Arkansas has been an underdog seven times this season, winning three losing four. You can look at the running game as the key in all of them.
The Hogs have struggled to find their old physical ways in the running game. That’s been Bielema’s calling card. Consider that they’ve been underdogs seven times this season. In the upset wins over TCU, Ole Miss and Florida they ran for 180, 200 and 223, respectively. In the four losses to Texas A&M, Alabama, Auburn and LSU they ran for 120, 73, 25 and 81.
Of course, they have allowed 29 rushing touchdowns. The 25 allowed last year was the school record. Here’s the breakdown of rushing TDs allowed in the key games:
I am glad Enos is our offensive coordinator. Rather than Chaney. The passing game is so much better. But, I don’t think there is any denying the running game has diminished over the last two years. Now, has it been Eno’s emphasis on the pass in practice? Last year, was it JWill going down (though Alex was magnificent)? This year its obvious the o-line has taken a step back. And, while Rawleigh and Devwah are talented, the Alex/JWill production has not been matched. Last night the o-line got whipped…though I will say Rawleigh missed a couple of obvious cuts. They showed one on the replay. He could still be running.
As for stopping the run, I can’t help but think so much emphasis has been on figuring out how to slow down the spread that we actually took a step back with the front 7 being physical. Also, we really needed another salty linebacker playing with Brooks. Losing Dre was huge. And Liddell, while sufficient against the pass, will never be even average in run support it doesn’t seem to me.
Of course, it all comes down to talent. We need our young pups to come through in a major way.
I think the running game has slipped because of the lost experience in the offensive line and the lost bulk (Kirkland and Tretola). Gibson has some bulk, but he’s still learning. Wallace is playing with a bad ankle, but he’s a good player and could be a dominant player in the future.
Regarding next year’s o-line, I know we have some newcomers that did not play this year and whom may make their presence really felt. That said, with strictly returnees, the o-line could look like this:
RT - Jackson or Wallace
RG - Gibson
C - Ragnow (please Lord stay)
LG - Froholdt
LT - Jackson or Wallace
Raulerson will surely figure in somewhere.
Here’s hoping this year’s experience translates into more dominant play next year. We will need it.
Lots of hoping there. Same thing was said last year about how this years defense would be so much better due to the experience. I hope the difference is that the athletes that are on the OL are there and just need seasoning. Have to take Raulerson out of the mix though. He is who he is.