The Arkansas Razorbacks began their new era of football under head coach Bret Bielema with an impressive 34-14 win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday.
Many players played extremely well, but perhaps none played more flawlessly than sophomore quarterback Brandon Allen. Allen was 15-of-22 for 230 yards and 3 touchdowns in the rout and managed the offense like a veteran. The sophomore was composed in the pocket and also showed the ability to roll out and make accurate throws.
The offensive line for Arkansas should get much deserved praise for the way that they played on Saturday. The big men up front completely dominated and allowed the running backs to rack up 292 total rushing yards and protected Allen well all game.
Jonathan Williams led the team in rushing with 151 yards on 18 carries, including one 75-yard touchdown in which he completely reversed field. Freshman Alex Collins busted onto the scene, getting 21 touches for 131 yards and became the first freshman to rush for over 100 yards for the Hogs since Felix Jones did back in 2005. Also, the duo gave Arkansas two 100-yard rushers in a game for the first time since Darren McFadden and Jones back in 2007.
It was freshman tight end Hunter Henry that led the Razorbacks in receiving hauling in 5 receptions for 75 yards. The versatile Henry did have a drop or two, but played extremely well for his first collegiate game. Senior Javontee Herndon reeled in 3 catches for 73 yards and had two scores on the day. He earned Arkansas’ first score of the season with a 6-yard catch from Allen and had a diving 49-yard touchdown grab early in the second quarter.
With a pair of field goals by Zach Hocker, the hogs took a commanding lead into the half up 20-7.
While the offense was running on all cylinders, the defense seemed to be much improved. The Hogs did struggle on a few possessions at first, but overall had a great day defensively and got better as the game went on. Lafayette only had 85 rushing yards and the defense finished with four sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery.
The defensive line was in the backfield all day, disrupting the Lafayette offense. Trey Flowers had a pair of sacks as well as a forced fumble in the third quarter that lead to a Kiero Small receiving touchdown in which he made an athletic move to bypass a defender then rambled through defenders into the end zone.
Right after the defense gave up its second score of the day midway through the third, Williams had his incredible 75-yard touchdown run to give Arkansas the 34-14 lead, which proved to the final score to Bielema’s first win.
As a result of this game, the season looks to be slightly more optimistic than before. Anyone can see that the players have completely bought in to what the coaches have been preaching all off season and are willing to do whatever it takes. They dominated every phase of the game on Saturday against a very good Louisiana-Lafayette team. A team that was picked to finish first in the Sun Belt and one that broke all kinds of offensive school records last season, yet the Razorbacks shut them down.
However, it is still just one game and they have a few more non-conference opponents ahead before they hit the big boys of the SEC. The team still has a ton of things that need to be improved and worked on, but the ceiling of potential is tremendous for this young squad.
All that matters now is the next game against Sanford at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock on Saturday. Bielema has been telling the team to have a 1-0 mentality since he was hired and they have adopted it as their motto. That is, to take everything you do one at a time from games and possessions, to practice drills and reps. Well right now the Hogs are exactly that; 1-0. Let’s see if they can continue the streak this Saturday at 6 p.m. as they take on Samford and try to become 1-0 in Little Rock.