State of the Hogs: Top 10 List (Troy Review)

Improvement in running game and return of Dennis Johnson were among the positives in a 38-28 victory over Troy. But the finish was not up to Petrino's standards.

Arkansas did some things right against Troy. For starters, dashing to a 31-7 lead makes it tough on the visitors. Ultimately, that was enough to hold off the Trojans for a 38-28 victory and a 3-0 start.

But in reviewing the Top 10 things to watch that we wrote on Friday, we need to start with the total number of plays. Because of three turnovers, Arkansas gave Troy too many plays and didn't move the chains enough in the second half.

Troy had 83 plays against just 76 for the Hogs. It didn't start out that way. The Hogs ran 28 plays in the first quarter. Troy had only 14. That's the kind of ratio that Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino likes and that's why he didn't like the second half nearly as well.

The goal, Petrino said, is to get somewhere between 72 to 86 snaps on offense. The Hogs did that, but not by much. The question remains if they can keep the ball that much against a much tougher Alabama defense this week in Tuscaloosa.

Here's the rest of the Top 10 List review:

1. Number of plays
Again, it's not an exact science. First downs give you more plays. The Hogs did have 26 first downs and were 8 of 16 on third down. But fumbling a punt loses a possession. Unfortunately, they gained an extra possession after Tyler Wilson threw a pick six.

2. Tyler Wilson
There was the good and the bad. Wilson's third start probably will be remembered most for the way Bobby Petrino got after him in the middle two quarters despite the Hogs rolling to a big lead. Obviously, the execution wasn't perfect and there was the haunting pick six when Wilson didn't understand the adjusted coverage by Troy. Petrino said afterwards that he thought Wilson's eyes were on the rush too much and not down the field on receivers.

3. Corey Robinson
Troy's quarterback was everything advertised. He was very good in the spread offense. He got off 63 passes with a quick, strong release. He was sacked only once. He also made a big play with his feet. The good news is that the Hogs don't face many like him. The spread is tough when run right and Robinson can operate.

4. Chris Smith
The strong, fast defensive got his first start and had the team's only sack. He also had four tackles. He was probably tired by the end. The Hogs were on the field too long, mainly because they couldn't pressure Robinson. Smith's speed was evident in some run stops. He can cover some ground. He'll get a different test this week. Can he handle the outside running of Alabama's Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacey.

5. Dede Jones
There was some time at defensive tackle and some time at end. The Hogs didn't get their front four as much rest because Troy plays fast and doesn't sub much in its no-huddle offense. Afterwards Jones said the Hogs started fast, but faded in the second half. That's probably an accurate description. He said the coaches "turned loose" the defensive front but Robinson didn't hold the ball long enough for the front to do much damage. That's got to improve.

6. Dennis Johnson
The bowling ball on wheels returned. He looked dangerous on kick returns. Bobby Petrino said Johnson's vision on cuts is as good as anyone he's ever coached. Johnson didn't get a lot of carries because Ronnie Wingo had his best game. Johnson had four carries for 20 yards, including a long of 15 yards. He got tangled up on a couple of sweeps that looked promising, but didn't go anywhere. The good news, it looked like his hamstring held up and he'll be ready for more duty against Alabama.

7. Special teams
The bad mark here was a lost fumble in the second half when Joe Adams was too aggressive on a short punt. He said he should have just accepted a fair catch. Johnson's return gave the Hogs another dangerous man on kickoff returns. Zack Hocker was solid. The Hogs didn't do anything wonderful in this area and except for the fumble, did a lot of good things. But this wasn't a big win like it was in the first two weeks. Dylan Breeding did average 43.2 on five punts, including a net of 40.4.

8. Physical domination
The Hogs seemed to have that at the outset. There was more room up front and the Hogs had the Trojans outflanked. Kiero Small had some thumping blocks in the early domination, but Troy seemed to correct some alignment mistakes and didn't get outnumbered as much as the Hogs moved forward. The power formations were good to the Hogs as they built the 31-7 lead. Defensively, the Hogs didn't mash Troy's front in trying to rush the passer, but they controlled the Trojans' running game.

9. Improvement
There was, but not for four quarters. The Hogs couldn't have played much better in the first quarter, especially on offense. But no one was happy with the second half. Troy began to gain some momentum with a touchdown drive just before halftime. And that seemed to give the Trojans life for the second half. It left Petrino saying the Hogs had plenty to work on this week in Alabama preparations. Petrino takes pride in the way his teams attack the blitz and the Hogs struggled to make big plays this week. That was probably a step back. Alabama's blitz packages are well disguised. That might be a concern as the Hogs get ready for the trip to Tuscaloosa. If you handle the blitz, things look so easy. When you don't, it's a long day. That's where the Hogs have to improve this week.

10. Running game
This was actually a positive. Ronnie Wingo scored three touchdowns with his best performance to date. He made some big plays and looked sharp with more of his cuts than in the previous two weeks. He didn't play as well in the second half as he did in the first when he rushed for 80 of his 109 yards. He also had three nice receptions, including a 6-yard touchdown catch. Dennis Johnson gave the Hogs another option in the running game after missing both of the first two games with a hamstring. Of course, he went out during the second game last year with a ruptured bowel and was playing his first snaps in over one year.

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