FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — When Arkansas players took the field for their home game against 11th-ranked Florida, they sported flashy anthracite uniforms and shiny helmets.
The uniforms represented the first of several changes for this Razorbacks squad.
New defensive rotation.
The Hogs beat Florida 31-10 on Saturday inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, securing the program’s second victory over the Gators and the first with the teams as SEC rivals.
We will have plenty of coverage from Arkansas’ victory on SEC Country in the coming days, but for now, here’s a quick recap of what happened Saturday.
On Florida’s first offensive snap, Arkansas safety Santos Ramirez picked off Luke Del Rio and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown. The Razorbacks never trailed and the pick-6 set the tone for the entire game.
Was the season unraveling after the Auburn embarrassment?
Arkansas played its worst game of the Bret Bielema era — and one of its worst games ever — two weeks ago in a 56-3 loss at Auburn. There was certainly a feeling after that game that things could unravel pretty quickly for the Hogs, but a timely bye week and some key adjustments made a big difference Saturday against the Gators.
Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith — who might have started feeling some heat after the Auburn debacle — made some big adjustments. Freshman defensive lineman McTelvin Agim made his first career start. Jeremiah Ledbetter shifted to the outside of the line and helped the Hogs “set an edge,” something that had been a problem all year.
On offense, the Hogs inserted Johnny Gibson into the starting lineup at right guard and he seemed to play well.
This was the Arkansas offensive line’s best performance of the season. Hogs quarterback Austin Allen was sacked just once.
Can the Hogs keep up this momentum? Arkansas hasn’t won two straight games since the non-conference portion of the schedule, and next week, LSU comes to town.
Yes, the Hogs have beaten the Tigers convincingly in consecutive seasons. And yes, Arkansas has been a very strong November team under Bielema.
But LSU is a very good team — probably a much better squad than the Gators — so next week will be a major challenge. If the Razorbacks can beat LSU, the Hogs could easily win nine regular-season games.
Arkansas allowed 531 fewer rushing yards to Florida on Saturday than it did in its loss to Auburn two weeks ago.
The 241 total yards allowed by Arkansas’ defense are the fewest since a 42-3 win over Texas State in September.
The Hogs might have figured some things out on defense.
What it means
It means that once again, Arkansas’ inability to be consistent caused many of us to misjudge how good this team can really be. When things are clicking for the Razorbacks, they look like a 9- or 10-win team.
More importantly than anything, Arkansas’ win Saturday over the Gators means bowl eligibility.