Next Stop for Vols is the Hog Farm
Tennessee goes on the road to face my favorite school from the old Southwest Conference. HINT: The only school of that 10-school conference not located in Texas.
With a record of 8-1 (4-1 SEC) and ranked 8th nationally in the AP and coaches polls as well as the BCS standings, Arkansas are starting to get their game on. But they had to weather an extended storm to do so.
Beginning with the third game and extending through the end of October, the Razorbacks were being mocked as an all-passing offensive team with no defense or ground game. Besides the beatdown suffered at the hands of the then-No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, the Razorbacks squeaked by Troy (38-28) and Texas A&M (42-38) at home, and SEC weak sisters Ole Miss (29-24) and Vandy (31-28) on the road.
But last week, after looking like another close shave was in store against South Carolina, the Razorbacks blasted in the Gamecocks in the final quarter to get a very impressive win (44-28), albeit in the very long shadows of the Bama-LSU game.
Arkansas ranks first in the SEC in some pretty impressive categories:
- Passing offense — 319 ypg (8th nationally)
- Scoring offense — 38 ppg (15th nationally)
- Total offense — 450 ypg (23rd nationally)
- Kickoff returns — 26 ypg (10th nationally)
It’s all been about the offense in Fayetteville for some time.
Junior QB Tyler Wilson (#8) and senior WRs Jarius Wright (#4) and Joe Adams (#3) have led the way. Earlier against Texas A&M, Wilson and Wright were named SEC co-Offensive Players of the Week, marking the first time in SEC history that co-offensive players of the week came from the same school. During that game, the Razorbacks broke their school record for passing yards in a game with 510, which ranks as the highest single-game total in the SEC and the 6th highest this season in the NCAA.
Wilson leads the SEC and ranks 12th in the nation with 2,626 passing yards, the fourth-highest single season total in school history. He also leads the conference and is tied for 21st in the country with 195 completions, also the fourth-highest single-season total in school history. Against Auburn (a 38-14 win), Wilson completed 18 consecitive passes as part of a 24-for-36 performance, which tied him for the third-longest overall consecutive completions in SEC history and tied for the second-longest consecutive completions streak in conference history.
Also, Wilson has thrown only four interceptions this season.
Wright leads the team in receptions (48), receiving yards (812), and TDs scored (9). His average of 22 yards per catch in the Texas A&M game (13 catches for 281 yards) is the second-highest single-game yards-per-catch average (minimum 10 catches) in SEC history.
Adams is the other major threat to catch passes. Adams and Wright together make Arkansas the only school to have multiple receivers ranked in the top 10 in the SEC in receiving yards per game and receptions per game. Adams has led the Razorbacks in receptions in six games this season; Wright in five games. Adams is Arkansas’ active career leader in receptions (151), while Wright is the team’s active careet leader in receiving yards (2,6269) and receiving TDs (21).
Adams also has returned two punts for TDs this season, both in the same game against Missouri State, the only player in the conference to do so and one of only three in the nation. In that game, Adams broke the school record for single-game punt return yardage with 174 yards, a record that had stood since 1971
Lately, the Razorbacks haven’t been known as a rushing team, perhaps due to junior RB Dennis Johnson (#33) missing 13 straight games dating back to last season due to injuries. He made his 2011 debut in the third game of the season against Troy. Senior RB Broderick Green (#29), injured during spring camp, didn’t make his season debut until the fifth game (A&M). Both are now healthy. Johnson was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week based on his 160 yards rushing against Ole Miss three weeks ago.
Johnson also was named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week after he returned two kickoffs for 130 yards, including a 98-yarder for a TD last week against South Carolina. Freshman WR Marquel Wade (#1) has the other Hogs’ kickoff return for a TD this year, an 85-yarder against New Mexico.
Arkansas’ ‘third backfield threat’ is junior RB Ronnie Wingo, Jr. who recorded a career-high 109 yards rushing against Troy early in the season. He also catches passes out of the backfield, with 18 receptions, 184 yards, and two TDs.
So, eventhough the Razorbacks aren’t know for their rushing, they have some quality depth in the backfield.
Most notable on the scoring end is the Razorbacks’ four TDs from returned kicks this season (two punts and two kickoffs), a mark which is tied for first in the NCAA. In fact, Arkansas is the only team in the nation with multiple punt return TDs and multiple kickoff return TDs this season.
They can also move the ball very quickly with such a high-powered offense. The Razorbacks have 16 TD drives of less than two minutes this season. Last season they had 26 such drives.
Senior LB Jerry Franklin (#34) has grabbed the defensive headlines for the Hogs this season, mostly on the merit of his game-breaking 94-yard return of a Vanderbilt fumble for a TD, and his safety at Ole Miss. But against Auburn, Franklin had his biggest day — a game-high 15 tackles
Tennessee couldn’t have timed this matchup any worse. The Vols are without their offensive firepower of Bray and Hunter, and have no running game to rely upon to help keep the Hogs time of possession down to a manageable level. With Arkansas back to health, and still with some hope for a SEC West title (hoping that Auburn defeats Bama and the Hogs can win at LSU later this season), they will be gunning for Tennessee in front of the home crowd.
At the beginning of this season, I couldn’t wait for this matchup — a 100-point game seemed a not-too-crazy thought. But with all of the Vols’ maladies and inadequacies, I see a massacre of Ozark proportions.
The only hope we have is in the knowledge that Clint Stoerner will serve as Arkansas’ honorary captain for Saturday night’s game.
Lightening won’t strike twice.
Arkansas 41 Tennessee 14
Damn. The Vols will lose their 6th conference game for only the third time in history (1962 and 1963).