State of the Hogs: Top 10 Review

Arkansas didn't win the battle up front enough of the time to play downhill. That's as much a part of a 28-24 loss at Rutgers as the mistakes in special teams.

Where do you put this 28-24 Arkansas loss to Rutgers? It's in many areas. That's generally what happens when you blow a 24-7 lead. It's the whole enchilada.

The Razorbacks did not lose in one area. The entire team left some things on the field in Piscataway, N.J., that were not good enough. Yes, the two long punt returns allowed in the second half were glaring. There were some gains in special teams, a partially blocked field goal, a made field goal and a fake punt produced a field goal. But the negatives at the end were glaring in special teams.

The offense had some issues scattered around, starting with the blocking at the point of attack. The offensive line did not get to the linebackers with the offensive line. There were few holes. The backs did not get to the secondary much at all and that's the Rutgers weakness, but it wasn't exposed.

Quarterback AJ Derby, starting for the injured Brandon Allen, wasn't accurate enough, but that's been his rap all along. There were a few more tricks this week and maybe enough to get by in a perfect game.

Defensively, there were some obvious highlights in the pass rush, but the Hogs were probably one quarter short in that regard. There was not enough pressure in the fourth quarter when it looked like holding was ignored, typical of an SEC crew down the stretch.

The big plays that were given up at linebacker and in the secondary were too much to overcome given the problems in the punt coverage. But definitely defense contributed to the fourth-quarter turnaround that gave Rutgers the victory.

Rutgers provided enough gifts that Arkansas could have won with a slick game, but that didn't happen. The six penalties were in the words of the head coach "insane" mistakes. They were scattered around the team, too. Several were critical, but all were tough to swallow. There was a third-and-1 where it looked like Swanson was ready to snap it and didn't get Derby's call or it didn't happen in correct order. There was the Lake late hit. Face mask penalties popped up again. There was a holding that wrecked a drive.

One of the big keys will be whether or not coach Bret Bielema can hold together the seniors and there are quite a few that play big roles. The stretch that this team faces is imposing. There could be a losing streak unless a big upset can be won. Will they stick together?

Now a review of our top 10 keys from Friday, with an early thought that Brandon Allen still needs a lot of recovery before he can play this week against Texas A&M. It is probably going to be another week of few clues from the Arkansas staff as far as Allen's availability. He's closer to being able to play the following week at Florida, than this week against the Aggies.

1, All About Linebacker -- Rutgers got it done, Arkansas did not. The Hogs turned loose tight end Tyler Kroft, an average tight end, for a career day with six catches. The Hogs rarely found him in coverage and some of that has to be pinned on the linebackers while safeties were providing extra help for the cornerbacks against a tough Rutgers wideout bunch. Rutgers weakside linebacker Kevin Snyder made 10 tackles and was front and center against the Arkansas outside game. Middle linebacker Steve Longa had seven tackles. Austin Jones and Otha Peters, the UA mike backers, combined for seven tackles, too.

2, Quarterbacks -- Brandon Allen didn't dress out for the game. Bret Bielema said he wasn't trying to play games with the media by noting he took snaps on Thursday. He said it was the truth, but there just wasn't a way for Allen to pass and AJ Derby was the man that was prepared to play all along. Derby wasn't sharp with his accuracy, a problem in the past. Meanwhile, Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova fought through adversity after the Hogs knocked him around for three quarters. They sacked him five times on the day, but Nova produced big plays down the stretch to rally the Scarlet Knights and was the difference in the game.

3, Tight Ends -- Rutgers won this battle in a big surprise. Tyler Kroft's six catches for 133 yards led all receivers. Hunter Henry had two catches for 37 yards for the Hogs, including a touchdown on a halfback pass. But the tight ends weren't a big factor for the Hogs on this day. Austin Tate returned, but didn't have a ton of snaps.

4, Stopping the Run -- Both teams faltered in the running game. Rutgers, minus 47 yards in sacks, netted just 53 in the run game. Arkansas had 25 yards in losses, including one sack, for just 101 yards rushing. So it wasn't about who could run so much as who could pass. That was Rutgers. Rutgers star Paul James was knocked out of the game with a leg injury by the middle of the third quarter.

5, Outside Matchup -- Arkansas couldn't get outside. Rutgers manned the perimeter in fine fashion and did so without relying on its weak tackling corners too much. This was an area that had been the strength of the Arkansas offense, but it disappeared somewhere along the New Jersey Turnpike. The Hogs will have to figure out how to find it this week against Texas A&M. Fortunately, the Aggies have had trouble stopping the run.

6, Speed -- Rutgers matched the Arkansas speed. Well, it didn't appear either team had an advantage there. It was an even deal as far as ability to run. Rutgers probably had a little more team speed than Arkansas at wide receiver and that negated a size advantage for the Hogs up front.

7, Special Teams -- It started well for Arkansas and was a big part of the 24-7 lead. There was a blocked field goal, a converted field goal after a fake punt produced a first down. There was some good play in the punting game -- until late in the third quarter when Janarion Grant made both Sam Irwin-Hill and Zach Hocker pay for giving him too much room. Grant returned one punt 58 yards for a touchdown, then set up another score with a 47-yard return to the UA 33-yard line.

8, O-line Injuries -- They were not a factor, or at least didn't seem to be. Both David Hurd and Grady Ollison, the starting tackles, started and went the distance. Neither seemed to be the beasts on the outside that they'd been in the first three weeks. Hurd was coming back from a knee issue, Ollison an ankle injury.

9, Trench Play -- Rutgers won the war and the game. There were too many stalemates for the Hogs. The defensive line got pressure on Nova for three quarters, but in the end the Rutgers offensive line did enough to open up the passing game for the comeback. Darius Philon was the big sack man with two. The Hogs hit Nova more than last year, but it wasn't enough down the stretch. Arkansas made only three yards on the ground on six fourth-quarter running plays. After dominating the fourth quarter in the first three games, it flipped on them in Jersey.

10, Atmosphere -- High Points Solutions Stadium was as advertised, a nice home advantage. But the Hogs had the black-out crowd quiet for most of the game. But after Grant's first punt return, the home crowd did not sit down and they were every bit as loud as most SEC venues. They enjoyed the end where they chanted SEC as the Hogs left the field. To the victors go the spoils.

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