Arkansas 49, Texas Tech 28
LUBBOCK, Texas – Arkansas came into Jones AT&T Stadium on Saturday with the idea of playing Ground and Pound with the pass-happy Red Raiders of Texas Tech.
Mission accomplished. Fully accomplished.
Alex Collins rushed 27 times for a career-high 212 yards and two touchdowns, Jonathan Williams had a career-high four touchdowns and 145 yards on 22 carries and quarterback Brandon Allen even joined in on the fun with his own scoring run as Arkansas rushed for over 400 yards and manhandled Texas Tech, 49-28 .
"I think this was the blessing of the Auburn game to be quite honest," Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said of the season-opening 45-21 loss at Auburn. "Obviously we wanted to win that game. We battled hard but we didn't play four quarters. I think our guys knew coming into today that we were going to play two quarters, we were going to come into the locker room and talk about it and come out and play another two and that's exactly what happened."
The Razorbacks rushed 68 times for 438 yards on the day when it had 499 yards total offense and only punted once in a thorough dismantling of their Big 12 foe, who jumped out 7-0 early after a punt team miscue by the visitors.
"I really do think that we can run the ball," said Bielema, whose team ran the ball 19 out of 20 plays while scoring on three straight possessions in the second quarter. "I think we can throw the football. We just didn't have to. "
He made it clear the way to beat a hurry-up, no-huddle offense was to do exactly what Arkansas did on Saturday.
"A lot gets said about no-huddle and huddling - this is the way it is supposed to work," Bielema said. "You are supposed to impose your will on someone. You are supposed to keep your offense out there and kind of put your defense in a better position and that's exactly the way it played out."
Allen only had to put the ball in the air 12 times (6 of 12 for 61 yards) on a day when the visitors ran 80 plays and had a 40:39 to 19:21 time of possession advantage.
The Razorbacks ran the ball 40 times in the second half while throwing just twice against head coach Kliff Kingsbury's team, which scored just seven points after halftime and had just three possessions and six minutes of possession time after intermission.
The Razorbacks, who came into the game leading the nation at 9.2 yards per carry, have now rushed 137 times for 1,086 yards - an average of 7.9 yards per rush.
They have also scored 122 points in the last two games - the most in back-to-back games since 1928.
"I know a lot of people said last year we were a running offense," Bielema said. "Well, we didn't have a lot of options last year. We couldn't throw it real good and we weren't real good at running, so we took the lesser of two evils.
"Now we can throw the football," Beilema added. "We can run the football. But when you can run the football, when you tell everybody, on the sideline, everybody in the stands, all their coaches know that we are going to run it, and we can still run it, that's saying something."
Kingsbury's vaunted offense had just 351 yard total offense - the second-lowest total in his 16 games at the helm of the Red Raiders and 200 yards less than it averaged in early wins over UCA and UTEP..
"Just lined up and we knew it was coming, just didn't get it stopped," Kingsbury said. "I thought offensively we gave them two touchdowns with those turnovers and you can't put your defense in that position. The second half we didn't have an answer.
"...You know we knew it was coming like I said all week," Kingsbury added. "...They lined up and pounded us and we didn't - like I said we just didn't have an answer today...They beat us on both sides of the ball. No excuses."
Bielema was quick to give credit to his strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert.
"A lot of credit goes to Ben Herbert and the way we train our guys 24/7, 365 days a year," Bielema said. "I'm pretty sure we are going to come out and score. Just the mentality those guys were coming out with. But to battle back and respond after they matched the score was really, really big."
He talked about how he clearly saw the Red Raiders defense get tired in the second half as the ground and pound continued.
"We talk all the time about body language and different things," Bielema said. "And if I could have a quarter for every time a defensive coach has yelled 'get your hands off your hips.' We always used to talk about it, the D-coordinator. Make them bleed. Even though they are not physically bleeding, but you want to see somebody show they are weak and I think our guys really captivated. They talked about it in the fourth quarter when the body language was huge."
It was the first time the two teams had played since 1991 when both were in the Southwest Conference. While the Razorbacks were picked last in the SEC, the Red Raiders were selected as the sixth-best team in the Big 12 in the preseason rankings.
It was also Arkansas' first non-conference road win since a 38-28 win over Texas on the same day 11 years ago.
"I said 'hey, we are not going over there, we are representing Arkansas past, playing Texas Tech,' " Bielema said. "...Believe me, I know we are not part of any National Championship or SEC Championship (talk), but that's what our goal is. It was a big day to carry that banner for sure.
"...I thought for old school Razorback fans, to come over here and play Texas Tech, I think it is just kind of awesome to have those kind of fans from that era and that nostalgia, to get that win was pretty cool."
Arkansas fell behind 7-0 after a special team's miscue when a punt bounced off up back Jared Collins, but never trailed after Williams' first TD run just a few minutes later and later took a 28-21 lead into halftime and never looked back.
The Razorbacks used over seven minutes on the first possession of the second half and punched it in after a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Allen turning a broken play into a five-yard Allen scoring scamper and a 35-21 lead.
"Well we knew coming into the second half that if we got up by two scores we were going to pound it," Bielema said. "(Offensive coordinator) Jim (Chaney) and the offensive coaches really put that game plan into full effect and our players executed it."
Perhaps the key momentum swing came after Arkansas fumbled deep in Texas Tech territory with the scored tied 21-21, but Razorback linebacker Martrell Spaight picked off a Davis Webb pass and returned it to the 11 before Williams punched it in.
"I think that was huge," Bielema said. "...On Thursday night, I had a team meeting and I kind of, I didn't get all biblical on them, but I talked about being your brother's keeper, taking care of one another.
"When you get a team that can just kind of put their hand on their brother and say, hey, got you here, that's worth its wait in gold, man. You can't coach that stuff up. That's got to happen within the room."
Kingsbury had hoped to take advantage of the Arkansas miscue and take the lead before halftime, but Webb threw it right to Spaight, who grabbed the first interception by an Arkansas linebacker in two years and returned it 30 yards.
"That was big," Kingsbury said. "We got the ball back. Wanted to go score. Had three timeouts, a minute 30, and just made a couple bad throws there in a row that he can't make in that situation. It just can't happen."
Williams scored again later early in the fourth quarter and then when Collins ripped off an 84-yard run to make it 49-28 with 10:56 left in the game, the stadium begin to empty as the Red Raiders lost to a non-conference foe at home for the first time in 27 games.
"We just constantly picked each other up all over the place," Bielema said. "And to be part of that, that's created on game day, but it's cultivated during the year. It's the type of kids you recruit; it's the type of players you believe in. I'm not trying to be overly simplistic, but I think that's really true."
Bielema was quick to give credit to Allen, who showed off his wheels on a 22-yard scramble and his 5-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and is now 28-of-48 passing this season for 353 yards and six touchdowns.
"For anybody that wanted to pull B.A., just watch this game," Bielema said. "And it wasn't his stats or throwing or anything like that. It's the way he managed the game...I think Brandon will tell you he is playing well because of the guys around him."
Williams' four touchdowns were the most for the Razorbacks since Darren McFadden's four in 2007 and as as many as he scored all of last seasons. He now has six this season and Arkansas has 13 rushing touchdowns in the last two games alone.
"I really liked the attitude and demeanor that our offensive coaches installed," Bielema said. "Our players really bought into it. I heard J. Will say before the game ever started that he isn't going to get tackled today and they struggled to do it."
Williams, whose girlfriend plays soccer at Texas Tech, loved the physical and mental toughness Arkansas took to Lubbock.
"We want to be a physical team," Williams said. "We stressed mental and physical toughness this week in practice and it carried over to the football field. We saw physical toughness and we also were mentally tough."
Williams said Arkansas' tailback group - which also include sophomore Korliss Marshall - root each other on.
"It's a great relationship, "Williams said. "We are brothers out there. We support each other. When one person breaks a big run, the other person wants to break a big run. We are always fresh. If one person gets tired, the other person can go in. It's a great relationship and it's great on the football field."
Bielema was certainly happy for Williams (323 yards this season) and Collins (419 yards this season) - who now has five touchdowns this season - while Korliss Marshall had 5 carries for 13 yards. But Marshall (13 carries, 58 yards this season) needs to have better ball security according to his coach.
"J-Will was awesome," Bielema said. "I think him and Alex really continued to roll. I think Korliss has got to be more of a factor for us. We have to be great with ball security and he's so explosive, we have to continue to get him in there. I thought our fullbacks did a really nice job and executed the plan."
Texas Tech (2-1), averaging over 500 yards, had three turnovers on the day - including the first career interception for Razorback true freshman cornerback Henre' Toliver in his first career start.
Tight end/offensive lineman Cameron Jefferson and offensive lineman Sebastian Tretola both had their first career starts as well while senior cornerback Tevin Mitchel saw his first action of the season had had two pass break ups on the first series of the game.
Spaight had a game-high 11 tackles while linebacker Brooks Ellis had eight tackles and broke up a career-high four passes and forced a fumble on a day when Webb was 27-of-45 passing for 252 yards, which was a 113 yards under his average this season.
"I thought (defensive coordinator) Robb Smith and our defensive coaches did a nice job settling our defense down and getting our guys to play well and line up before the snap and be in good position," Bielema said. "They get rid of the ball in a hurry so there is a little bit of that playing into it but overall I thought our guys played pretty well."
The Razorbacks – winners of two in a row after a 10-game losing skid - will host Northern Illinois on Saturday in a 6 p.m. game in Fayetteville.
Northern Illnois (3-0) downed UNLV 48-34 on Saturday to run its nation's longest road winning streak to 17. The Huskies have been to a bowl game the last six years and have a win at Iowa among their 49 victories since 2010.
"This is what we are," Bielema said. "I know at times it ain’t that pretty, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun.”
Korliss Marshall got a few yards and a face mask penalty.
Josh Liddell couldn't hold this possible interception.
Alex Collins rolls around end.
Keon Hatcher dives for yardage.
Players celebrate after the victory.
Jonathan Williams breaks down a defender.
Brandon Allen scores on a 5-yard scramble.
Jonathan Williams breaks outside on a touchdown run.
Photos by Jason Ivester
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