It's fun to look back when the victories pile up -- along with yards. That's the story for the last month, big yardage games and victories. Few teams in the country are playing any better than this Arkansas team. The Hogs are on the edge of being considered for a BCS bowl and that could happen if the right pieces to the puzzle fall and in their lap.
First, they've got to take care of business this week against a tough Mississippi State club, probably wincing from taking a thrashing at the hands of Alabama. The Hogs and Bulldogs tangle at 6 p.m. Saturday in Starkville.
Here's a look back at the Top 10 List of Things to watch that I compiled ahead of the UTEP game, a 58-21 victory in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
The Hogs had plenty. Their tank wasn't empty and they controlled the emotion of senior night. Ryan Mallett said he was so pumped before the game that he asked head coach Bobby Petrino if he could skip the coin toss as a captain to run through the 'A' since he's never done that in his two years with the Hogs. Mallett said that got his juices flowing but he was able to calm himself by game time. The Hogs played hard against a Conference USA team. That isn't always the case, but they gave effort and won in style.
2) Ryan Mallett
It was pretty smooth for the 6-7 junior. Some say it was his last on-campus appearance. That may explain why he ran through the 'A' for the first time. He said he hasn't made a decision on next year, but that's a real possibility. Petrino said last winter that it would be Mallett's last year. Mallett accounted for six touchdowns, tying Madre Hill's school record set in 1995. Five of them were passes in the red zone. He got the ball to a host of receivers, something the Hogs like to do in their offense. For the night, he was 19 of 26 for 215 yards. He wasn't charged with an interception, although he had a pick that was returned for a touchdown wiped out by pass interference. There weren't really any other close calls. He was on target for most of the night.
There were 21 seniors playing their last game in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. They played well, too, as did the younger players trying to make sure their veterans went out in style. DeMarcus Love, one of three seniors starting in the offensive line, especially liked it that his last time on the field went for a touchdown drive. "That's what I want to remember in my final game in this stadium, that we drove to a touchdown," Love said. "It was an emotional night, but I wasn't sad. It was a happy night."
4) Into the Grinder
UTEP got 14 early points and was lined up for a go-ahead field goal late in the first quarter, but Tramain Thomas got in for a blocker and the Hogs dominated the rest of the way. It was every bit a grind-em-up type performance. The Hogs averaged 8.0 rushing and 8.1 passing. That will grind up most teams. The Hogs only punted one time, late in the first half. Dylan Breeding was so surprised that he couldn't find his helmet for a few seconds.
Zero, nada. That's what showed up in the stat sheet. The Hogs forced three and didn't have a fumble (much less a lost fumble) or an interception. As mentioned earlier, Mallett did have a pick wiped out by a penalty. It was against the intended receiver. The UTEP defender made contact as the receiver made his break so it was the right call, holding.
It was a relatively clean game for the Hogs. They had just five penalties for 34 yards. UTEP was flagged seven times for 73 yards. The Hogs still seem to have the obligatory procedure penalty in the offensive line. But the 15 yarders went away this week. It seemed like the SEC crew, led by Penn Wagers (our friend from the Auburn game), let both teams played. But his linesman, Al Matthews, didn't like it when UTEP coach Mike Price gave him the business after what appeared to be a poor spot. Price got a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for his efforts.
7) Pass Rush
The Hogs got two sacks and gave up just one. UTEP had given up only 11 all year, so that was a good number. Jake Bequette knocked UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe out of the game in the second half, sacking him at the 1-yard line. The Miner signal quarterback got his ankle rolled under his body. He didn't return. The game was already out of reach and it wasn't a huge factor. UTEP didn't get much pressure on Ryan Mallett. But when they did, Mallett did a nice job of sliding away from the rush.
8) Get to Eight
This one was a rout after the first quarter. There was never a doubt that the Hogs were heading to 8-2. They dominated a team it was supposed to thrash. They'll head back to SEC play for the final two weeks of the season with two tough assignments, this week at Mississippi State and then with a home game in Little Rock against LSU to end the regular season. The Hogs have played extremely well over the last month. About the only concern has been the kickoff coverage unit. If they can correct that -- and Bobby Petrino admitted after the game it was still a work in progress -- the Hogs might be hitting on all cylinders.
9) The Running Game
Wow. The Hogs rushed for 326 yards. Knile Davis had 182 on 11 carries, including a 70-yarder on a fake reverse that he timed perfectly. Davis got an early seat on the bench as Broderick Green and Ronnie Wingo combined for 24 carries over the last three quarters. Even Ryan Mallett got into the action in the run game with a 14-yard touchdown run on a bootleg. Teammates gave him a little grief for the final few yards when it looked like he was gathering his body for a leap. Ultimately, Mallett just leaned forward and stuck the nose across the line. The offensive line plastered the Miners. The only reservations in praising the running game performance is that the Miners haven't stopped any teams from running. The passing yards against them are low because it's been too easy to get chunks in the running game.
10) Count ‘Em
Everyone played. Bobby Petrino cleared the bench early in the fourth quarter. He might have done it earlier, but he had promised the starters two possessions in the second half and it took a bit to get those in. The Hogs rotated lots of defensive players, too. The numbers were all good. The Hogs looked like they could get to 700 yards in offense with 341 at the halftime. But the subs didn't keep pace in the second half and they finished with JUST 577. The best news was the quick way the fourth quarter expired. The Hogs kept the ball for 12:29 of the final quarter, pounding the ball with Green and Wingo.
Chris Gragg had a nice game, gaining steam as the Hogs look for more weapons after losing Chris Childs. Gragg caught four passes for 44 yards. He'll be asked to do even more as the Hogs head down the stretch.
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