It can be a little scary to play Vanderbilt too close to Halloween. The dominant color in the Commodores' uniform is black, a common hue for Halloween costumes. They can produce some scares, if you don't play well.
But the best the young Vandy team could do was two scores (scares) in the first quarter. After that, the Hogs made them disappear like a vampire when the sun comes up. It was a 49-14 victory, the easiest in SEC play in the three seasons under Bobby Petrino.
Basically, the Hogs made Vandy look like Vandy. They won the way you are supposed to win against the SEC's traditional doormat.
The only bad news came on the injury front where split end Greg Childs, one of the SEC's best players, sustained what was thought to be a knee injury. Defensive tackle Byran Jones also left the game with a knee injury. Joe Adams didn't play after hurting an ankle against Ole Miss. Those three injuries will be the major worries this week as the Hogs prepare for South Carolina. Bobby Petrino didn't provide much detail on any of the three in his post-game briefing with media.
It's hard to be too picky in our review of the Top 10 Things to Watch for this game. We'll go through it, but after you critique the 6-2 Hogs for their first-quarter tackling, the injuries and too many penalties, you'd say the Arkansas victory was a fun watch. Here's the review from what we thought might be worth watching before the week eight game:
1) Vanderbilt Offense
There was a scare for one quarter. After that, the Hogs figured out, play run against Larry Smith was at quarterback. Play pass when Jared Funk was at QB. The Vandy passing game was as advertised, weak. The Commodores had only one third-down conversion, only one first down via the pass. The Commordores completed six passes to teammates, two to Razorbacks. The Commodores scored 14 points when they were on offense. The Hogs scored 9 points when the Commodores were on offense. There wasn't enough sparkle in the new playcaller to overcome problems at quarterback, wide receiver and the offensive line.
2) Ryan Mallett
The Arkansas quarterback broke his own school record with a 409-yard night. Coaches praised him for the way he spread the ball around and took what the Vandy secondary gave him, which was a lot. The safeties weren't quick enough to react on several of Mallett's famed bullets. He showed his shoulder was fine with one throw, a strike right down the middle to Jarius Wright on a 15-yard touchdown route when the UA receiver lined up in the slot and ran straight to the post. Three Vandy defensive backs were pretty close, but none could move to bat down the laser to Wright. Mallett was given credit for "good checks" to get the Hogs out of bad plays by coaches. Head coach Bobby Petrino said Mallett was focused and intense. Maybe it was just Vandy, but it still was an impressive performance by the junior quarterback who had left the two previous games with injuries.
3) Physical Presence
The Hogs won the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The offensive line didn't pound the Vandy front, but there was movement. The pickings were so easy in the secondary that the Hogs didn't spend as much time running the ball as they did the previous week against Ole Miss. The sore spot had to be penalties. There were too many false starts and two chop block penalties as the Hogs were flagged 13 times for 130 yards, many in the offensive line. Petrino called it the "number one negative" in the game afterwards. They won't win with that many penalties this week at South Carolina.
4) Depth at defensive tackle
The Hogs did fine at defensive tackle, but they may have lost another player. Byran Jones went down with a leg injury in the first quarter. After the game, Petrino said Jones had either a "leg or knee" injury, but wasn't exactly sure. Dede Jones suspension isn't known. Obviously, Byran Jones' status wasn't revealed after the game, either. Petrino isn't always clear on injuries in hopes of keeping opponents in the dark. Byran Jones was on the bench in sweats for the second half. Perhaps his injury is not serious. Zach Stadther and Patrick Jones, unavailble earlier this year for different reasons, are playing again. Lavunce Askew had a nice game starting for Dede Jones. The Arkansas defensive line controlled the tempo against a young Vandy front.
5) Cornerback play
This one is hard to grade. Vandy's safeties were worse than the corners, but you can't give up 409 yards passing to Mallett and think the corners were good. The safeties were frozen on some of Mallett's lasers, so that made the corners look bad anyway. The Vandy passing game was so pitiful that it's hard to say the Arkansas corners made major improvement, but they probably did. One of the better plays was a stuff on a short pass play by freshman Eric Bennett in relief of Ramon Broadway at game's end. That has to give the Hogs some hope for the future. Isaac Madison got the start at field corner after giving way to Darius Winston for the last week. The Hogs are going to be tested this week when they play South Carolina's nice collection of 6-4 and taller wideouts.
6) Kick returns
This was a non factor in the game. Joe Adams didn't play. Jarius Wright handled punt return duties and mainly took them on fair catches since Vandy's punts had plenty of hang time. Wright got tired at the end and Jerico Nelson stood in as the punt returner, but didn't get many chances. Lance Ray was the kickoff man. He appeared to have a little more room. But Vandy's kickoff coverage isn't up to SEC standards because of depth issues. The Commodores are playing lots of freshman and it shows in special teams as much as anywhere.
7) The Arkansas Running Game
Decent, but not great. Knile Davis had another solid performance. Ronnie Wingo is getting better, too. However, the Hogs had too many penalties to stick with the run game since it put them behind the sticks as far as down and distance. If they are going to run the ball, they have to eliminate the false starts, holds and chop blocks.
8) Mental Focus
Bobby Petrino had the best reference after the game when he mentioned the "maturity" of the team in avoiding a letdown after a big victory over Ole Miss. The Hogs fell behind 14-6, but raised their game in the second quarter. Petrino was correct in his assessment that the Hogs "won the way they should have won," meaning in dominant fashion. The Hogs didn't have a turnover which is the way you win against an overmatched foe. They didn't give Vandy too much help as far as field position breaks. There was talk that the game was almost boring for spectators. That's the way a Vandy game is supposed to be. No drama.
9) Fourth Quarter
This one was over by then and the reserves got some time. Again, that's the way Vandy is supposed to be. No major drama. Mallett set the school record for passing and was on the bench for the end. Vandy also got to play backups. The Hogs won the fourth quarter 14-0 and weren't trying to score at that point. The goal is to have home fans heading to the exits in a happy mood. Mission accomplished.
10) Defensive ends
Vandy did a nice job with help on defensive end pass protection schemes, but that turned loose the Arkansas blitzers, Jerry Franklin and Jerico Nelson. Chris Smith did get some time in a backup mode, something that was needed. The defensive ends did a nice job on assignments in the Vandy option game. The Commodores couldn't get anything going there. Damario Ambrose got some pressure on the quarterbacks. Jake Bequette flashed his speed with a block on Jerico Nelson's pass interception return for a touchdown.
Top 10 Review (Vandy)
Hawgs Daily Top Stories
TCU vs Iowa State primerAfter falling in double-overtime to Arkansas, TCU looks to get back to their winning ways against Iowa State.
Horned Frog Insider09/15/2016
The Ultimate Midlands TeamThere is a lot of talent in the Midlands region, with a vast majority of the highest rated recruits playing high school football in the Lone Star State. Which prospects made the…
These rival helmet color swaps are revoltingSwapping rival teams' helmet colors? It shouldn't have been done, but someone did it anyway.
Post-July 2017 Top 100 Player RankingsWith the July evaluation periods, Nike Skills Academy, adidas Nations and Under Armour's Elite 24 over, Scout's basketball recruiting team has updated the 2017 top 100. DeAndre…