Some random thoughts after the Razorbacks’ tough loss on the road to Rutgers.
- Despite the loss, you have to give credit to the Hog defense for playing their best game of the season. A blocked field goal (Dan Skipper), securing three turnovers (one returned for a TD by Tevin Mitchel), posting five sacks (two by Darius Philon), and holding Rutgers to 54 rushing yards and 17 points makes you feel good about where that unit is heading.
- In many ways, quarterback A.J. Derby played well enough to win the game. Derby was 14-26 for 137 yards, including a 17-yard third quarter TD to Javontee Herndon. Where the problems were evident, though, were on the seemingly endless number of third-and-long situations. The Hogs were 3-of-14 on third downs (21.4 percent) for the day.
- Forced to try and create some offense, Bret Bielema pulled out all the stops to give the Hogs a chance. Punter Sam Irwin-Hill and deep snapper Alan D’Appollonio executed a perfect 24-yard pass and catch on a first quarter fake punt. Later, running back Jonathan Williams tossed the first TD pass of his career — a 21-yarder to freshman tight end Hunter Henry (his first TD as a Razorback) — on a halfback pass to put the Hogs up 24-7.
- We hate ‘rugby-style’ punts and Saturday proved one of the reasons why. Irwin-Hill’s low line drive kick went to the left side of the field when his coverage team was expecting a kick to the right. That led to an easy, momentum-changing 58-yard punt return TD by Rutgers’ Janarion Grant. Meanwhile, senior kicker/punter Zach Hocker, who had boomed a 77-yard punt earlier in the day, stood on the sideline and watched.
- Linebacker Jarrett Lake’s late hit out of bounds penalty in the final minutes of the first half was very bad. The penalty turned what would have been a third-and-22 situation into a first down and, eventually, a Rutgers touchdown. The play marred an otherwise good performance from Lake, who posted 10 tackles and recovered a first quarter fumble. Gotta be smarter than that.
- In what will likely be a theme all year, Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova exposed the Hogs’ linebackers and defensive backs. The worst was the pass coverage by the linebackers, with Rutgers junior tight end Tyler Kroft torching the Hogs for 133 yards and a TD on six catches. Kroft came into the game with eight receptions and 112 yards…for his entire career.
- There is nothing worse than playing ‘not to lose,’ and that’s what the Hogs did after two quick third quarter TDs made it 24-7. Granted the Razorback defense was playing good, but the conservative play calling was painful to watch. The Hogs failed to convert a third down, and punted on their last six possessions.
Of course, we can’t possibly mention everything that was “Good, Bad and Ugly.” What did we leave out?
TipsterHog also contributed to this post.