State of the Hogs: Urgency

Vanderbilt doesn't usually strike fear in any SEC team, but the Hogs better feel a sense of urgency when they play the Commodores.

The magic phrase this week seems to be "sense of urgency." Can Arkansas get it before lunch time? Will the Hogs take some hunger to Vanderbilt?

There have been few teams in the SEC to ever make a late October trip to Nashville in fear of the Commodores. Usually, when the trees are turning, Vandy is out of players.

That's when lack of depth rears its ugly head with Vandy and there are just too many holes to be competitive in an SEC game. Colder weather means the Commodores are staring at a listing ship. They are limping.

That's not the case this year. The Commodores are not only healthy, but they seem to have a ship that is sailing straight.

For starters, Vandy has a running game. The ‘Dores also have a nice ball hawking secondary. And there is a running quarterback.

Perhaps the Hogs did not start out with a sense of urgency against Texas A&M. Maybe that was one of the reasons they fell behind 35-17 at halftime. Maybe they didn't fear Ole Miss en route to a 17-0 deficit.

That was the explanation provided by Arkansas captains Tyler Wilson and Jarius Wright after practice Tuesday. Both said the Hogs must have urgency when they take the field against the Commodores.

But don't think it's going to be like the Ole Miss game. It's unlikely that you'll see the Commodores try what the Rebels did on defense.

No, Vandy will come after Tyler Wilson. The Ole Miss sat back and played zone. There weren't many blitzes. Vandy is going to take the opposite approach. It will force the junior quarterback to make plays.

For example, Vandy blitzed quarterback Aaron Murray on 63 percent of Georgia's offensive plays. The Commodores blitzed Alabama over 40 percent.

I'll be interested to see how Arkansas plays it this week on offense. Bobby Petrino let Wilson call the checks at the line of scrimmage in the first half against Ole Miss. The Hogs went more with a no-huddle look after half. Often, Wilson would check with Petrino for the check.

Once the rhythm was established and the Hogs hit a play or two in the third quarter, the Hogs were off the races. Ole Miss wilted and the Hogs did as they wished for much of the second half. They outhit and outplayed the Rebels while scoring 29 straight points.

It sounds strange, but I doubt Vandy will wilt as fast as the Rebels. That's a credit to new coach James Franklin. But it will serve the Hogs well if they can hit the Commodores in the mouth early.

Just as Arkansas knew the scouting report on Texas A&M after watching Oklahoma State mount a big comeback in the third quarter, the Commodores will know the book on the Hogs. It says you can get the Hogs early.

Vandy will have a sense of urgency early. The Hogs have given everyone hope with their first-half performances of late. They have to take that away, if they can.

I believe they can, if they compete. There isn't any doubt in my mind that the Hogs competed harder in the second half against A&M, Auburn and Ole Miss than in the first half.

This is not breaking news. Wilson said it's been the number one topic in the meeting room.

There's been much gnashing of teeth among the fan base about poor game plans and strategy in the first half dating back to the Sugar Bowl. It's been noted that the adjustments in alignment, technique and strategy have been good in the second half.

But it's my belief that the number one thing that has changed in the second half is competitive spirit. The leadership from within the team has stepped up at halftime as much as coaches.

Indeed, the main thing I've seen change when the Hogs have emerged from the halftime locker room is that sense of urgency. Defenders got off of blocks. They got two, three, four men to the ball. That improves tackling more than any strategy change.

The game will be hardfought in Nashville. Arkansas has not done anything to make anyone fearful over the last few weeks. In fact, the blueprint for beating the Hogs has been put out for everyone to see.

It's nice to have better playmakers. But it's also important to be hungry before lunch.

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