State of the Hogs: Top 10 Review (Ole Miss)

If you watched the radar, then you were smart this weekend. But I'd just as soon skip radar -- and video replays -- and enjoy the way Arkansas played in a 38-24 victory over Ole Miss.

Just when you think you've figured out all of the things to watch, you find something new. It's the first time I've gone to my laptop for radar imagery during a football game. I was watching the storms roll towards the stadium, counting down the minutes to when the game would be delayed (twice) and then as they cleared the area. I'd just as soon not watch radar during a football game again.

Along the same lines, I didn't think I'd be watching my watch to time a pair of weather delays. I had them at 58 and 32 minutes. Some called the second delay 31. I trust my own watch. I didn't want a replay to check it, either.

Replays? Not a bad day. I felt for Bobby Petrino. He tried to use the rules to get a call corrected on a close pass interference penalty. But all it did was wipe out a sack. You know that had to frustrate the Arkansas coach.

I didn't think I'd have to watch all the different warm-up periods. Most times I was studying injured players trying to figure out if they were going to be able to play or not after those delays.

But the best thing I watched was Knile Davis. I've thought the Arkansas running backs had failed to take advantage of decent blocking in a couple of games earlier this year. Davis got everything that was there against the Rebels. It was a nice performance by a player popular with his teammates.

Here's a view of our Top 10 things to watch from last week as we previewed the Arkansas-Ole Miss game and how it went in a 38-24 victory by the Hogs:

1) Ryan Mallett
Just like last week, we started out watching Ryan Mallett, but finished with Tyler Wilson standing front and center. This time, Wilson got the closing act just right. He did what good quarterbacks do, eliminate the mistakes. Wilson made a couple of key throws, but more than anything else he handled a clean operation. There was one bobble, but it was smooth in the end. Mallett's shoulders have been the whispers the last few weeks, but they concerned what some thought was a separated left shoulder. Mallett has denied that, calling it speculation. This time, it was a bruise to his right shoulder that caused his velocity to drop. He didn't return after the first lightning storm break. He said it's a minor injury and he should play against Vanderbilt. If he doesn't, Wilson can handle the assignment. That much is clear after the way he's played the last two weeks. I think we'll be watching as he warms up against Vandy. Does he have the velocity back? Is he full speed? Well, we are getting ahead of ourself and writing this week's Top 10 a little early.

2) Jeremiah Masoli
The Ole Miss quarterback was all that and more. No, he wasn't Cam Newton. He didn't make any touchdown runs. But he still rushed 15 times for 98 yards, including a 46-yard dash. He was 21 of 36 for 327 yards passing. He found wide receivers isolated on UA cornerbacks three times for touchdown passes. Whatever heat Houston Nutt got for taking a chance on Masoli probably was worth it for this day. He gave the old Arkansas coach a chance, but ultimately the Hogs won it because of superior play at running back.

3) Special teams
The Hogs won this area after failing miserably here against Auburn. Joe Adams returned a punt 97 yards, setting a school record. It also allowed Bobby Petrino to make good on a promise to Ken Hatfield in preseason that the Hogs would return a punt for a touchdown this season. The Hogs were at least adequate on kickoff coverage and returns. They gave up a 33-yard punt return, but special teams were a winning element of the Arkansas performance. Dylan Breeding punted seven times for a 41.7 average. Zach Hocker nailed a 46-yard field goal. Kudos to the Hogs in all areas of special teams.

4) Turnovers
It was a stalemate. Each team had two turnovers. But Ole Miss might feel worse for its turnovers. Ole Miss lost a fumble at the UA 1-yard line in the fourth quarter. The Rebels also failed to fully take advantage of the two Arkansas turnovers, a Ryan Mallett interception and a Ronnie Wingo fumble.

5) Mental Toughness in the Fourth Quarter
Thanks to great effort by the Arkansas offensive line and a goal line stand by the defense, this goes to Arkansas for the first time in several weeks. The Hogs were the most physical team in the fourth quarter, making it easier for their playmakers, notably Knile Davis. The Hogs avoided turnovers and costly penalties in the fourth quarter, a major step forward. And it was a long fourth quarter because of the break because of lightning in the area.

6) Physical Line Play
We already talked about this one. The Hogs have had stretches of physical line play earlier this year, but not like this game. The Hogs won the battles up front most of the day. The offensive line shouldered the load with Ryan Mallett, Joe Adams and Greg Childs on the sidelines with injuries. Players say DeMarcus Love provided key leadership in the huddle. He's perhaps the most physical lineman on the Arkansas team. Arkansas could not run the ball at Ole Miss last year. They blocked the Rebels this time around. Give credit to Van Stumon, the fullback from North Little Rock. He was part of that physical line play, despite starting out in the backfield. He blocked the Ole Miss linebackers on several key runs by Knile Davis.

7) Wide receivers
Both sides received good play from the wideouts. Arkansas had to overcome injuries to Joe Adams and Greg Childs, but got big plays from Cobi Hamilton, particularly a sideline grab in the fourth quarter when the Hogs need to get the ball off their own goal line after a nice stand by the defense. The Hogs eliminated the drops that cost them a few touchdowns last year at Oxford. Overall, it was a solid performance by the Arkansas wide receivers. They get a good grade for blocking in the running game, too.

8) Penalties and mental errors
This was another stalemate. I don't remember this ever happening before, but both teams had eight penalties for 55 yards. There were no costly penalties. The referees might have missed a pass interference or holding call here or there, but it was a clean game for the most part. That might be surprising because of the length of the game. To stretch a game to five hours with two weather delays could really test the mental capacity or focus of the players, but this one didn't get away from either team. It has been a point of emphasis for the Hogs and it was a nice effort.

9) The Houston Nutt factor
No doubt, all eyes were on the old Arkansas coach several times. He got his share of boos. He drowned them out amidst the Arkansas cheers when his team entered the field each time since he held his players in the tunnel until the Arkansas team entered. It was his way of playing a little game with Arkansas fans. It should be expected. He did take another shot at Arkansas fans in the post-game interview when he mentioned that he must have left some players behind because the Hogs are pretty good. That irritates many Arkansas fans. Again, it shouldn't be a surprise that he went that route -- it's his style.

10) Replay Man
There were not a lot of replays. Really, there wasn't a lot of controversial situations. Bobby Petrino asked for one review when pass interference was called. He saw a tipped pass by Jerico Nelson, ahead of the interference. The officials didn't agree after checking the replay and upheld the ruling on the field. Petrino had called timeout just before the snap on the next play, a result he would have liked, a sack. He joked after the game about several weeks of replay calls. He said, "I haven't had a lot of luck with replays and that's all I can really say." Houston Nutt asked for a replay on a sideline catch by Cobi Hamilton. He thought he saw Hamilton bobbling the ball as he went out of bounds on the far sideline. The replay confirmed the ruling on the field, a catch by Hamilton. So, there wasn't a lot of gnashing of teeth on the replays. It's nice to keep that guy out of the action.

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