Much has been made, including by this writer, of what Arkansas’ defense can do to stop Mississippi State’s offense. What has gotten a little less play is what the Razorbacks offense will be able to achieve against the home team’s defense Saturday.
The long and the short of it is, if the Hogs continue to be sieve-like in stopping the run, it’s going to take a magnificent offensive effort to win. If they can stall the Bulldogs, though, and Austin Allen can return to form, things look up.
Arkansas’ junior quarterback was once called the front-runner for first-team All-SEC. That was even when Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly and Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight were still healthy. But the beating Allen has taken throughout the year appears to finally be getting to him. In his last three games, he has 2 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He was at 18 and 6 before that. Allen’s completion percentage in the last 12 quarters is at 54 percent, while it was 63 in the first seven games. His lowest and fourth-lowest yardage outputs came in recent losses to Auburn and LSU.
Truth is, Allen is a necessity. If he’s clicking, lanes open more easily for Rawleigh Williams III and Devwah Whaley at running back. When Arkansas reaches 130 rushing yards this year, they win. When they don’t, they lose (notwithstanding the season opener against Louisiana Tech). Teams can simply stack the box against a hit-and-miss offensive line if Allen is off-target even slightly.
So, it’s gut-check time for the quarterback. The man has already shown some strength and want-to on the field. Time after time he’s taken hits from linemen and linebackers — big hits — and he’s peeled himself off the turf. And that’s a big step for a player who just one calendar year ago, it was questioned whether his desire was fully in the game. Not just in the media but by coach Bret Bielema.
Now, he has to take that next “heart” step. Quarterbacks, for right or wrong, are the emotional and physical leaders of teams. As Allen goes, the Razorbacks will follow, offensively. This is his time to show that gumption, because if Arkansas wins this weekend, it will almost certainly win against Missouri next weekend. Then it’s an 8-4 season and, frankly, that’s a pretty good year and the Razorbacks will have Allen to thank for it.
Circling the wagons
Because the quarterback is the leader, the face of the team, it was all the more curious he wasn’t one of the players made available to the media on Wednesday night.
The protocol for Arkansas media availability through the week goes Monday for Bielema, offensive coordinator Dan Enos and defensive coordinator Robb Smith. Tuesday is defensive coaches and players. Wednesday is offensive coaches and players. Wednesday night was the first night I can remember on this beat where the quarterback was unavailable on a Wednesday. It was the first time this season, I’m certain.
Consider that Arkansas’ two players for “On the Air with Bret Bielema,” the coach’s weekly radio show, on Thursday night are two players out for the season — linebacker Dre Greenlaw and cornerback Kevin Richardson — and presumptions abound.
Part of it may be Arkansas is a team trying to limit distractions before the penultimate game of the regular season, a game that, really, holds the fate of the entire season in its outcome. The other part, though, shows signs of a program seemingly dodging.
Right now, lean more toward the former. Bielema, the players and the staff have been forthcoming, or as forthcoming as college coaches and athletes typically can be, throughout the coach’s tenure. He deserves the benefit of the doubt.
- Despite Allen being unavailable Wednesday, wide receivers coach Michael Smith said the QB is returning to form in practice, writes our Jason Kersey.
- Alabama is understandable. Texas A&M a little bit. But Arkansas has yet to beat Mississippi State, too, in the Bielema era. They’re mum on it in the Fred W. Smith Football Center, but it’s out there, writes our Trent Shadid.
- Arkansas commit Montaric Brown may play expeditiously when arriving on campus next year. He received his U.S. Army All-American Bowl jersey earlier this week.
- Jimmy Carter at WholeHogSports has something of a different take on the Arkansas offense: re-establishing the run is the priority, he writes.
- Former Arkansas pitching coach Dave Jorn, who retired from the college game after last year, is now coaching in Korea, writes WholeHogSports’ Matt Jones.
- Both Bielema and Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen anticipate another close game this weekend. In MSU’s three wins, the Bulldogs own a one-point victory and a pair of seven-point triumphs. This from Mike Bonner at the Clarion-Ledger.
- Coach Jimmy Dykes’ Razorbacks basketball team (2-0) will entertain the defending WNIT champion South Dakota tonight at 7 at Bud Walton Arena. The Coyotes have won eight straight games dating back to last season, the second-longest streak in the country.
- Arkansas swimming and diving heads to Georgia Tech for the Georgia Tech Invitational starting on Thursday. The three-day meet includes fellow SEC teams Alabama, Auburn, Florida and South Carolina. The Razorbacks won the event last year and finished second two years ago.
- Razorbacks hockey is hosting Alabama this weekend at the Jones Center. It’s a club sport, yes, but I’m a hockey fan and the JC is about a half-mile from my house. I recommend it. Plus, it’s Bama. Arkansas hates Bama.
— Razorback Hockey (@RazorbackHockey) November 17, 2016
Yee-Haw! Today in Arkansas
Carter, who is a friend, busts my chops regularly about being a Springdale “homer.” I love my town, man. Can’t help it if someone has trouble getting up before noon and doing things in the city they live in. Ahem.
Anyway, I’m extra proud today. A high school student at Har-Ber, across town from me, won $250,000 on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? recently. Seriously. A 14-year-old high school student, no less. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has the story and some video.
Side note: Y’all know that show was still a thing? Me neither.