Report Card: Arkansas 51, Missouri State 7

by Chris Bahn  on Sunday, Sep. 4, 2011 2:00 pm  

Arkansas receiver Jarius Wright tied a career-high with two touchdowns and helped the Razorabcks earn an overall grade of "A" for their performance against Missouri State. Arkansas won 51-7. (Photo by Mark Wagner)

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OFFENSE – B-plus
Tyler Wilson efficiently ran the offense in his debut, completing 18 of 24 passes for 260 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Wilson did a nice job spreading the ball around to receivers, but reserved his touchdown throws for Jarius Wright, who led the team with six catches for 108 yards. Total, the Razorbacks had 466 yards and they averaged nearly seven yards per play, while going 6 of 12 on third downs and 2-for-2 on fourth downs. At least for Saturday Kody Walker looked like a good option as the goal-line back, scoring on a pair of one-yard runs. All in all, a nice night for an offense working in several new pieces around a core group of returning players.

LOWLIGHTS: Raw numbers don’t look great for Arkansas’ rushing game. The Razorbacks only averaged 3.1 yards per carry and just barely eclipsed 102 net yards. Bobby Petrino said the team was content to throw against a Missouri State offense geared to stop the run, but it would have been good to see more against a team Arkansas seemed to dominate in any other way. Missouri State recorded three sacks, which raises questions about this rebuilt offensive line. Backup quarterback Brandon Mitchell tainted his otherwise solid night with a fumble that set up the Bears’ only score of the night. Burning through a pair of timeouts in less than two minutes into the game was uncharacteristic, but you can bet it will get corrected.

From the press box there were moments where you couldn’t help but feel sorry for Missouri State. Arkansas manhandled the Bears, forcing six three-and-outs, holding them to 18 yards of total offense in the first half and allowing only 2.7 yards per carry. Junior college transfer Alonzo Highsmith looked like a nice addition to the defense, finishing with four tackles and a team-high two for loss. Jerico Nelson intercepted a pass. Byran Jones, Chris Smith and Tenarius Wright looked good on the defensive line.

LOWLIGHTS: Getting a shutout for the first time since 2006 was high on the to-do list for the Razorbacks. They gave up a 33-yard pass from Texarkana native Kierra Harris to Jermain Saffold that got Missouri State on the board with 45 seconds left in the third quarter. It’s just the sort of breakdown on a deep passing play the team has worked so hard to correct. More sacks might have been nice, but Arkansas wasn’t exactly sending the house on every play, so that’s probably just being nit picky.

We’ll get to the obvious in a minute. Freshman Marquel Wade was billed to be a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands. But his blocking ability can’t be overlooked and was key in springing Joe Adams for a pair of touchdowns on punt returns. Adams stole the show with scores of 61 and 69 yards and he averaged 29.0 yards per return. Wade had a huge hand in freeing Adams. Zach Hocker looked good in connecting on a 32-yard field goal and he sent five of his nine kickoffs into the end zone.

LOWLIGHTS: C’mon Zach Hocker. A missed extra point? Really? Hocker had been perfect on 56 previous attempts in a superb freshman season. So it was a real stunner that he missed. But, hey, nobody is perfect, right? Arkansas could have done better than giving up 23.8 yards per kick return. As spectacular as Adams was on his 69-yard return for a touchdown, he increased the level of difficulty by failing to field the ball cleanly in the first place.

Hard to take away much from a game like this, but Arkansas is to be commended for doing what had to be done. There was little suspense to this game and the Razorbacks dominated in every phase. It appears at least 10 freshmen will contribute something for Arkansas this year. That’s the number that played against Missouri State and some like Walker, Wade and defensive end Trey Flowers had memorable debuts. Arkansas wasn’t perfect, but didn’t miss it by much.

It takes a big night for one receiver to stand out from the rest of the Razorbacks’ other options at the position. A night like the one Jarius Wright enjoyed. He tied a career high with two touchdowns and now sits tied for ninth in the Arkansas record book with 14. Wright finished with 108 yards receiving and is No. 5 all-time with 1,925 career yards.

DEFENSE: Alonzo Highsmith’s last college game was played in front of a few hundred people at a junior college in Arizona. He admitted running through the ‘A’ and seeing 70,000-plus was “mesmerizing.” But he didn’t appear overwhelmed on the field and contributed four tackles, plus tied for the team high with two tackles for loss.   

SPECIAL TEAMS:Joe Adams. Wow. Adams tied an SEC record with two returns for touchdowns, set a school record with 174 yards on six returns and averaged 29.0 yards per return. No SEC player has returned two punts for touchdowns since 2002. And let’s not forget Marquel Wade for helping spring Adams with blocks on those returns.



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