Photo: Walt Beazley
After performing better than expected in their season opener, the Arkansas Razorbacks got a reality check Saturday against the Samford Bulldogs.
First-year coach Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks (2-0) trailed the Bulldogs, 21-17, in the third quarter at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium before the Hogs bulldozed their way for two fourth-quarter touchdowns and a 31-21 victory.
Going into the fourth quarter, Hog fans had flashbacks to last year’s 4-8 season that went off the tracks with a 34-31 overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe in War Memorial Stadium. That loss snapped a five-year, 10-game Arkansas winning streak in the Hogs’ venerable home-away-from-home.
This year’s Razorbacks, however, did not wilt when challenged. Arkansas imposed its will by grinding its way to two rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the first by Jonathan Williams and the second by fellow tailback Alex Collins.
The Razorbacks totaled 458 yards with 333 coming on the ground and 125 through the air, while holding the Bulldogs to 231 total yards (117 passing, 114 rushing).
Sophomore quarterback Brandon Allen threw two first-half touchdowns, and completed 9-of-17 passes for 125 yards for the game. His longest completion was a 35-yarder to Javontee Herndon, who led the Hogs in receiving with 5 catches for 70 yards.
Offensive Player of the Game
Alex Collins (5-11, 206) became the first Razorbacks freshman to rush for back-to-back 100-yard games in Arkansas history with his 24-carry, 172-yard, 1-touchdown performance. His backfield mate sophomore Jonathon Williams (6-0, 222) also topped the century mark for the second consecutive game with 17 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown. Williams of Allen, Texas, averaged 7.4 ypc., while Collins of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., averaged 7.2 ypc.
Defensive Player of the Game
Senior defensive tackle Robert Thomas (6-3, 325) had two sacks and four total tackles to trouble the Bulldogs. Linebackers Braylon Mitchell had 11 tackles and junior linebacker Martrell Spaight had seven stops for the Hogs.
Defensive Play of the Game
After taking a 24-21 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Razorbacks held the Bulldogs to a critical three-and-out that allowed them to take control of the game. On third and three, the Bulldogs set up a bubble screen with triplet receivers staged to the left. The same play had worked for a first down earlier in the contest; however, after being burned, the Razorbacks sniffed it out and snuffed it.
Samford quarterback Andy Summerlin took the snap from the shotgun and tossed to Emmanuel Obajimi two yards behind the line of scrimmage, where defensive end Ky’Tyrus Marks, Spaight, defensive end Deatrich Wise and Mitchell promptly gang tackled him. Forced to punt, the Bulldogs never regained their footing as the Razorbacks offensive line and backfield put the game away.
Offensive Play of the Game
Trailing 21-17, things were looking a bit bleak for the Razorbacks late in the third quarter, but the Hogs wrestled back control of the game on a second-down and 5 at their on 31 when tailback Collins swept left for a 55-yard gain that moved the Hogs into the red zone and set up Williams’ go-ahead touchdown run.
Tackle David Hurd and center Travis Swanson pulled to lead the way for Collins, who raced down the alley made by wide receiver Herndon, who sealed outside, and tight end Jeremy Sprinkle, who sealed inside.
Stat of the Game
The Razorbacks rushed for 333 yards on 53 carries for 6.3 yards per carry. With a strong fourth quarter, the Hogs dominated the time of possession with 35:47 to Samford’s 24:13. Time of possession meant nothing to the Hogs under Bobby Petrino, but it becomes a very important stat in Bielema Ball.
The Razorbacks were without three defensive starters with safety Rohan Gaines, defensive end Trey Flowers and linebacker Jarrett Lake.
Arkansas senior kicker Zach Hocker booted a 53-yard field goal that would have been good for another five to eight yards in the second quarter. He also had a monster kick-off from the 25 following a celebration penalty after Collins’ touchdown that skipped into the end zone for a key touchback.
After a relatively clean season opener, the Razorbacks rolled in the mud against the Bulldogs. Arkansas suffered six penalties for 65 yards and lost two fumbles. Arkansas failed to force a turnover in the contest.
The Hogs return to Reynolds Razorbacks Stadium to play host to Southern Miss on Sept. 14. Kickoff is set for 11:15 a.m., and SEC TV will televise the contest. The Golden Eagles (0-2) bring the FBS’ longest losing streak to Fayetteville, which reached 14 Saturday with a 56-13 loss to Nebraska.