The running game was the focus last Saturday in Fayetteville. It was unlike anything in recent Arkansas Razorback history.
Once more, both Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins topped the 100-yard mark. We’re getting used to this, aren’t we?
Collins is the first freshman in Southeastern Conference history to top the 100-yard mark in each of his first three games. He’s the first freshman at any FBS school to do it since Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson in 2004. That’s not bad company.
Arkansas threw just 11 passes for 69 yards, the fewest passes thrown by an Arkansas team since the Houston Nutt era.
Seeing that the Golden Eagles have now lost 15 consecutive game — the longest FBS losing streak — this obviously wasn’t a good Southern Mississippi team. USM is now 34-107-3 through the years against teams that are now members of the SEC. But in this era of high-scoring college football games, it’s impressive anytime you can hold an opponent without a touchdown. USM was just four of 15 on third down and ran only four offensive plays in the fourth quarter. So hats off to the Hog defense.
Now, on to saying something that sounds very strange to me: “The Razorbacks play in New Jersey on Saturday.”
OK, we’ll hold off on the Jersey jokes. No references to the mob, chemical plants, landfills (no doubt with Jimmy Hoffa’s body in one of them), traffic-choked turnpikes and people who use Bo Pelini’s favorite word a lot. We won’t even reference the cast of Jersey Shore.
There’s a football game to be played.
We were 8-2 on the picks last week (we had picked UCA to win by one point and the Bears lost by one point; we also had not predicted that UAM would end its 11-game losing streak), making the record 18-4 for the year.
On to the picks for Week 4:
Arkansas 24, Rutgers 22 — It’s hard to see how this Arkansas team gets to 6-6 and a bowl game without a win this Saturday afternoon. Rutgers lost its opener in overtime at Fresno State and has since picked on Norfolk State (38-0) and Eastern Michigan (28-10). The Hogs keep the ball on the ground, keep it out of the hands of the Rutgers offense and run that clock. Williams and Collins both top 100 yards rushing again, and Arkansas somehow escapes with a victory prior to beginning the brutal SEC portion of the schedule.
Arkansas State 35, Memphis 33 — This has been a nice little regional rivalry. It’s a shame that it’s apparently coming to an end at the Liberty Bowl on Saturday afternoon. It will be the 58th time the two schools have played, and ASU has won four of the past five games between the squads. I suspect that 1-4 record in the past five games against ASU is what really rankles Memphis. On Thursday of last week in Jonesboro, ASU posted a thrilling 41-34 victory against Troy as Fredi Knighten out of Pulaski Academy scored from 13 yards out with 3:56 left. Frankie Jackson then came up with an interception for the Red Wolves in the final minute of play. Troy lost despite 614 yards of offense in the game. The Red Wolves finished with 539 yards of offense. Here’s a fact that many Arkansans don’t realize: Despite having its fourth head coach in as many years, Arkansas State is 16-1 in its past 17 Sun Belt games. That’s impressive in anybody’s book. Memphis comes in with an 0-2 record, having lost by scores of 28-14 to Duke and 17-15 to Middle Tennessee. Once more, they’re asking the all-important question at Memphis: “When does basketball season start?”
UCA 21, Missouri State 20 — As noted, we picked the Bears to win by a point on the road last week, and they lost by a point. OK, we’ll try it again. We’ll pick UCA by one in a road game. Last Saturday, Tennessee-Martin blocked a 42-yard UCA field goal attempt on the final play of the game to hang on by a score of 24-23. The Bears began the season highly ranked. They’re now 1-2 and struggling to find a running game. UCA trailed 14-0 at the half and had only 137 yards of offense during the first two quarters. Missouri State is 0-3 with losses of 23-17 to Northwestern State of Louisiana, 28-14 to Iowa and 41-38 to Murray State. The game is in Springfield, but maybe the Bears will show up for two halves rather than one half this time around.
Alcorn State 14, UAPB 12 — The defending SWAC champions from Pine Bluff find themselves 0-3 following a 40-39 loss at home to Alabama State in the conference opener last Saturday. The Golden Lions had a nine-point lead in that game with nine minutes remaining but couldn’t hold on. Alcorn State from Lorman, Miss., comes in with a record of 2-1 following victories of 63-12 over Edward Waters (who’s he?) and 35-28 over Mississippi Valley State. Those wins were sandwiched around a 51-7 loss to Mississippi State in Starkville (as long as the check cashes).
UAM 42, Northwestern Oklahoma 22 — Following an 11-game losing streak, the Boll Weevils make it two wins in a row this week against a truly woeful Northwestern Oklahoma team. Last Saturday in Monticello, the Weevils stunned the Southeastern Oklahoma squad that had upset Southern Arkansas just the week before. Colton Morrison passed for 345 yards and four touchdowns for the Weevils. Northwestern Oklahoma, meanwhile, was falling to 0-2 with a 69-0 loss to Harding in Searcy.
Arkansas Tech 30, Southern Nazarene 28 — The Wonder Boys move to 2-1 in the Raymond Monica era with a victory over a Southern Nazarene squad that has lost 82-10 to Henderson and 49-24 to Ouachita in the first two weeks of the season. Tech defeated Northwestern Oklahoma on the road to open the Monica era and then fell 28-17 in its home opener last Saturday to Southwestern Oklahoma. Tech quarterback Luke Halpin was 31 of 49 passing for 296 yards in the loss. He should have even more success against Southern Nazarene.
Henderson 50, Southeastern Oklahoma 19 — What can you say about the Reddies that hasn’t already been said? Henderson has now scored 157 points in eight quarters of football. Last Saturday’s nonconference victim was McKendree from Illinois, 75-14. Reddie quarterback Kevin Rodgers was 31 of 45 passing for 380 yards and five touchdowns. Rodgers, who is early in his junior season, has now passed for 6,117 yards at Henderson. He will light it up again Saturday in Durant, home of the world’s largest peanut.
Ouachita 31, East Central Oklahoma 29 — Ouachita played its worst game of the season last year in a loss at Ada, and the Tigers have to make that trip for a second year in a row. Ouachita won its opener for a seventh consecutive season. The Tigers were sloppy at times in a 49-24 win at Southern Nazarene, but senior tailback Chris Rycraw out of Bryant is the real deal. He scored three touchdowns in only a half of work. East Central defeated UAM in Week 1 and then fell hard to Southern Arkansas.
Southern Arkansas 27, Southwestern Oklahoma 23 — This looks to be the best game of the week in the Great American Conference. Southwestern Oklahoma has been impressive in the first two games with wins over Harding and Arkansas Tech. The Muleriders stumbled in their opener at Southeastern Oklahoma and then recovered nicely in the 50-16 thrashing of East Central. Mulerider quarterback Tyler Sykora passed for 249 yards and four touchdowns in the victory.
The Oklahoma schools in the Great American Conference may not be the most boring schools in football, but they have the most boring names: East Central, Southwest Middle, Northeast Western, Upper Righthand Corner State — have I forgotten anyone? The old AIC schools may be saving on gasoline money, but they sounded more interesting playing that variety of schools from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi — our natural regional rivalries now that the Razorbacks are in the Southeastern Conference. We’ve always looked toward the South, whence came the people who settled Arkansas.
Football season brings out a plethora of statistics. A lot become mundane. One here grabbed me ….. despite four coaches in four years, suggesting high discontinuity in schemes, play calling, leadership styles, ASU is 17 – 1 in its last 18 Sun Belt games. Now that’s impressive.
Right on with the Hogs prediction. But really doubt Williams & Collins both get another 100.