There is plenty of criticism going around for Arkansas’ 1-2 start and certainly new Razorback offensive coordinator Dan Enos and quarterback Brandon Allen have been the focus of a lot of that.
Enos knows that the Arkansas offense has to get better than it was in Saturday’s 35-24 home loss to Texas Tech, but doesn't seem to think it is that far off the mark.
The Razorbacks had 424 yards total offense - 228 yards rusing and 196 rushing, but also had trouble again in the red zone in the fourth quarter.
“Certainly wasn't perfect,” Enos said. “…There were about four plays that we wish we had back. But I was pleased with the way he played.
“We just have to make a couple of more plays. If we make a couple more plays, that game is a lot tighter and we're in it in the fourth quarter with a possession to tie or take the lead.”
Enos also gave Allen - who was 16-of-21 passing with two touchdowns and an interception- a passing grade.
“I thought he played very well,” Enos said. “He probably had about 4 or 5 minuses on the day that we talked about and looked at really hard.
“I thought he played well on third down. I thought in the run game he did a really good job of getting us in the right plays. There's a lot to be said for those types of things.”
That’s not to say Allen played perfect as he had one touchdown pass to Hunter Henry called back because of pass interference and then short armed what look like it would be a touchdown pass to Jeremy Sprinkle.
“We missed Jeremy,” Enos said. “It was a great read. They had jumped into Tampa 2 and the ball would have gone to somebody totally different on that play. They called timeout. We came out and changed our play, we adjusted a play to Tampa 2 coverage.
“If we get man free go to this, they played man free, which Jeremy was the guy we wanted to work on that route, so we found him. And I think Brandon obviously threw it short.
“When you look back at it you see Brandon, he threw it I think just a hair too soon. He didn't let Jeremy set his angle and short-armed it a little bit. I think if he had given Jeremy another half a tick to come out of the break and set his angle, I think he could have made a better throw. “
Enos said there was plenty of blame to go around for the loss.
“Certanly can use that as a learning moment and go from there,” Enos said. “But certainly no means did we lose the football game because Brandon Allen missed that one throw.
“There's plays on offense that we can pull out and say this guy missed a cut, this guy missed this. On the screen pass to (freshman tailback) Rawleigh (Williams), where we get it down to third and 2 when we have to kick the field goal, we missed a block on the guy who made the play down there, or else that scores a touchdown.
“The Duwop (Damon Mitchell) play’s a touchdown, but a guy falls off a block at the end, or else he scores and we're not in that third and 2 situation.
“So there's several plays out there that we can look at and everybody's got a piece - coaches and players have a piece to it.
“But certainly we've got to make critical plays at critical times. We put them in a lot of those situations last week and we'll continue to do that this week too.
Arkansas meets Texas A&M (3-0) Saturday at 6 p.m. at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
It means Enos’ offense will go up against the defense of John Chavis, A&M’s defensive coordinator who had success at Tennessee and LSU before this stop.
“Watching his team play this year, I mean they play fast,” Enos said. “They're really athletic. They're very, very well coached. They're in the right spots at the right times, and I think he does a tremendous job. Obviously has a very good reputation for a reason. Has won a lot of games and had been very successful. You can see that show up on the tape. They're very well coached, very disciplined and a good football team.”
Enos knows that A&M will be Arkansas’ biggest test to this point.
“I think we need to try to control the line of scrimmage the best we can, run the football,” Enos said. “Obviously it's going to be our biggest challenge to date. There's no question about that.
“This is by far the best defense we will have played this year. They're extremely athletic. And like I said they're big. That's going to be a challenge.
“I think at the end of the day we're going to need to throw the football and play-action and do those things in the pass game. But certainly running the football.
“You do not want to get one-dimensional against this football team, I can tell you that. It would be tough sledding trying to protect those guys all day long. So we certainly need to create balance and be able to run the ball.”
The Aggies already have 15 sacks this season.
“They're a great defensive line,” Enos said. “All of them, not just the ends. They’re outstanding, they're explosive, they're long. They're quick-twitch. This is going to be a huge challenge. Their whole defensive is extremely athletic. But their defensive line in particular has very, very good players.”
Arkansas has not allowed a sack this season.
“We haven't allowed a sack, so it's been pretty good,” Enos said. “The first third down on Saturday, we got a guy on Brandon's feet a little bit, but other than that, knock on wood, it's been really good.
“And that's not just the offensive line as we always say. The offensive line's certainly doing a great job, but that's backs involved, that's the quarterback understanding that he's got to get the ball out of his hands.
“That's receivers and tight ends creating separation early in their routes so we're not holding the ball. All those things are involved in it.
“Certainly this week will be our biggest challenge to date as far as a pass rush goes and guys that …. If you get into a one-on-one battle and you're not very good with your technique and fundamentals, or you hold the ball too long, these guys can be a factor. It's certainly going to be our biggest challenge to date, that's for us.”
Arkansas had just three possessions in the second half against Texas Tech, one that ended in a field goal, one that ended in a missed field goal and another one in which Alex Collins’ fumble.
“It was an odd game in the fact that we had two (full) possessions in the whole second half,” Enos said. “It was just, I think the game was a possession game. I think we had it almost 14 minutes in the second quarter, which is unusual as well.
“But I thought again, with the run game, that was our plan,” Enos said. “We wanted to run the ball, possess the ball, get first downs.
“The only thing we should have changed in my opinion, there were times we had to kick a field goal and miss a field goal. We should have scored two touchdowns there. That's certainly what we need to do as an offense to help our team win.”
Injuries have certainly played a part for Arkansas as it has lost tailback Jonathan Williams and three wide receivers in Keon Hatcher, Cody Hollister and Jared Cornelius.
“There's been some adversity, that's for sure, with the injuries,” Enos said. “But every year I've been doing this, every year is different. That's the one thing about it, being a coach and doing it for a while, there's different things that come up each and every year. It's just been unfortunate.
“Obviously first and foremost for the individuals, because some of the guys that this has happened to, man, they had great off-seasons and great attitudes and have worked extremely hard to put themselves in a position to contributor this year. So first and foremost, as coach, you feel for them.
“…Then you look at it from an offensive standpoint, and you feel for us a little bit and our team, because we're dwindling there in different areas. But I also was excited to see some of the guys play a little bit Saturday.”
That include Kendrick Edwards, Jojo Robinson and Drew Morgan, who caught a touchdown pass.
“We've just got to continue to get different guys ready,” Enos said. “That's our job, is to continue to coach these guys and put them in positions to be successful. We're excited about the young players we have.
“This week we've got to get Kendrick even more ready. We've got to get Dominique Reed ready. We've got to get Duwop ready and go from there. Shoot, you never know what's going to happen. We're going to need all those guys before the year is over.”
That being said, Enos did think Arkansas reestablished its run-game identity against Texas Tech.
“Yeah, we did,” Enos said. “We felt good about it. Going into the game we made a huge emphasis of it. We were very disappointed the week before with how we ran the football. We felt our guys ran extremely hard. First and foremost, we thought our two backs really ran hard.
“Then our offensive line and tight ends and and fullbacks and everybody did a great job. Brandon did a great job in identification of the fronts and getting us into the right plays at the line of scrimmage.
“I thought our guys tried to play extremely physical. I think that was a huge step forward. We were certainly happy with the physicality of the way we ran the ball.”