Arkansas Three Keys: Alabama


The Arkansas Razorbacks quickly fell behind the Texas A&M Aggies in Week 5, allowing two immediate touchdowns. It was easy – and also logical – in that moment to assume that the Hogs were going to get crushed, but then a funny thing happened: Arkansas’ defense played well the rest of the way, containing Kellen Mond and the rest of the Aggies’ offense.

By Matt Zemek

The Arkansas passing game wasn’t good enough to make up the early deficit. Arkansas still fell short inside Jerry Jones’ football palace. However, the UA defense once again showed the level of improvement which indicates that this team might be shedding its worst characteristics and ditching its worst fears.


Arkansas isn’t getting wins in the SEC West – this division is stacked, and the schedule is frontloaded. However, underneath the losses are some encouraging signs for 2019. This group looked utterly lost and hopeless during the meltdown at Colorado State and the implosion against North Texas, a team which lost to Louisiana Tech this past week. However, losses to Auburn and A&M have shown that this team can play hard for Chad Morris. It’s a small source of comfort, but it does represent a step in the right direction. Now, the Razorbacks will try to keep their best habits in place against an opponent that will punish any mistake: Alabama.


The Arkansas offense simply has to find more big plays. It’s easy to say and hard to do, but it remains central to Morris’s restoration project in Fayetteville. A Morris passing game, if operating at or close to the height of its powers, creates a very potent offense and forces defenses to cover the full extent of the field, both in width and length. Arkansas isn’t anywhere close to striking that kind of fear in an opposing defense, and it is not likely to do so against Alabama. Yet, the Razorbacks have to try to hit the long ball against Bama. The Tide are not overwhelmingly great on defense this season. Their offense is why they are so good. Arkansas needs to hit big shots so that it doesn’t have to dink and dunk down the field. Arkansas drives are likely to stall if they don’t produce chunk plays.


The scouting report on Tua Tagovailoa is fairly clear at this point in the season: Make the star Alabama quarterback run instead of pass. Tua can run if he needs to, but Arkansas – like other teams Alabama will play in the coming months – can clearly see on film that Tagovailoa is a devastating downfield passer who gets the ball to his intended receivers with the consistency Jalen Hurts plainly lacked. Alabama now owns the lethal passing attack it didn’t previously have. For that reason alone, Arkansas has to turn Tua into a runner more than a passer.


The reality for Arkansas here is that it can play well against the Crimson Tide and yet still lose by a large point spread. Arkansas’ defense played well against Auburn a few weeks ago but wasn’t rewarded on the scoreboard. The Hogs have to trust that the same good effort will eventually pay off. They can’t lose heart – not now, not ever.

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