Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Arkansas Game Review

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The first SEC West divisional matchup is in the books. If you will recall, this is the first of its kind in many, many years. And, because of that, many people felt like this would be a dangerous matchup. I wrote my predictions way back on August 18th. Since that time, the Tigers suffered some injuries and the status of many key players was unknown, specifically defensive star Therezie and the insanely dangerous Marshall

So, how did I do? Take a second to review my prediction, which you can find here

So, how did it all come together, and how did I do? Let me start out by restating what I said a few weeks back. It's the first week and predicting is awfully hard....but someone has to do it!

1st Quarter
I expected both teams to come out pounding the ball. I was kinda correct. Arkansas did come out with the multiple headed run game of Marshall, Williams and Collins. But, it did take them a series to get rolling, as they quickly went 3-and-out. After that, the Hogs were able to stuff the ball ball down the Tiger's throats the entire 1st half. The runs came in chunks so big that I could have busted out 20 yard gainers. On the other side, many of us were surprised to see Johnson come out slinging the rock. Though the run game did manage success in the 1st quarter, averaging 7 yards a carry, it was the pass game that looked unstoppable. In fact, Johnson was 6-6 with unbelievable throws to a wide variety of receivers including a huge TD to Ray and a terrific catch for Uzomah. I expected the quarter to end at 7-0 Auburn due to the expected run game. Instead, Auburn led 14-7. There were plenty of great plays, but the highlight of the quarter was EASILY the ball boy running what appeared to be a 4.5 40 yard dash. Get that kid a scholarship. That's the 2nd time we have seen him stridin'. 

2nd Quarter
Well, I was way off. What can I say? Arkansas was extremely balanced on offense. Auburn couldn't slow them down until late in the 2nd quarter. Arkansas sews up that 21-7 deficit to make it 21-21 behind an offensive line that steamrolled the Auburn front 7.  On the other side, Auburn opened up with a TD to start the 2nd quarter, but struggled afterwards.  CAP did receive a lot of touches, but I expected them to be heavy body blows. In fact, Grant and CAP were held to 16 total yards rushing in the 2nd quarter. Johnson was still on the money, for the most part.  Carlson bangs his 1st collegiate FG attempt off the woodwork to end the 2nd quarter. 

All I could think is, ARE WE SERIOUSLY TIED AT HALFTIME!?!?! Instead of the 14-3, low scoring affair that I expected, it is 21-21. Wow. 

3rd Quarter
Well, another prediction where I was off. I expected the Hogs to make some adjustments and find the endzone for their 1st of 2 TDs in the game. Instead, it was Coach Johnson who made the adjustments, stonewalling the Hogs offense to a total of 60 yards in the second half, total. Marshall entered the game and the Auburn offense went to work on the Hogs, plowing them all down the field before Marshall took it in from 19 yards out. CAP had a fumble on the first play of the next drive, which was the only turnover Auburn had, though Duke Williams did put one on the turf earlier in the game. Grant became a factor in the second half, spelling CAP with some good runs. Easily the play of the game came from the combination of Therezie and Whitehead. Therezie was limited in snaps, due to his off-the-field issues. He still managed to be a major contributer by forcing a fumble and destroying Allen on a blitz, causing the errant throw which turned into the Pick-6. 

4th Quarter
CAP destroys the Hog's defense in the 4th quarter. One can't help but thing that the lightening delay let him stew, as well as recover. Marshall attempted only 1 pass in the 4th quarter, which was incomplete. Grant adds some very good runs, including a TD. So, though I thought he would get loose in the 3rd, he did find paydirt. Things might have appeared very different, except for a critical drop by Sammie Coates, which was a TD.  Guess some of those things we talked about in What Do We Expect From the Offense went as expected. 45-21 gives the impression that the game was sporting. Indeed, the first half was. But, a 52-21 score gives a much different appearance. 

Take Aways
Again, go back and read what I thought about both the Offense and Defense after A-Day:

I was so very hesitant to heap all the praise and hope on Duke Williams. He did look spectacular against our own defense, but I wanted to reserve judgement. After all, recruits all look fantastic on highlight reels. That doesn't mean I didn't have hope. After all, I sought him out after A-Day, specifically. 
But, he is amazing. I thought he would be simply a vertical threat, due to his size. Nope. With the ball in his hand, he is as dangerous a player as there is. 9 catches for 154 yards and a TD. He moved the chains. He stretched the field. 

12/16 for 243 and 2 TDs. No INTs. He may be the best backup QB in America. It was scary how good his throws were. It was like he wanted to take the starting job form Marshall. 

It took several games for Mason to break that 150 yard mark. CAP hits it on Game 1. 26 carries for 177, averaging 6.8 yards a carry. WHEW. Now, let's cut down on the fumbles, plz.

The O
They had their issues in finding rhythm. But, for the most part, they were extremely balanced. It was the first time since really 2004 that I thought Auburn could score on any play that night. 

The D
Suspect in the first half. Almost frightening. Had me thinking "here we go again...." for about the 5th year in a row. But, Johnson makes some changes. Therezie gets in the game. Boom. 60 total yards in the 2nd half. But, not so fast my friends. It took heavy blitzing to finally get into the Hogs backfield. Auburn's secondary isn't good enough to send blitz after blitz. They better find a pass rush, and quick. 

Special Teams
Clanged field goal aside, the special teams looked fantastic. They didn't get the touchdown I thought they would, but Bray averaged 15 per return. Grant took his only kick for 32 yards. Most importantly, only one of Carlson's kickoffs were returned, and it was stonewalled at the 15. He averaged 53 yards per punt. Wow. 

My Grade
It's tough to predict this game, so I give myself a bit of a pass. We didn't get the special teams TD. There were a lot more points scored than I thought. Like I expected, the defense did struggle but the didn't give up big plays. The 2 TDs to the TEs weren't exactly BIG. I felt they were predictable. Arkansas diagnosed the LB blitzes and threw to the TEs. The LBs played better in this game than I felt about all year last year.  I expected big things from the kicker, and he didn't disappoint. I expected big things from the slot receiver. Duke responded in kind for 154 yards.  As Cousin Eddy would say, Bingo!

Anyway, I'll try to get better next go-round!