Report Card: Arkansas 49, Vanderbilt 14

by Chris Bahn  on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010 10:37 pm  

Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg was one of eight players to catch passes from Ryan Mallett in a 49-14 victory against Vanderbilt on Saturday. Gragg had two catches for 54 yards. (Photo by Mark Wagner)

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HIGHLIGHTS: By now it shouldn’t surprise us when a Bobby Petrino offense puts up big numbers, especially against a bad team. But to post 505 yards of offense, including a school-record 409 passing yards by Ryan Mallett, on a night when the top three receivers on the team either missed all or parts of the game, it’s impressive. Jarius Wright was a solid No. 1 option for Mallett much of the night, catching six passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns. Mallett completed passes to eight different players. Knile Davis and Ronnie Wingo combining for 216 all-purpose yards, further proving their worth as threats to run and catch. Not surprisingly the Razorbacks were 10 of 19 on third downs.
LOWLIGHTS: Each week there seems to be moments that defy explanation for a team this talented. Look no further than one offensive series that included a chop block, a false start, a dropped pass and a sack. Arkansas’ first possession ended in a punt after two incomplete passes and a sack.

HIGHLIGHTS: Vanderbilt managed 23 yards and 0 points after the first quarter. Linebacker Jerico Nelson made plays throughout the night, tipping an interception into the hands of a teammate in the first half, then running an interception back 39 yards for a touchdown. Nelson led the team with seven tackles. Arkansas had four sacks and scored nine points thanks to its defense, including a safety. Jerry Franklin forced the fumble that led to the safety.
LOWLIGHTS: Arkansas’ first quarter was as bad as the team could play defensively. Vanderbilt had 130 yards and 14 points in the first quarter. That eclipsed the Commodores’ point total from their previous three games combined. Combined. Tackling was poor at times.

It appears Lance Ray has found a way to consistently contribute while waiting for a spot to open up at receiver. He averaged 35.1 yards per kick return. Zach Hocker continues to be automatic kicking, hitting two field goals and all but one extra point. Punter Dylan Breeding averaged only 38.2 yards per punt, but put two inside the 20, including a 45-yarder that pinned Vandy deep and helped set up a safety.
LOWLIGHTS: A missed extra point? Really? It started with a bad snap and just went terribly from there. Arkansas continues to give up huge chunks of yardage on kickoff returns, including 27.5 yards per attempt from Vanderbilt.

WHAT WE LEARNED: Forget the opponent, this was as close to a complete game as Arkansas has played this year. There were key contributions from all three units and affirmed that the Razorbacks are close to putting it all together. Now if they can just figure out a way to do it for an entire four quarters. We’ll see.

OFFENSE: Even without his usual cast of receivers available all game, Ryan Mallett did a commendable job distributing the ball and keeping the offense moving. He came back from two games where he was knocked out by injury and completed 61 percent of his passes for a school-record 409 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.

DEFENSE: Credit Jerico Nelson for being a disruptive force throughout the night. He had an assist on an interception by tipping it to Rudell Crim, seeming to snap the defense out of an early funk. Nelson’s 39-yard return for a touchdown set the final score.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Finally, the Razorbacks seem to have settled on a kick return man. Lance Ray is the fourth option and might be the best (at least since Dennis Johnson went down to injury). Ray had a 66-yard return to set up a touchdown.

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