It was a typical Arkansas-Mississippi State football game in Starkville: momentum swings, hard hits, missed opportunities and big plays. Starkville is one of my favorite places to go. Great food and Southern hospitality make it fun, but make no mistake: They want to win the ballgame. Dan Mullen has come in from Florida and has MSU where Arkansas was last year. State will be tough as long as Mullen is there.
Mississippi State watched the Auburn film and ran quarterback Chris Relf behind a pulling guard out of their full house shotgun backfield. The QB rides the tailback and makes the read. The difference in this option and the old wishbone that we grew up watching is that a guard pulls along with either the H back or the fullback. Sometimes the pulling guard is going the way the tailback is going whether he gets the ball or not. Other times the pulling guard is leading the QB as the QB fakes to the tailback going the other direction. If the linebackers chase the guard action, the QB keeps in the hole that pulling guard left. If the linebackers stay put, the tailback ends up with the ball and a convoy heading off tackle. Tailback Vick Ballard followed the pulling blockers 33 times for 150 yards and three touchdowns with a long carry of just 13 yards. Relf carried 31 times for 103 yards. This allowed MSU to control the clock and keep Arkansas' offense off of the field.
The Razorback were efficient against the Bulldog defense. Arkansas' receivers were faster than the MSU defenders. The ‘Dog defensive backs three times missed tackles on Cobi Hamilton trying to be cautious and not give up the big play. MSU mixed coverages all night, but Arkansas caught them twice in two-deep zone while bringing a blitzer. Once D.J. Williams streaked down the right seam to catch Mallett's dart for 32 yards. On the other, Mallett hit Jarius Wright for an 89-yard TD from the left slot to give the Razorbacks the lead. Prior to the Davis fumble, I thought the biggest play of the game came on the third-and-4 from the Arkansas 35 with 2:55 left into the game. Arkansas had an offset I formation with Van Stumon to the left of the formation. Mallett faked the stretch play to the left to Davis. Stumon came from left to right behind the offensive line out into the right flat, Mallett faked and turned right to find the linebacker in his face. He flicked the ball to Stumon as he got hit. Stumon caught the ball and turned up field for 12 yards and the first down that I thought would put the game away. Arkansas has run variations of that play all year. Joe Adams, D.J. Williams, Ronnie Wingo Jr. and Stumon have caught these bootleg passes.
||Hog FB Van Stumon caught a key,
12-yard pass at Mississippi State.
Hot Point Check UP
Defense-Ready for Smashmouth?
Goal-CONTAIN CHRIS RELF
Arkansas only contained Relf about six times. MSU punted four times, Relf fumbled once and was sacked to end the game. Relf ran 31 times and threw 30 times for 327 yards. At times Relf looked like Cam Newton. The Razorbacks made enough plays to win.
Goal-NO LONG DRIVES
Again, the Razorback defense did just enough. MSU had scoring drives of 8, 15, 17, 14 and 8 plays. They had non scoring drives of 8, 7, 10 and 7 plays. Thirty-seven minutes of possession time and 100 plays almost did in the HOGS.
Goal-DEFENSIVE BACKS MUST PLAY DEEP TO SHORT
Arkansas' secondary played a lot of zone and did not let MSU get deep. BUT the cushion was too big, and Relf completed 20 passes for 224 yards.
Kicking Game must flip the field!
Goal-MAKE THE MOST OF OPPORTUNITIES
Dylan Breeding only punted three times. One was downed inside the 20. Zack Hocker had his first big miss on a field goal. He has had a great year and I hope that miss is forgotten quickly. Alex Tejada did not get the ball into the end zone but his kicks were high and between the goal line and the 10. The Bulldogs did not have a return past the 28.
Goal-GO JOE GO
Adams fielded every punt cleanly but fair caught all of them. No return yardage this week.
Offense-Hit your averages!
Goal-SCORE MORE THAN 24!
Goal accomplished but it was almost not enough!
Goal-HANDLE THE TIGHT COVERAGE
Three times MSU corners muscled Arkansas receivers out of bounds as they ran their routes, but the talented Razorback receivers got free more often than not: 17.9 yards a reception and three TDs.
Goal-OFFENSIVE LINE MUST ASSERT ITSELF
And assert it did! Mallett was only sacked twice, and Davis topped 1,000 for the year with 187 yards against the Bulldogs. No other SEC back has topped 80 against MSU this year.
UP NEXT: LSU
While it's not for the SEC West title, Arkansas and LSU collide Saturday in Little Rock in a nationally televised game with large bowl implications. LSU has, player for player, the best athletes in the SEC. They will run a lot of the same plays Auburn and MSU ran against the HOGS. The Tigers have won 10 already, and the Razorbacks are trying to get there. It is almost a role reversal from the 2006 game in Little Rock. Arkansas had won 10 and was headed to Atlanta, and the Tigers came to town looking to move into the BCS draw by beating Arkansas and having Florida go to the national title game. Arkansas can find itself in the same boat if Auburn runs the table and the Razorbacks play their best game of the year against the talented Tigers. Bobby Petrino has been laying the foundation for this kind of season since he arrived in Fayetteville. A 10-win season would be huge for the Razorbacks but a win Saturday puts them in line for a shot at 11 and elite company in the annals of Arkansas football. It will be a tough ticket if you do not already have one, and tailgating starts as soon as the Thanksgiving table is cleared! What a year it has been. GO HOGS!
Feel free to take part in the discussion! Please be nice and do not include any abusive comments or spam. All comments are moderated and Hootens.com reserves the right to delete any comment.