State of the Hogs: Numbers

Tyler Wilson

If you like numbers, the digital age gives us plenty to describe this Arkansas football team. But the only one that matters is six.

Some might look at this Arkansas football season years from now with amazement. Because there are going to be some records in the media guide in several passing categories that might stand the test of time.

Quarterback Tyler Wilson is going to slide into several spots for his passing numbers. Receiver Cobi Hamilton will be atop several categories. Dennis Johnson has posted some kick returns that will show up for many years on the stat list.

But the only numbers that matter right now are 29 and six. That's 15 pass interceptions and 14 lost fumbles for a horrible 29 turnovers for the Arkansas offense through 11 games. And, then that second and most important of all numbers, it's only six more days until the season ends for Razorback fans.

The Hogs lost five turnovers while stumbling through a 45-14 loss Saturday at Mississippi State at Davis Wade Stadium. The State lead was only 17-14 at halftime when the turnovers were even, 1-1.

"We had a really good first half and we had a number of guys who thought we were going to win it when we got to the locker room," Wilson said. "Then those turnovers just killed us. We just made too many mistakes and made it easy on them."

State won the second half, 28-0, while dominating the turnover numbers, 4-0. It's really nothing different than the rest of the season, now doomed to be without a bowl with the Hogs 4-7 with only a home game against LSU to go the Friday after Thanksgiving.

There's really not much to be thankful for on the field with this team. Billed as prolific on offense, the Hogs couldn't sustain another hot start. They converted four straight third downs en route to a 14-7 lead. They converted two more third downs the rest of the game.

Here's a look at the early third down conversions that went right:

• Third-and-8, Wilson to Javontee Herndon for 18.
• Third-and-1, Johnson rushed for 5.
• Third-and-1, Wilson to Hamilton for 7 yards.
• Third-and-goal at the 7, Wilson to Johnson for a 7-yard TD.

The Hogs were up 14-7 at that point and got a stop from the defense when Tyler Russell missed Chris Bumphis on third-and-6. But Kaelon Kelleybrew muffed a punt to set the stage for a State field goal.

The Hogs still had the lead and turned to the ground with Knile Davis after starting from its own 17-yard line. A defensive pass interference call converted a third-and-7 for the Hogs, then Wilson scrambled for 8 yards on first down. If you want to draw a line in the sand where it began to unravel, put it here.

Davis made just 1 yard on an inside run, then was halted for no gain on a sweep and the Hogs had to punt.

The Hogs were shoved back to third-and-17 and third-and-12 on their only other possessions in the first half.

The Hogs got the first try of the second half and Wilson converted third-and-8 with a 20-yard pass and run by Javontee Herndon. He was intercepted on his next throw.

The Hogs were shoved back to third-and-18 on their next possession, failed on third-and-8 next and then turned it over on three straight possessions.

"The story of the game is obviously the turnovers, but it was just as much the third down conversions, too," Arkansas coach John L. Smith said. "We had the sticks in our favor in the first half and could make those plays early.

"Then, in the second half, the sticks were a little tougher. When it's third-and-long, it's awfully tough. And when (State) doesn't make any mistakes, it's awfully tough."

Eventually, an Arkansas defense patched together with true freshmen at linebacker just gave out. After playing the option within reason early, MSU quarterbacks Tyler Russll and Dak Prescott made the Hogs pay for that inexperience.

"We were trying to slow play the option and we did that in the early part of the game," said Paul Haynes, UA coordinator. "But we got confused in the second half and we went after the quarterback harder and that gave them the pitch before our linebackers could get there.

"Part of it, we went to more man coverage in the second half. You just can't sit there in vanilla forever. You have to go try to make a play here and there. And when we did, we had alignment problems and breakdowns.

"We've just had injuries and are playing young guys there (at linebacker). I like what they do as far as effort, but they are just going to make some mistakes at time. We pick our spots as far as asking them to do certain things, but in the second half we just had to try to do a little more and they made us pay."

Defensive end Chris Smith said the Hogs didn't always get their checks right when State changed formations.

"We made some mistakes and some of them were on me," Smith said. "I should play better than that.

"The option, we hadn't seen them run it much. We did try to slow play it, but when we didn't, the linebackers didn't quite get there. That's on me and our ends for not playing it a little better to buy a little more time.

"If you close on the quarterback too fast, they are going to have you outnumbered outside with the pitch. That's what happened on some of those plays where we gave up some big yards."

The Hogs were attacking Russell in some of those situations. The ends were trying to get up the field in pass rush mode.

"That's what I mean by man-to-man," Haynes said. "When they had the lead, we tried to force a little more, but he was very good.

"I thought we did hit him some, but it didn't seem to bother him. He still made plays."

Smith said, "I got him twice and I think Trey Flowers was back there, too. I got to give it to him, he delivered it right when we were on top of him. He did a very nice job. I kept on getting to him and he'd release it on target. He's good. He'd always get it away."

Dennis Johnson led the UA rushers.

Tyler Wilson is tripped up on a third down scramble in the second half. Recommended Stories

Up Next