LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — No. 20 Arkansas easily rolled past FCS opponent Alcorn State, 52-10, Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.
The Hogs improved to 4-1 and remained 0-1 in SEC play, with a gauntlet of conference games awaiting during the next two months. That stretch begins next weekend in Fayetteville with a clash against No. 1-ranked Alabama.
Here’s a quick look at the Arkansas report card for the Alcorn State victory.
All of these grades come with an asterisk considering the level of competition. It’s better just to get that out of the way here than rewrite it as a clause in every sentence.
Arkansas finished with season highs in total yards (559) and rushing yards (353). The Hogs averaged 9.3 yards per rush and had two 100-yard rushers in Devwah Whaley and Rawleigh Williams III.
The offensive line looked better than it has all season — quarterback Austin Allen was barely touched all day — but there was a moment early in the second quarter when the Hogs failed to pick up a fourth-and-1. Alcorn State’s defense stuffed Kody Walker on the play.
I’ve been pretty hard on Arkansas’ offensive line all season. Hogs coach Bret Bielema and offensive line coach Kurt Anderson have ardently defended the group, and there is certainly time for it to improve, but things get a whole lot tougher starting next week against the mighty Crimson Tide.
Junior Jared Cornelius had his second straight 100-yard receiving game and seems to be establishing himself as a reliable weapon in this offense.
Alcorn State’s 313 total yards were probably more than Arkansas wanted to surrender to the FCS team. There remain problems in the middle of the defense that need to be addressed.
But the Razorbacks did intercept two Alcorn State passes and have returned three picks for touchdowns this season after Henre’ Toliver’s pick-6 Saturday. Arkansas also recorded 2 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. All in all, a solid performance.
Special Teams: C
Cole Hedlund missed a 44-yard field goal. This is clearly still a problem.
Only three of the Hogs’ 9 kickoffs were touchbacks. This is also still a problem.
Punter Toby Baker — without a doubt the best specialist on the team — didn’t get to participate at all Saturday because the Hogs never punted. I wonder if it’s time to give him a shot at kicking off.
Arkansas is still trying different players on kick and punt returns.
It would have been hard to mess this one up, but still credit Bielema and his staff for having the team ready to come out and play from the get-go. That hasn’t been a given lately in the Hogs’ Little Rock games, but the team took a 24-0 lead after the first quarter.
Considering the program’s struggles in the state’s capital and the fact Arkansas was coming off its first loss of the season, that’s a really good thing.
All told, Arkansas did exactly what it had to do Saturday against Alcorn State. The Hogs won convincingly and got some young guys valuable playing time.
Now, things get considerably more challenging with Alabama coming to town.