams III going forward. Now that he’s further accustomed to the college game, he’s simply too talented to keep on the sideline.
Here’s his touchdown run against Alcorn State:
Here’s a look at four other freshmen who impressed against Alcorn State:
DT McTelvin Agim
Agim has been good all season playing on the interior defensive line. He came to Arkansas as a defensive end, so his quick adjustment to the inside has been remarkable. He’s equally capable defending the run and the rushing the passer. He single-handedly ruined an Alcorn State series with consecutive tackles for loss as the Braves were driving.
Linebacker De’Jon Harris
Harris saw his first extended playing time and matched a team high with 7 tackles. He’s clearly the most-capable option among the reserve linebackers, and the Hogs are going to have to play him to allow starters Brooks Ellis and Dre Greenlaw to rest.
Harris is almost certainly the heir apparent to Ellis at middle linebacker, where he is listed on the depth chart, but Saturday he actually played more to spell Greenlaw. With the lack of production for other reserve linebackers (we’ll get to that later), Harris’ quick development could play a major role for the team going forward.
Here’s one of his best plays. He’s lined up on the far right of the Razorbacks’ defensive front:
Running back T.J. Hammonds
Like Whaley, Hammonds got his first-career touchdown vs. Alcorn State, though his came from 5 yards out in the fourth quarter.
Hammonds is primed to become a change-of-pace back who also can have an impact in the return game and potentially as a receiver. His quick feet and change of direction were on display Saturday as he went for 29 yards on 5 carries.
Wide receiver La’Michael Pettway
Pettway, a redshirt freshman, had the best game of his young career. He wasn’t caught off guard while recovering an onside kick on the opening kickoff, and later scored his first-career touchdown on a 10-yard pass from Allen.
Cornelius becoming big-play target
Junior wide receiver Jared Cornelius is emerging as possibly the Hogs’ most-capable target. He had his second consecutive game over 100 yards receiving with 106 on 4 receptions and 2 touchdowns.
Cornelius does a variety of things probably better than any other receiver on the team. Recently, he’s been able to get separation from coverage well down the field and is thriving as he continues to develop a connection with Allen.
It’s impossible to tell in these clips, but Cornelius ran impressive routes that gave the defender no chance on both of his scores Saturday.
Short-yardage struggles continue
The struggles of the offensive line to create a push in short-yardage and goal-line situations arguably cost Arkansas the game against Texas A&M. It should be noted the running backs, not just the offensive line, also made mistakes in these situations against A&M.
Even more concerning is those short-yardage troubles were apparent against Alcorn State. The Hogs were stuffed on a fourth-and-1 in the second quarter while running behind the left side of the line.
Looking at the video, left guard Hjalte Froholdt completely whiffed at blocking anyone on the play. He should have worked with center Frank Ragnow to double-team the defensive tackle, or got to the second level and blocked the linebacker. Both options likely would’ve resulted in a first down. He was indecisive and did neither, leaving running back Kody Walker with no room to get the first down.
However, it also could be said Walker should’ve bounced his run outside behind the pulling right guard (Colton Jackson) and the fullback (Hayden Johnson).
Either way, this is a concerning trend in both the offensive line and with the running backs. Here’s video of the play:
Giving up big plays a concern, again
Surrendering big plays, particularly in the running game, was another major issue in the loss to the Aggies that continued against Alcorn State. The Braves had runs of 53 yards by quarterback Noah Johnson and 46 yards by running back Arron Baker. Both of those big gains came through the middle of the defense, much like they did when Texas A&M rushed for 366 yards a week earlier.
Both plays came on option-read looks from Alcorn State. On the quarterback run (top video), several defenders make critical mistakes. Linebacker Brooks Ellis gets beat by a blocker and cleared out of the play. Nickelback Henre’ Toliver runs too far upfield and misses on his tackle attempt. Safety De’Andre Coley takes a bad angle that allows Johnson to run well into the secondary. The second clip is a bad play by reserve linebacker Dewayne Eugene, who over-pursues as Baker runs right by him.
The Hogs got their SEC-leading third interception return for a touchdown against Alcorn State. This time, Toliver was the beneficiary of a tipped pass that fell right into his hands and he raced 70 yards for the score.
Dan Skipper got his seventh career blocked field goal against Alcorn State. He’s now only two shy of the NCAA record for blocked kicks in a career.
Look at how the 6-foot-10, 319-pound Skipper shreds through the line to get the block. How do you stop this guy?