FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Two reasons why Arkansas is 3-0: Austin Allen and Rawleigh Williams III.
Yes, there are more reasons than just those two players. The junior quarterback and sophomore running back have been huge, offensive MVPs even, in each of the Razorbacks’ first three games in their 3-0 start this year.
It’s simple to look at their standard statistics and see they’ve been good. But let’s go deeper. Let’s look at the *why* they’ve been good, because honestly, they’re that good because of one another.
Follow me here. Or, you know what, follow these.
Austin Allen is filthy on play-action.
— Eric Bolin (@ericwbolin) September 18, 2016
Simple, but effective game plan for the Hogs. Run, run, run, play action. Austin Allen has answered the bell when called upon.
— Harrison Graham (@HarrisonGraham9) September 11, 2016
Such a big difference for Arkansas' passing game when play-action is used, giving Austin Allen time to throw.
— Kurt Voigt (@Kurt_Voigt_AP) September 11, 2016
Even back to August…
Austin Allen on play action roll outs is money. Definitely his comfort zone
— John Nabors (@TheForumJohn) August 13, 2016
It starts with Williams. Without a competent runner, the play-action pass is meaningless. And Bret Bielema offensive lines are known for producing big-time rushers. He’s had a 1,000-yard rusher every year he’s been coaching, and Williams is well on his way reaching that mark again, largely because of a hoss offensive line.
It isn’t an offensive line without issues, as can be plainly seen every game at this point. In fact, it’s a wonder Williams has gotten as many yards as he’s achieved because of one pretty significant hole. Rather, one lack of hole.
Williams is unable to run right with much success. When he’s headed that way, where the bulk of the line problems have been with first-year starter Colton Jackson at right tackle and first-year Hog Jake Raulerson at right guard (until last game), he has gained just 40 yards. His success rate increased last week against Texas State, but it’s still the weakest link directionally.
Williams by direction
Runs left: 22 carries for 145 yards
Runs middle: 34 carries for 169 yards
Runs right: 15 carries for 40 yards
That’s an entire side of the field left limited, allowing defenses to focus their attack to only, really, two-thirds of the rest of the field.
Addendum: might want to consider more single-back sets. Williams has 219 of his 354 yards when he’s the lone guy back there. Those come on 35 carries and that is versus 135 yards on 36 with a fullback in the game.
Even with some difficulty with his blockers in front of him, Williams still is third in the SEC in rushing yards.
It’s allowed Allen to take huge advantage. The coaches saw the success Williams was having and utilized him as a decoy more often against TCU than they did against Louisiana Tech.
Allen threw 15 times on play-action against the Horned Frogs, completing 12 for 142 yards and a touchdown. This was a week after going 5 for 5 for 69 yards and a score against Louisiana Tech. Then, against Texas State — a walkover of a game — he went another 6 for 7 for 126 yards another touchdown.
Added up, a cool 23 for 27 (85 percent) for 337 yards and 3 scores. That’s money no matter how you slice it. More than half Allen’s yards and nearly half his scores have come on 34 percent of his throws. That leaves his standard drop-backs at 30 for 52 (58 percent) for 318 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The formula doesn’t have to continue for Arkansas to be successful. Help in the offensive line will open more avenues for Williams, which will, in turn, allow Allen to continue his dominance.
At this point, they’re the greatest weapons in Arkansas’ arsenal.