If you haven’t seen Arkansas’ miraculous fourth-down conversion from its overtime win over Ole Miss yet, well, let’s just say you need more college football in your life.
On a play that recorded both a completed pass, receiving yards and return yards, Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen, tight end Hunter Henry and running back Alex Collins gave college football what could very well be the play of the year. It was hard to believe when it happened live, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just as hard to believe when watching it the second, third and 100th time.
Let’s break it down:
Ole Miss received the ball first in overtime and scored a touchdown. Fast-forward through a few negative plays by Arkansas, and the Hogs sat at fourth-and-25 with the game on the line. Allen set up in the shotgun with Collins to his left, two wide receivers on his right, and two tight ends next to the offensive line — this is known as 12 personnel.
Ole Miss countered that look with an all-out prevent defense set up with only three players in the box; the rest of the defense was at the first-down line or in the end zone.
This didn’t seem promising for Arkansas, but the snap ensued.
Phase 1: The catch
When teams are facing a prevent defense, they’re not usually looking to throw to the sticks. With eight defenders sitting near the first-down marker, chances are they are going to bat it down or make a play on the ball if a quarterback throws it anywhere nearby.
Instead, teams try to place the ball about five yards short of the first down, bait the defense out of position, then switch fields to run past the first-down marker.
Arkansas was able to do that with a nice crossing pattern to Henry, who had open space because the other receivers ran past the first-down marker and distracted some of the defenders.
That part worked, but a defender immediately started to wrap up Henry as he caught the ball. It was a nice try, Arky, but you just couldn’t … wait …
Phase 2: The lateral
I’m sorry, what did Henry just do? Did he just chuck the ball straight up into the air? That’s not the most effective style of lateral, but, hey, he kept the play alive, so props to him.
Too bad it went straight to an area where there were a ton of bodies. All Ole Miss had to do was fall on it or tackle one of the offensive linemen in the … hold on, it looked like Collins picked that ball up when it bounced. There’s no way. There’s no way. There’s …
Phase 3: The scoop
He did! The deflection off the lineman’s hands bounced straight up and into the arms of Collins. Since the ball was thrown backward, it was considered a fumble by the offense. Therefore, the ball was live, even though it hit the ground. Man, what a wacky play for the Hogs. Too bad Collins still had 25 yards to go for that first down. Even with the scoop it was all but … Oh no …
Phase 4: The run
Well, with the help of improbable luck and execution on multiple occasions, that happened. Following a caravan of blockers, Collins was able to get up the sideline by switching sides of the field, giving him the space to cross the first-down line and extend the game.
An added element to the disbelief was that one blocker was able to squeeze enough space around three Ole Miss defenders at the end of that run.
It was a joy to watch for everyone who wasn’t an Ole Miss fan, and it was a play that makes college football Saturdays some of the most polarizing sporting events of the year.