The win for the Arkansas football team on Saturday was closer than most Razorback fans and coaches would have preferred. The Samford Bulldogs (1-1) actually took the lead into the fourth quarter 21-17 and had Arkansas fans in an eerily similar situation to last year’s ULM game. Arkansas (2-0) finally rallied the troops and cruised to the ten-point victory, but had everyone slightly worried for a brief period of time.
Freshman running back Alex Collins was undoubtedly the star of the game. Collins rushed for 172 yards that included his first collegiate touchdown. Jonathan Williams also added an impressive 126 yards on the ground and a touchdown. The duo both went over the century mark for the second straight game thanks to good blocking by the offensive line.
The first drive of the game for the Razorbacks went perfect as the hogs drove down the field 65 yards, capped off by a 24-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Allen to tight end Mitchell Loewen.
After a Samford three and out, the Hogs had another touchdown scoring drive in which Williams and Collins switched off carries from the backfield and Allen hit receiver Javontee Herndon for the 7-yard score. What looked to be the start of a blowout, the Razorbacks were now up 14-0 midway through the first quarter.
Samford responded with a touchdown that put the Hog’s lead back to seven. The Razorback’s next drive was sloppy with penalties and a quarterback hurry on Allen, but kicker Zach Hocker bailed them out with a nice 53-yard field goal. After a couple of decent stops by the defense, Arkansas took the 17-7 lead into the half.
The second half opened up with a Samford punt, but the Bulldogs got the ball back deep into Arkansas territory on the next play by way of a fumble by Jonathan Williams. The Bulldogs scored two plays later to make it just a three point game.
The Razorback offense became out of sync and punted on their next three possessions which opened up opportunities for Samford. The Bulldogs then drove down the field and scored on a 16-yard rush by Fabian Truss to take the 21-17 lead into the fourth quarter.
Arkansas finally started to dominate in the fourth by continuing the drive and scoring a touchdown on a 1-yard run by Williams.
Following a Samford punt, the breakout star Collins had a nice 55-yard run and a few plays later ran for a 2-yard score to seal the 31-21 victory.
Brandon Allen had a decent game going 9-for-17 with two touchdowns, but continues to make good decisions and comes away with no interceptions again. Kiero Small needs some recognition as he made countless key, lead blocks for the running backs and even carried the ball for some tough yards as well this game.
Despite the close score, the defense actually played well again this game only giving up a total of 231 yards which is incredibly good considering starters Trey Flowers, Jarrett Lake, and Rohan Gaines were out. There were a few missed tackles and assignment busts by the defense, but nothing that cannot be fixed especially when the three guys who didn’t play come back. Lack of size and speed in the line backing core is cause for some concern especially when SEC play rolls around, but there are two more games for improvement. Unlike last year, big plays are not a factor with the defense yet. No one has gotten behind the secondary for a deep pass or had a long run against the Hog’s which was detrimental to the team last season.
Turnovers and untimely penalties were really the only things that kept Samford in the ballgame until the very end. Both fumbles by Williams and then Herndon on a punt return gave the Bulldogs prime field position and helped them tremendously. Without these fumbles and pivotal 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by cornerback Tevin Mitchell, Samford probably isn’t competitive in the game. You do have to applaud the Bulldogs as they did not back down. Samford played a great game and fought the Hogs until the very end.
Nevertheless, a win is in fact a win and the Hogs are still perfect on the year. Well, for now at least. Southern Mississippi (0-2), who has the FBS leading 14-game losing streak comes to Fayetteville this weekend and the Razorbacks look to extend that streak .While they had a close call against and FCS opponent, this may have been a good thing to develop toughness and team unity for the players. As long as they fix a few mistakes and keep the mentality that Bret Bielema has instilled in them, they will surprise some people and be competitive as the season goes on.