ARLINGTON, Texas — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has spent the last several weeks telling reporters that he isn’t concerned about his offensive line.
But with one decision on Saturday, Bielema — or offensive coordinator Dan Enos — directly contradicted all of that.
Late in the third quarter, on fourth-and-goal from the Texas A&M 1-yard line and with the game tied at 17, Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen handed the ball to wide receiver Keon Hatcher on a reverse that failed miserably. Hatcher was tackled for a 5-yard loss.
Two plays later, Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight delivered a laser-guided pass into Josh Reynolds’ arms for a 92-yard touchdown.
Final score: Texas A&M 45, Arkansas 24.
let's check in on arkansas fan jerr—oh no pic.twitter.com/Ns1WzD8J05
— mike taddow (@taddmike) September 25, 2016
See above. After Hatcher was brought down and Knight delivered that throw — undoubtedly his best pass since the 2014 Sugar Bowl — Arkansas seemed completely deflated.
Here’s the other scary thing about Bielema’s decision to go for it on fourth down: It might mean he didn’t trust Cole Hedlund to drill a routine field goal that would’ve put the Hogs up 20-17.
Not sure if there were any questions about Austin Allen’s toughness, but if there were, they were answered pretty emphatically Saturday. He left the game briefly in the first quarter after taking a hit and suffering a bruised chest, but came back and looked as good as ever.
He was also under relentless pressure throughout the entire contest, as Texas A&M’s mighty defensive line completely obliterated the Arkansas offensive line.
Arkansas had its chances to win this game, and Allen is the reason.
What the heck is Arkansas’ offensive line going to look like after this week? Bielema already made some changes — then changed things back — in the last couple weeks at center and right guard, and also swapped out Brian Wallace for Colton Jackson at right tackle.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but the problem is; I’m not sure Bielema and offensive line coach Kurt Anderson know, either.
Arkansas has a good — potentially great — QB, solid RBs, good WRs, a great TE … and a pretty terrible offensive line.
— Jason Kersey (@jasonkersey) September 25, 2016
Hatcher, Drew Morgan and Jared Cornelius combined to catch 19 passes for 289 yards and 2 touchdowns. Hatcher and Morgan — both seniors — have really been clutch this season, and Cornelius seems to have finally found his groove. The junior missed last week’s game with an injury.
What it means
Arkansas has a lot of really good pieces in place to build a solid, possibly 9-win team this season. But none of that is going to matter if Williams and the other running backs can’t get past the first level and Allen can’t stay off his back.