It was a painful day in Little Rock.
With the Razorbacks looking ahead and discounting their current opponent, it is quite likely that more were looking forward to the Brad Paisley concert following the game than they were the game itself. Make no excuses. When you have 500 yards of offense, five trips to the red zone that resulted in a total of three points on those opportunities, and you are a three score favorite, no reasoning matters. "I'm embarrassed for our fans and the people that traveled today -- all the people here in Little Rock that this game means a lot to," Bielema said. "It means a lot to us, and to not play well here for the second year in a row is very frustrating and something that I know that we are going to have to correct."
Toledo is a well-coached team, and you can be certain to hear the name of Matt Campbell a lot in the off season. If Saturday is any indicator, they will achieve well in their conference and Alabama transfer Quarterback Phillip Ely will be on a lot of draft boards.
Immediately, the fan base was overreacting to the result. Though it May hurt like a recent loss at War Memorial under John L Smith, this was nothing similar. The coaching staff should, and likely will, take the blame for this.
Under Bielema, the Razorbacks are a miserable 1-5 record when they attempt 30 or more passes. It was expected that those numbers would be skewed a bit, as new coordinator Dan Enos implements his scheme that throws to the backs regularly. Call it what you will, the Hogs were the first team since 2000 to have 500 yards of offense, one or zero turnovers, and only score 12 points. Those calling for firings or already referring to it as a lost season are just riding the emotion of a tough loss. Toledo could make a real run when looking at their schedule.
We did learn that Senior Brandon Allen can run a passing offense. He was a very respectable 32/53 for 412 yards and one interception, which was devastating. It should be noted that his target, Keon Hatcher, had slipped on the play, but Allen tends to force the ball too often to Hatcher when he is not open. It happened Saturday and has been a trademark since last season.
Also hidden in those numbers are the easy passes he simply missed. Two weeks in a row, Allen has missed wide open receivers, looking adrenaline laced and wide eyed when his target is wide open. For all of the criticism that some former Razorback Quarterbacks have taken about their calm, almost disinterested demeanor, Allen could learn a few things from them. Slow the game down and make the easy play easy. The game plan may have helped his stat line, from what I can find, Arkansas is 0-5 when passing 40 or more times in a game under Bielema. While the “take what they give you” rule must be in effect, the ground and pound game was never implemented, with star running back Alex Collins only gaining 54 yards and one TD. While that may seem respectable, 21 of them came on one carry. Bielema has already stated that he will “Absolutely” mix in true freshman Raleigh Williams III earlier in the game going forward. They are capable of forcing their will on opponents on the ground, and I would look for scheme changes to come as early as next week when Big 12 opponent Texas Tech comes to town.
One thing to note early this week is the injury report. While there are a lot of rumors floating around, we won’t know much until the official report comes out. If all of the rumors are true, it would explain a few of the issues from the game and will alter some things moving forward. There were several players that went down, and it will be interesting to see what the diagnosis is for each. Be prepared for a few surprises if all reports are accurate.
While the hopes of the raucous after party concert in one of the finest tailgating areas in the conference were enhancing the value of War Memorial as a venue, this was likely the final nail in the coffin for future home games. The record has become abysmal and the venue holds roughly half of what Donald W Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. The contract is set to expire in 2018, and I would fully expect it will not be extended. Tailgating does not make up for overcrowding and abysmal play.
While the early loss is devastating and embarrassing to the fan base and players, they are still quite capable of making a strong run. Stranger things have happened. It is an extremely optimistic outlook at this point, but I would look for them to still produce at least eight wins.