Harris: Arkansas Accomplishes Most of What It Wanted in Opening Win

by Jim Harris  on Saturday, Sep. 4, 2010 9:26 pm  

Joe Adams had six catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns in Arkansas' 44-3 victory against Tennessee Tech. Adams and Arkansas started slow, but had a strong finish, outscoring Tennessee Tech 44-0 over the final three quarters. (Photo by Will Flowers)

This story is from the archives of ArkansasSports360.com.

FAYETTEVILLE — The mistake-filled first quarter can't be ignored, but if it could, Arkansas did everything it expected to do in opening the season with rental-win tune-up Tennessee Tech, winning 44-3.

Look at it this way. Tennessee Tech got its payday and wasn't completely humiliated, and a class act coach like the Golden Eagles' Watson Brown didn't need to be on the short end of a 70-3 score anyway.

Arkansas completedly dominated the second and third quarters and was able to turn the fourth quarter over to reserves, including two backup quarterbacks. Ryan Mallett's chase of the Heisman Trophy started with a 301-yard passing night and a 21 of 24 night. He really missed only one pass; the other two were a deflection off a receiver that was picked by the Golden Eagles, and a drop of a sure touchdown pass by a backup receiver.

There was plenty of other good:

Anthony Leon's play at weakside linebacker was maybe the most obvious, considering he had not played the position before last month. "He showed his speed and strength tonight," Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino said of the senior, who arrived at Fayetteville in August 2009 as a junior college safety but never seemed sure of himself last season. That's probably being kind - he looked lost a lot.

But Saturday night, especially in the third quarter, Leon showed why coaches were right in moving him last month to linebacker. One, the UA secondary is more settled this year; Leon would have been just another body and maybe not trusted back there much. Linebacker has been a concern since spring practice.

Leon, on the second-play of the third quarter, came through on a delayed blitz and blew up Tennessee Tech quarterback Tre Lamb for an 8-yard loss that helped set Arkansas' offense up after the change of possession in ideal field position. Ryan Mallett and the offense, which finally got solid footing in the second quarter, scored on three straight possessions in the third quarter, following up three straight scores on the second quarter, to turn a 23-3 game to 44-3.

Two years ago, Willy Robinson's defense gave up a 151-yard rushing night to a Football Championship Subdivision running back from Western Illinois. With a defense significantly stronger, faster and more experienced, the Robinson-coordinated defense allowed a Football Championship Subdivision TEAM just 79 yards rushing on 43 attempts, or less than 2 yards a pop.

The Razorbacks surrended only 187 yards of total offense. No matter who it might be against, when a defense has a sub-200-yard night and doesn't allow a touchdown, that is a night for celebrating.

The Hogs' rushing attack, no doubt after a strong lecture from Petrino at halftime, picked up in the second half. But there were signs it was coming around in the second quarter with the entrance of first the quick Dennis Johnson and then the speedy Ronnie Wingo Jr.

Arkansas gained 145 of its 196 yards rushing in the second half, and averaged 7.0 yards per carry, a big improvement over the 3.9 yards per try in the first half. With redshirt freshmen Travis Swanson (center) and Alvin Bailey (guard) seeing significant minutes up front, the line began dominating a tiring Tennessee Tech defense, which is the way Bobby Petrino likes it anyway. Petrino wants to hit a team early with the pass and wear them down in the second half with power running. That's what we saw Saturday, albeit against an FCS team.

None of this tells us how it might play out against the likes of Georgia or Alabama, but it's better than the struggles of two years against FCS competition, or losing to Jacksonville State the way Ole Miss did on Saturday. Surely, those tendencies of Knile Davis and Wingo to try to break out runs that seem clogged up inside won't go for big carries against the best defenses in the SEC. But on the other hand, teams will have their hands full with Arkansas' receiving corps, as everyone expects anyway.



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