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Arkansas Grades
Posted by Woody Woodruff on Monday September 17 2012 @ 11:18AM CDT
[ The Commissioner's Blog ]
I must have missed it at the time.

Back in the spring, when Bobby Petrino went on his ill-fated joy ride, I thought that he just had his girlfriend riding with him on the Harley. In hindsight it now appears that the entire Arkansas football program went into the ditch with him that day. At least, that's as good an explanation as any for the Hogs' collapse into irrelevance a mere three weeks into the 2012 season.

Yesterday, Alabama beat Arkansas like a snitch in a prison riot. It was ugly and it was comprehensive; there was no aspect of the game where Arkansas was not completely dismantled. Indeed, the only truly competitive moment came at the coin-toss, and the Tide even won that.

It was a beating of historic proportions: the first time in 46 years that Arkansas has been shut out at home; the first time since Coach Bryant was head coach that Alabama has recorded consecutive shutouts; the Tide's largest margin of victory against a conference opponent since beating Auburn 55-0 in 1948. But Bama fans should take these delicious morsels with a grain of salt. Alabama played far from a perfect game. True enough, Alabama had better athletes and more of them, but the Hogs were riddled with injuries to key players and the healthy ones-in the post-game opinion of injured quarterback Tyler Wilson-quit on each other in the second half. Moreover, there remain lessons to be learned and corrections to be made. AJ fumbled a snap from center, we were penalized seven times and averaged only 35 yards per punt.

That being said, however, this was a huge win over a division rival that some pundits had picked to play for the SEC Championship. Here's how I grade the game:

Offense: A What other grade can you give to a team that scores 52 points on the road against an SEC opponent? The Tide earned 22 first downs, equally divided between rushing and passing and gained 438 yards total offense [225 rushing] on the way to scoring 7 offensive TDs [6 rushing].

Kenyan Drake gained 57 yards on 6 carries and scored a touchdown. TJ Yeldon carreid 13 times also for 57 yards and a TD. Eddie Lacy scored 3 rushing TDs in his 12 carry, 55 yard performance. Blake Sims added 25 yards and a TD on two rushes and Dee Hart ran 4 times for 21 yards. Special kudos, however, are due to senior running back Ben Howell; number 34. The 5' 9", 194 lb. pride of Gordo High School carried the ball 6 times for 18 yards in his SEC debut. What a testimony to love for the game and quality of coaching.

Through the air, Tide quarterbacks completed 14 of 20 pass attempts. AJ completed 11 of 16 for 189 yards and a TD [Amari Cooper]. Phillip Ely [2-3-0; 15 yds] and Blake Sims [1-1-0; 9 yds] rounded out the QB duty.

Christion Jones was the leading receiver, snagging 3 passes for 74 yards. Amari Cooper caught 2 passes for 46 yards and a TD. Michael Williams and Kenny Bell each caught 2 passes for a combined 32 yards. In all, nine different players caught passes.

The offense put together four drives that gained 40 or more yards [46, 67, 75, 80] earning a FG and three TDs. The defense set the offense up for 28 points on short fields, because the Tide's other scoring drives were 6, 3, 27 and 28 yards.

Once again, Alabama dominated time of possession in the 4th quarter [9:36] and was better on third down conversions [6 of 11] than it was one week ago.

Defense: A+ I don't care that Tyler Wilson was injured. Arkansas has the same opportunity to award athletic scholarships as every other team in America [OK, Penn State is the glaring exception, but, hey, PSU just beat Navy to win its first game since 1998] and the guys who rotated quarterback duty are attending school on scholarship to play football. Consequently, the Tide defense gets full credit for holding the Hogs to 58 net yards rushing, 11 of 25 completions, 2 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries [I credit the third recovered fumble to the kick off coverage team].

Arkansas managed 5 punts, to go with 2 interceptions, 2 turnovers on downs, and a missed field goal.

Nico Johnson was the leading tackler with 4.5 [3 solo]. CJ Mosley was credited with 4 tackles [3 solo] and a forced fumble. He was joined by Deion Belue, H. Clinton-Dix, Jeoffrey Pagan and Alec Morris in forcing fumbles. Nick Perry and Denzell Deval recovered two Arkansas fumbles and Vinnie Sunseri and Clinton-Dix contributed two interceptions to round out the defensive take-aways.

Special Teams:

Punting: B Cody Mandel averaged only 35 yards per punt, but none were returned. The Tide returned 2 Arkansas punts for 6 yards. Christion Jones nearly fumbled a punt return after a blown call by the officials negated an interception. Had the call gone the other way, the Hogs would have been in position to score early and perhaps gain some traction.

Kickoffs: A+ Cade Foster has obviously spent the off-season working on his leg strength. He averaged 44.2 net yards per kick. The + was earned by Foster recovering a fumble on one of the Hogs' kick returns.

Place Kicking: A+ Foster was good from 51 yards and missed from 52, but had plenty of length. Shelley was perfect on PATs.

Coaching: A The participation report lists 66 players who saw action. Coach Saban would have played more, but time expired before the Alpha Chi girls who made the drive to Fayetteville could gets pads on. Alabama was penalized seven times for 74 yards. The call on Sunseri was very questionable, and, according to Gary Danielson, the Arkansas coaches had primed the refs on Friday with the canard that Alabama hits opposing quarterbacks "high" and urged them to make a roughing call early in the contest for the sake of deterrence. I have one thing to say if that is true: gimmeafreakinbreak!

Around the league yesterday, the Vols fell for the 8th straight year to Florida and continue to be a first-half-only team. Vanderbilt beat Presbyterian 58-0, prompting one observer to say: "Nobody should be surprised. After all, when you play Presbyterian the result is predetermined." Kentucky fell 32-31 in overtime to Bama's opponent last week, prompting the Hilltoppers' coach to remark: "WKU Red is the new blue." Auburn was forced into overtime by plucky ULM which scored two 4th quarter TDs to erase a 14 point deficit and level the score at 28 all. In three games, Auburn has yet to be ahead on the scoreboard at the end of regulation. Salvaging a win with a score in the first OT period does nothing to quench the dumpster fire that is Auburn football.

Auburn hosts LSU this week and my imagination strains for a metaphor sufficient to describe what I envision is coming. Imagine bologna encountering a meat grinder, or a narc attending a biker rally and you get some idea of what is in store for the Barners. One thing is for sure: Auburn is guaranteed to spend at least two more weeks owning the dubious distinction of being the first team in the history of the known universe to be ranked in 7th place in the SEC West.

Assuming that there is anything left after LSU gets through with them, the Aubs might actually get a break by playing Arkansas. Maybe nobody appreciated the ripple effect from Petrino's spring-fling. Perhaps losing a game and a starting quarterback to ULM set the Hogs up for yesterday's slaughter at the hands of Alabama. Either way, Auburn could get a much-needed conference win two weeks from now. But enough about the Village.
The next step on the Road To 15 is this coming Saturday against Florida Atlantic, which lost to Georgia yesterday 56-20. It will be Parents Weekend at the Capstone. I've always enjoyed Parents Weekend, and I fully expect the 2012 edition to be just as much fun as all its predecessors.

For the Tide, it will be a workday. The identity of the 2012 Crimson Tide is starting to take shape. It is a team with a much improved kicking game, that plays ferocious defense and has an explosive, balanced offense loaded with play makers. That identity is still forming and needs to mature. But the pieces appear to be in place for a history making campaign.


The Commissioner

< Michigan Grades | Florida Atlantic Grades >

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