Five Keys Review
1. Win Line of Scrimmage
The new Arkansas will be built around its strength in the trenches and Saturday was a good start. The Razorbacks were strong on the offensive front, protecting Brandon Allen and opening holes for 292 rushing yards. Arkansas got off to a slow start up front defensively, but the pressure grew as the game went on. The Razorbacks finished with four sacks and limited the Ragin’ Cajuns to 85 rushing yards.
2. Avoid Turnovers
Everyone knows turnovers were a problem in 2012. But Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has emphasized ball security since his arrival and there was improvement Saturday. Running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins didn’t fumble in 39 combined carries. Brandon Allen didn’t throw an interception. Arkansas did commit one turnover — tight end Hunter Henry’s fumble early in the third quarter — but it didn’t hurt the Hogs. The defense got the ball back two plays later.
3. Bottle Up ULL Run
ULL averaged 193.5 rushing yards a game in 2012 and returned every key ball carrier, which made the run a primary concern for Arkansas’ defense. The Ragin’ Cajuns were limited to 85 yards on 32 rushing attempts (2.7 yards an attempt). Even more impressive: Arkansas only allowed 26 rushing yards in the second half.
4. Curb Pre-Snap Mistakes
Arkansas didn’t accomplish its goal of making it through the opener without any pre-snap penalties Saturday. In fact, there were two false start penalties on Arkansas’ opening possession. But the Razorbacks remained relatively error-free against the Ragin’ Cajuns. Arkansas only had one more pre-snap penalty the rest of the game with another offsides penalty on its final possession of the four quarter.
5. Quality Snaps From Reserves
Arkansas didn’t turn to the backups as much as expected, but did get quality play when needed. Tackle Denver Kirkland was solid in subbing for tackle Grady Ollison early in the second quarter. Luke Charpentier didn’t have the same luck, allowing a sack while filling in for Mitch Smothers. Backup defensive ends Deatrich Wise (1/2 sack) and JaMichael Winston (interception) also made big plays Saturday.
• Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney on captains Travis Swanson and Kiero Small
“Overall, Travis and Kiero played about as well as anybody did offensively. But there wasn’t anybody substantially low that we go, ‘Boy he played horrible.’ There wasn’t any of that. I thought for the most part all the kids played well and played hard throughout the ballgame. But, you know, when you’ve got Swanson and you’ve got Small, your expectations on them are to play really, really well. Your good players have got to play really well to be successful and I think they did.”
• Defensive coordinator Chris Ash on finally seeing his defense on the field:
“I had no idea what to expect with these guys. None. I didn’t know if they would come out there and fall flat on their face or if they’d play great. Honestly, I think they did well. But is it good enough to compete in the SEC? No, it’s not. I give a lot of credit to Louisiana-Lafayette’s coaching staff and players. They’ve got a great team. But it’s just not a good enough effort from our standpoint to compete in the SEC.”
Players of the Game
Offense – RB Jonathan Williams (18 carries, 151 yards, touchdown)
Williams believed Arkansas’ power running game was a perfect fit for his skills and the sophomore showed it Saturday. He ran hard between the tackles and displayed his speed off tackle. Williams showed toughness, shaking off a shoulder stinger. He also added some elusiveness, reversing fields on a 75-yard touchdown run. Williams finished with 151 yards on 18 carries, averaging 8.4 yards an attempt.
Defense – DE Trey Flowers (3 tackles for losses, 2 sacks, forced fumble)
Teammate Chris Smith has gotten most of the offseason attention, but Flowers proved he is equally talented in the opener. The junior finished with a team-high two sacks, harassing QB Terrance Broadway throughout the second half. Flowers also turned in one of the plays of the game, forcing a Broadway fumble that was recovered by linebacker Austin Jones. It set up a TD that opened the 20-point lead.
Special Teams – K Zach Hocker (2-for-2 field goals, 3-for-3 extra points)
Hocker was an uncertainty in pregame because of a groin injury, but handed Arkansas’ kicking and kickoff duties Saturday. He went 2-for-2 on field goals in the first half to help the Hogs open a 20-7 lead. Hocker also booted five kickoffs for touchbacks. Hocker’s nine points helped him become Arkansas’ all-time scoring leader (296), eclipsing Bill Burnett’s mark of 294 points from 1968-70).
4 — Number of touches for fullback Kiero Small in the first 14 games of his Arkansas career. Small finished the first game of the Bielema era with seven touches (four rushes for seven yards; three catches for 25 yards and a touchdown). Bielema said Small is a perfect fit for Arkansas offense and will be utilized in a number of ways.
21 — Number of players who made their Arkansas debuts Saturday. The list included seven true freshmen (D.J. Dean, Alex Collins, Brooks Ellis, Denver Kirkland, Dan Skipper, Drew Morgan, Hunter Henry) and five junior college transfers (TQ Coleman, Carroll Washington, Patrick Arinze, Martrell Spaight and Sam Irwin-Hill)
51 — Arkansas’ rushing attempts against Louisiana-Lafayette. It was the first time the Razorbacks had 50 or more rushing attempts in a game since 2008, which was Bobby Petrino’s first season with the program. Arkansas had 236 rushing yards on 51 attempts in a 21-20 loss at Kentucky.
Arkansas will travel to Little Rock for the first time this season to play Samford at 6 p.m. The game is available only through pay-per-view.
Samford played its opener without head coach Pat Sullivan, but beat Georgia State 31-21 in Atlanta. Sullivan is still recovering from offseason back surgery and it’s not clear if he’ll be able to travel to Little Rock with the Bulldogs.
The game will be the first meeting between the two programs.
“I appreciate the Louisiana-Lafayette coach was very complimentary at the end of the game. The key for us though, we’re the only team in the SEC I think that plays eight straight games without a bye week. So our last game of an eight-week stretch is at Alabama - two-time defending national champs. For us to be where we want in eight weeks, we need to get better every week. We had a physical game (Saturday), but (Saturday night) has to be recovery.” — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema