The Arkansas Razorbacks (3-0) convincingly beat the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (0-3) Saturday 24-3, to remain undefeated. The winning effort came largely due to great play by the offensive line for the Hogs as they became a one-dimensional running team when starting quarterback Brandon Allen went down with a shoulder injury late in the first quarter. This marks the third time in the last four seasons that Arkansas has started off 3-0.
The defense played another good game, only giving up 3 points to the Golden Eagle offense. Defensive end Trey Flowers made an incredible diving interception while dropping back into coverage early in the first quarter to give Arkansas prime field position. The Razorback offense couldn’t capitalize however, as Allen threw an interception on the very next play.
The next drive went well as the Hogs moved the ball 89 yards down the field and scored a touchdown on a 5-yard Allen scramble. The nice run was costly as the quarterback injured his throwing shoulder while diving into the end zone on the play and was out for the rest of the game.
Backup quarterback A.J. Derby was then called upon the lead the offense for the remainder of the game and saw his first playing time as a Hog.
After a Southern Miss field goal which made the score 7-3 early in the second, Derby took his first snaps and was a little shaky from the start. The Razorbacks then opted to rely completely on the run game to get them the win. Derby finished the game going 4-for-6 for only 36 yards.
Freshman phenom Alex Collins continued to impress this game as he carried for 115 yards and a score. This effort makes Collins the first freshman in SEC history to run for 100 yards in his first three games and the first since Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson had nine straight in 2004. Jonathan Williams also had over 100 yards again and led the team in rushing with 116 yards on only 16 carries.
A 42-yard field goal by Zach Hocker midway through the second quarter gave the Razorbacks the 10-3 lead and proved to be the score as the teams went into halftime.
Arkansas finally started to pull away from the Golden Eagles with 7:29 left in the third quarter with Williams’ 45-yard touchdown run to put the Hogs up 17-3.
The Hog’s defense continued to make stop after stop, holding the Southern Miss offense to only 254 yards for the day.
The Razorbacks finished the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown run by Collins in the fourth to give Arkansas the 24-3 lead and win.
Arkansas held the Eagles scoreless in the second half thanks to a great group effort on defense. Cornerback Will Hines had a timely interception and Chris Smith recorded a career-high 3.0 sacks. This puts Smith tied for the NCAA lead averaging 1.5 sacks per game.
Jarrett Lake had a monster game at linebacker and was all over the field making key plays. The pass coverage for the Razorbacks was good yet again, only allowing 135 pass yards to a team that averaged around 300.
The opponent of Southern Miss is still nowhere near to the caliber of SEC teams that Arkansas will be playing from here on out. In fact, the loss just extended their losing streak to fifteen games, and the Razorbacks still struggled in a few key areas. However, the Hogs were playing without their starting quarterback and continued to run the ball well even though Southern Miss packed the box the entire game.
It wasn’t the prettiest game, and head coach Bret Bielema will admit that, but a win is a win. The Razorbacks have seemingly found their identity as a team through the first three games, but now they have to play at a level that they have not even touched yet. The Arkansas football team hits probably the toughest five game stretch in all of college football starting this weekend.
The Hogs get to travel away from the state of Arkansas for the first time this season and we finally get to see if they’re really what their 3-0 record says they are. It all starts Saturday when they take on the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers in Piscataway Township, New Jersey.