Commentary: Defensive Mistakes Show Up

Arkansas won the game, but there were problems with the defense. Here's some commentary from HI.com publisher Clay Henry.

There were some happy faces in the Arkansas dressing room Saturday night after a 49-17 victory over Missouri State. But, try as he might, Reggie Herring couldn't produce anything close to a smile.

"I'm trying to say something positive," said Herring, Arkansas' new defensive coordinator. "Let's call it the good, the bad and the ugly."

It was clear that the P.J. Ikner's 86-yard touchdown run through the heart of the UA defense was the bad and the ugly all wrapped up into one play.

"That was Mickey Mouse high school defense," Herring said. "We were in the safest base defense against the run that we have. We had two unblocked safeties and three linebackers and the back just ran through us without anyone touching him. It was a run call and we just stood and watched him run.

"I thought we were further along than that. Now we did a bunch of good, but our lack of discipline on that play and the other touchdown in the third quarter tells me that we have a long ways to go."

The only thing that was clear was that the Arkansas corners and safeties were better at playing the pass. The Hogs played six corners and most of them appeared to know how to cover Missouri State's wideouts. The other highlight on defense was the way strong safety Vickiel Vaughn closed on the ball.

Except for five turnovers, Arkansas did enough good things on offense to leave the impression things are headed in the right direction. Running the ball for 483 yards will turn some heads on most nights, but the Bears appeared to want to play the pass more than the run.

"We knew from watching on film that their style is to cover you when you try to spread it, so that's what we did and that isn't what we usually see," said Roy Wittke, the Hogs' quarterback coach. "Most people we play are going to put more people in the box than what we saw tonight. They will man up on our wideouts and put more guys in the box."

That was fine with Stephen Parker, the Hogs' left guard. He liked the numbers he saw in the box when the Hogs went with three and four wideouts. He came off the field early with advice for offensive line coach Mike Markuson: run the ball and run some more.

"I told Coach Markuson, ‘We don't even need to pass,'" Parker said. "They were rocking and slanting up front, but we were walling them off and our backs were untouched for a long way. We see a lot of crazy stuff from our defensive tackles every day in practice. What they were showing us tonight was nothing compared to that. We were putting a hat on a hat and we were not missing anyone."

It didn't seem to matter who ran the ball, but it was clear freshman tailback Felix Jones lived up to his preseason billing as a difference maker.

"He's just a freak," Parker said. "You give him a crease, he's gone."

Jones liked the sound of that.

"That's good, right?" Jones said. "Tell everyone that it was real easy tonight because of what the line did. Big holes. No one touched us for a long way."

The problem was that happened just like that on at least one play when Arkansas was on defense, too. Ask Reggie Herring.

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