Sometimes you think you know what you are going to see, but it never materializes. That's what happened Saturday night in Arkansas' 52-6 victory over New Mexico.
The sacks just never came for the Arkansas defense. No, that's not strong enough. The Hogs got blanked. Zero sacks.
Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson had a simple explanation. The Hogs never got the Lobos into third and long. He called that right.
Actually, here's what the Lobos faced in the first half: third-and-2, third-and-4, third-and-4, third-and-3, third-and-6, third-and-4, third-and-10. The Hogs did a good job against that relatively tough assignment, limiting the Lobos to just one conversion.
In the second half, New Mexico had third-and-3, third-and-8, third-and-4, third-and-1, third-and-8, third-and-7, third-and-2, third-and-1, third-and-4 and third-and-6.
That's not exactly putting the opposition behind in the stakes. The other side to that is simple. The Lobos didn't try too many risk plays in the early downs. They wanted to avoid putting the quarterback in tough spots and they were good in that department.
So here are some more specific thoughts on our Top 10 things to watch from Friday. We'll start along the same lines.
1. Defensive line
The Hogs controlled the line of scrimmage, but didn't get a lot of lost yardage plays. The best thing that you can say is that they limited an athletic quarterbacks scramble opportunities. Tarean Austin threw short and quick to help his young offensive line. The Hogs were able to keep it simple and get off the field thanks to the way the front performed most of the night.
2. Team speed
As expected, the Hogs won this battle again. Wide receivers Joe Adams, Cobi Hamilton, Jarius Wright and Marquel Wade were too much in the open field for the Lobos. This appears to be where the Hogs are going to hang their hat with this team. If the Hogs can get these wideouts the ball in the open field, there are going to win a lot of races to the end zone.
3. Running game
The Hogs improved. They rushed 42 times for 259 net yards. That's over double the previous week against a better defense. Both quarterbacks ran for one touchdown. Kody Walker had a pair of TD runs. Ronnie Wingo did a little better, but he fumbled in his one burst deep into the secondary. Ironically, the long run of the night came on the game's second play when Tyler Wilson took a bootleg 30 yards.
4. Running back
The best one was a wide receiver. Joe Adams had two runs for 33 yards. He is going to get more touches in the backfield. Bobby Petrino praised both Wingo and De'Anthony Curtis for making improvement. The Hogs still need to get Dennis Johnson healthy. That might be something to watch for this week.
There were high points, then some mistakes. Tyler Wilson tried so hard to make plays in the running game that he knocked himself out of the game. Actually, it was only deemed to be concussion-like symptoms. He seemed fine after the game. He fumbled once on a hard hit in the open field. He had an interception and two ill-advised passes on the goal line that were tipped away. But he still completed 18 of 26 passes for 259 yards. Brandon Mitchell was 8 of 13 for 114 yards. Both were very good at check downs in the passing game with UNM's safeties playing deep.
6. Line domination
The Hogs did control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The offensive line was cleaner and they didn't turn as many defenders loose in protections. Mitch Smothers and Jason Peacock both seemed to play well at weakside tackle. The blocks were more crisp. Defensively, the sacks weren't there, but Byran Jones, DeQuinta Jones and Robert Thomas knocked around the UNM offense all night.
There were a few more missed tackles in the open field than in the opener, but no real problems. Obviously, the goal is to keep the other team out of the end zone. The Hogs went one step further. They didn't allow the Lobos to snap the ball inside the UA 20-yard line one time. That's a sign of good tackling. Jerry Franklin and Alonzo Highsmith have tackled well through two games.
8. Mitch Smothers and Jason Peacock
They seem to be getting confidence with every snap. Locked in a battle for the weak offensive tackle slot, these two newcomers don't look like rookies anymore. They didn't have any false starts. Both released and got down the field for blocks. Peacock was particularly effective in the run game in the second half.
9. Special teams
Two games and three touchdowns. That's fancy stuff for the Arkansas special teams. The Lobos did not cooperate in the punt game. They kicked away from Joe Adams all night. Adams got one chance but it was two yards from the sdieline and there were three Lobos to pen him there. Marquel Wade took one kickoff all the way for the highlight of the night. The best play of the night in special teams was a Tenarius Wright form tackle on a fake field goal that the Hogs stopped.
10. Brandon Allen
This was a pre-game deal. He's still on the redshirt list and will stay there as long as Wilson and Mitchell stay healthy. I encouraged fans to get there early and checkout Allen's release in warmups. He's quick and accurate the his passing release. He didn't disappoint. He looked sharp as the Hogs got ready for the Lobos.
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