MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The fourth quarter was owned by the Hogs on Saturday night in a 45-23 victory over Kansas State. As darkness took over in Liberty Bowl Stadium, the guys with the bright helmets did shine the brightest, winning the last period, 14-0.
That was a very nice fourth quarter by the Hogs. It should be noted that Brooks Ellis came up with the killer sack. It was his only tackle in the game, but it was the finishing touch. Arkansas held the ball for 13:20 of the final quarter, to just 1:40 for K-State.
Arkansas won the total offense battle, 141 to minus 13. K-State did not have a play gain yards among its four snaps in the fourth quarter.
There were two stats that stood out for the game. Because Arkansas was so scared of kick returner Morgan Burns, they conceded the field position battle. K-State had an average field position of its own 39-yard line (to Arkansas' 31 for average starting field position). That's winning field position for KSU. But the Cats managed only 242 total yards and just 79 net rushing yards.
Arkansas one the other big number in the game. Since both teams try to own time of possession, this was a bigger stat than against some other quick strike offenses. Arkansas held the ball for 37:30. You can do that when you rack up 30 first downs to just 13.
The big weapon, of course, was Alex Collins with 185 rushing yards. The fact that the Hogs could and did run the ball effectively (with 254 yards on the ground) made the play-action passing game on the bootlegs to the tight ends most effective. K-State knew it had to stop that play, but couldn't play run with linebackers and get out on the tight ends, too.
K-State coach addressed the tight end dominance by the Hogs in the interviews afterwards.
"It was evident on the field that certain things Arkansas did we didn't play very well," Snyder said. "The boot leg pass had a substantial completion percentage and we definitely had difficulty with it. We had a pretty good understanding of what we were going to see, but it still comes down to coaches making adjustments during the game and we couldn't.
"Arkansas is physically mature. We are certainly physical. Our guys were inspired to play that style and we knew that was coming. We did handle it at times, but they are a large team. Credit Arkansas. They played their game. They didn't do anything we hadn't prepared for but they did it very well."
Drew Morgan led the way with eight catches for 92 yards, but Hunter Henry had five for 92 and Jeremy Sprinkle had four for 81. There were pass plays of 43, 41 and 30 by those three. Brandon Allen had the one pick early when he tried to "squeeze" one to Henry. But he was 20 of 26 for 315 yards.
Liberty Bowl Noteables:
Alex Collins' 68-yard kickoff return was eighth longest in Liberty Bowl history. His three TDs and 18 points tied the Liberty Bowl record....the 569 total yards by Arkansas is second in Liberty Bowl history....the 37:30 possession time is fifth in Liberty Bowl history....
Attendance of 61,136 is fourth in Liberty Bowl history. It was a sellout, but there were some restricted view seats that were not put out for sale, according to the Liberty Bowl executive I talked to after the game. I think that might have totaled 50 seats. They'd just rather not sell those seats that are directly behind the supports for the press box and the sky boxes.
There was an attempt to get Liberty Bowl execs pinned down on the crowd split. They did not want to do anything to take away from Kansas State's decent support. Kansas State sold 8,000 seats. They did not ask for anything past the initial block they were given. So all of the extra blocks went to Arkansas.
The West stands, where the K-State blocks were, is also where the Liberty Bowl keeps the most tickets for the local patrons who buy every year and that's a lot of corporate folks. It is believed that almost all of those found their way to Arkansas fans. So the K-State side did have a lot of Arkansas folks sprinkled with it. Indeed, there was a lot of red on the K-State side. There was almost no purple on the East side where it was 99 percent Arkansas.
A large block of tickets (several thousand) went to Auto Zone, the Liberty Bowl title sponsor. Those tickets were available for Auto Zone general managers throughout the region. About 99 percent of them found their way to Arkansas fans. Memphis banks also had large blocks of tickets and all of them went to Arkansas fans.
So with 61,136 in the stadium, how many were Arkansas fans? Some estimates put it at 45,000. My Liberty Bowl sources wouldn't argue against that number, but wouldn't say for sure. They said K-State could have had as many as 10,000 there. That would still leave 5,000 for fans of neither team and 45,000 for the Hogs.
That 45,000 number is not something that K-State officials would like to agree to, because it would be exactly what they said is the largest number of fans to cross state lines to see a bowl game -- a record it thinks it holds for the Fiesta Bowl in 1997. K-State is proud of its bowl attendance. The Wildcats say they have averaged 25,000 fans for games played in the Continental U.S. since 1993. For sure, they didn't get that number at the Liberty Bowl....
Filling the Void as Line Coach
Eric Mateos, a grad assistant with Arkansas the last three years, was the Arkansas line coach for the bowl game, assisted by Brey Cook. He won't be considered for the vacancy left by Sam Pittman. But Bielema said he will get a line coach job somewhere. Bielema said Mateos discovered an important key in K-State's defense that helped them in the bowl game and was given to the O-line on Friday night. Bielema would not reveal the key item discovered, but offensive lineman Sebastian Tretola nodded his head in agreement with Bielema when it was mentioned after the game in the media interviews....
The replacement for Pittman might come as soon as the end of this week. Bielema did not reveal any candidates for the job, but it is believed that several NFL candidates could interview this week. Bieleman will remain in Memphis for two days before flying to Ft. Lauderdale to meet with Alex Collins on his future. Bielema had said he would meet with Denver Kirkland as well, but that was not mentioned Saturday night. So it was not a surprise when Josh Norris, NBC NFL draft writer, tweeted that he had been told Denver Kirkland was entering the draft. There has not been an announcement from Kirkland. Hunter Henry and Denver Kirkland announced they will go to the NFL draft as juniors on Monday.
Red Zone Offense
Arkansas was six of six in the red zone in the Liberty Bowl, with five touchdowns. In the last seven games of the season, the Hogs were almost perfect in the Red Zone. They went 33 of 34 on red zone chances in that 6-1 stretch. The lone miss was the blocked field goal at the end of the Mississippi State game that resulted in the one loss, 51-50.