Most of Tech’s woes in this game can be boiled down to Davis Webb’s critical errors and the inability of the back seven to tackle. The other units could have played lights out and Tech still would have lost the game.
Quarterback: Davis Webb played to his experience level, and not one bit better. His inconsistency is his defining trait at this point. Webb occasionally makes throws that cause one to salivate at his potential, but follows them up with shockingly bad decisions. Kliff Kingsbury’s single most important observation in the postgame presser was that Webb “hangs on” to his first read too long. That is spot on. Kingsbury notices it. I notice it. And you can darn sure bet defenses notice it. They then gamble that Webb will obliviously throw to his first option, which makes interceptions not just likely but probable. Webb had better learn in a hurry.
Running Backs: Without Deandre Washington and Quinton White, Tech’s offense would have been dead in the water. Washington ran exceedingly tough all day and White was a great complement. Both did a great job of making Razorback tacklers miss in very heavy traffic. And both should have gotten the ball more than they did.
Receivers: Jakeem Grant’s fumble at the 15-yard line handed Arkansas its initial points on a silver platter. Otherwise, he had a good day with six receptions for 85 yards. Reginald Davis had a touchdown reception; his blocking was sporadic but better than in the season-opener. Bradley Marquez had a quiet afternoon. Devin Lauderdale looked dangerous with the ball in his hands, but that only happened twice. Generally, the receivers often struggled to get open.
Offensive Line: James Polk started at right guard in place of Dominique Robertson, and, coincidentally or not, the line blocked the rushing game better than it has in many a moon. Indeed, one could make a strong case that Tech’s o-line got the better of Arkansas’ d-line in the running game. A pity the play calling didn’t take more advantage of this matchup advantage. Pass protection was sporadic. Arkansas rarely brought more than four, but was nevertheless able to move Webb off of his spot and sometimes out of the pocket. Still, Webb wasn’t sacked.
Defensive Line: Arkansas rushed for 438 yards so obviously the defensive line didn’t have a good day. But this group did at least have a few positive moments. Keland McElrath caused a fumble and Rika Levi was the most active lineman, even getting outside to stop a sweep for a five-yard loss. Still, that is nowhere near enough. Branden Jackson, after almost singlehandedly thwarting UTEP’s upset bid on the Miners’ final series, was AWOL against the Razorbacks. It cannot be stated enough: the JUCO linemen must progress very rapidly indeed if Tech’s defense is to have any hope in the Big 12.
Linebackers: Ugh. Dreadful. Absolutely dreadful. When the linebackers weren’t out of position they simply missed tackles. And when they weren’t missing tackles, the outside ‘backers—Pete Robertson in particular—were getting sucked inside and losing containment. Honestly, except for Sam Eguavoen’s fumble recovery, there is nothing good to be said about what this group did.
Secondary: Coverage was good enough to win, although when the opposition passes only twice in the second half, this tells us nothing. And unfortunately, in run support, where the team most needed the defensive backs to show up strongly, there results were poor. J.J. Gaines missed as many tackles as any of the linebackers, and even Keenon Ward whiffed a time or three. Justis Nelson puts forth the effort, but just doesn’t have the tools or the technique to tackle effectively at the FBS level right now. Along with Ward, Tevin Madison may actually be the second most physical player on the defense.
Special Teams: Justis Nelson recovered a punt that caromed off a Razorback, which set up Tech’s second touchdown. Kickoff returns were adequate, and Taylor Symmank’s punts had excellent hang-time. The kickoff coverage team looked a bit shaky, but didn’t allow Arkansas to break a really long one. Cameron Batson erred by making a fair catch at the five-yard line.
Arkansas Report Card
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