Following a double overtime thriller in Ft. Worth over the favored Horned Frogs, the Razorbacks returned home to face Texas State, a Sunbelt Conference foe who had put up over 600 yards of offense in their win over Ohio in their season opener.
The Bobcats average pace of play was expected to be among the fastest the Razorbacks would face all season, and a good primer as the Hogs prepare for the Southwest Classic against Texas A&M.
Most expected a win versus a weaker opponent, but if there is anything that this season has shown us, the lower tier teams have wreaked havoc with their power five conference opponents.
This is the type of team and offense that tormented previous Razorback defenses.
As with TCU, the goal with the quick strike offense is to limit the effectiveness and look at the scoreboard, not the stat sheet. Both would look good on Saturday, as Arkansas finally saw a complete team effort in their win over Texas State.
Arkansas would open up the scoring early and in their preferred style, going 82 yards in 10 plays, chewing almost six minutes off the clock.
Keon Hatcher would haul in a 9-yard pass from Austin Allen, and that would just get combination going. The second drive would go much different, with Allen finding Hatcher for 73 yards, which Hatcher took across the field and was ruled down just short of the goal line on review. Fifth-year senior Kody Walker would finish the drive on the ground for the Hogs.
The second quarter was a unique mix of frustration, with two punts and a fumble, and elation, with 21 more points on the board from an interception return from Ryan Pulley, a reception to tight end Jeremy Sprinkle, and a rushing score from workhorse Rawleigh Williams III.
The brightest spot was not the 35 points on the board. Arkansas expected to score. What was a surprise to most was the 26 yards of total offense that the Razorback defense allowed. They shut down the Texas State attack and kept them running at every turn. Arkansas would record 4 sacks on the day, but completely stifled an offense that ran wild in its opener.
In the second half, not much would change. Texas State would put together their only meaningful drive of the game to open the half, going 53 yards on 16 plays, converting a fourth down to get into field goal range for their lone points of the contest. Arkansas answered with a 15 play 82-yard drive of their own, culminated by Rawleigh Williams III 15 yard scamper, putting the score at 42-3, the final tally for the day.
The Razorbacks would put in the second team for the fourth quarter, which was shortened by 5 minutes in an agreement between coaches with weather encroaching.
It was a lopsided game, both on the scoreboard and the stat sheet. Allen was 16/21 for 241 yards and two touchdowns, and Rawleigh Williams III answered any questions that may remain about his health or ability, rushing for 121 yards on 19 carries, often between the tackles carrying defenders for extra yardage. Keon Hatcher was again the key in the Razorback offense, making the best of his 3 receptions with 96 yards on the day, far and away the receiving leader on a day that saw seven players with receptions. Punter Toby Baker may be playing on Sundays next year, having kept up both his yardage and ability to pin the opposition deep. When even the punter is a weapon, a team is dangerous, and that is all the talk in national circles now.
Having won 9 of their last 10 games, the Razorbacks ride a wave of momentum into Arlington, TX for the Southwest Classic on Saturday evening, a game they feel they gave away in overtime a year ago. They will face the also undefeated Aggies in a contest most view as Alabama’s strongest opposition in a crowded SEC West. The Hogs come in having success on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they have improved faster and achieved higher than most thought would happen this early in the season. They held Texas State to 105 total yards, including a fourth quarter that saw many on the three deep position chart on the field. Texas A&M will be a stronger opponent than Texas State, without a doubt. However, the Razorbacks now have immediate experience against similar schemes and should be able to move the ball at their desired tempo against an Aggie defense that has given up significant yardage and points through their first three games. Again, the Razorbacks had an offensive lineman named player of the week, as Frank Ragnow moved positions and serves as the anchor of an offensive line with a reputation for excellence. Arkansas moved up in the polls, coming in at 18th in the Coaches poll and 17th in the AP poll.
For Arkansas, momentum and the national spotlight has given them a new assurance in their ability to win anywhere against anyone. More importantly, they have a chance to record wins against three teams from Texas early in a season, something that will certainly be mentioned on the recruiting trail.
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