Arkansas report card: Below average performance against Alabama
Arkansas fell to No. 8 Alabama 27-14 Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. The Razorbacks led going into the half, but 24 unanswered points from the Crimson Tide offense was too much to overcome.
Here are the grades Arkansas gets for the loss at Alabama:
The competition was certainly as tough as it gets in college football, but 220 total yards is never going to win a road game in the SEC. Arkansas was held below its season averages in almost every statistical category Saturday night. The Razorbacks entered the weekend averaging over 200 rushing yards per game but mustered just 44 yards against Alabama. Arkansas’ passing attack wasn’t much better, netting 176 yards on 15-of-32 passing. Quarterback Brandon Allen was running for his life much of the night, resulting in three sacks and multiple negative plays, which led to 11 third down attempts of six yards or more.
Arkansas’ defense hung tough most of the night. The Razorbacks held the Crimson Tide out of the end zone until a blown assignment late in the third quarter resulted in an 81-yard touchdown pass to give Alabama a lead it would never relinquish. Arkansas held Alabama to 396 total yards, including just 134 yards on the ground, and running back Derrick Henry was held to 3.5 yards per carry, his lowest output of the season. The Hogs did struggle, however, against the pass. Alabama quarterback Jake Coker was 24-for-33 passing for 262 yards and two touchdowns, but Arkansas did cause two interceptions.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Nothing negative or positive came out of the special team units Saturday night, so it’s tough to judge. Toby Baker punted 10 times for an average of 40.2 yards. To put that into perspective, Arkansas had punted just 12 times for the entire season going into the game. Baker did come up shy of a first down on a fake punt attempt, but you can’t blame that on a punter. Cole Hedlund knocked home both extra points he attempted. In the return game, Arkansas didn’t do much, and on the flip side, the Razorbacks held Alabama stagnant. Overall, there wasn’t much to say regarding special teams.
Everyone wants to point the finger at coach Bret Bielema because of the failed fake punt or for not going for it on 4th-and-1 from the Alabama 46-yard line in the third quarter, but those calls can’t be judged fairly in hindsight. If the fake punt works and the Razorbacks score on that drive and win the game, Bielema is a genius. That’s not how football works. The biggest problem for Arkansas was the offensive play calling on first and second downs. The Razorbacks faced 11 third downs where they had to pick up six or more yards; and they converted just two of those. Give the coaching staff credit for staying true to who they are and pounding the ball on the ground possession after possession, but at some point, you need to get a little creative. Find some way to get positive yards on first and second down, so you can turn 3rd-and-8 into 3rd-and-3.
Defensively, Arkansas played well enough to win the game — at least until everything unraveled late. But when you play Alabama in Tuscaloosa, you can’t beat them at their own game. You have to score points, and the Razorbacks could play 10 more quarters against the Crimson Tide defense and not have much luck. Overall, there were plenty of positives for the Hogs to take into the bye week. The run game will be reliable on most weekends, and tight end Hunter Henry will show up eventually in these big games. But until the Razorbacks can put together all aspects of their offense, it’s going to be hit or miss from week to week.