Arkansas Football: What We Learned from the Week 1 Game vs. Jacksonville State
When the Razorbacks were scheduled against Jacksonville State for their home opener, it seemed like an easy victory to start the season. As the game unfolded, it looked like the exact opposite was happening.
The Razorbacks were surprised to learn the Gamecocks came with the intent to win as the Hogs trailed 14-7 early in the second quarter. Although the Razorbacks rallied to pull away for a 49-24 final score, there were plenty of lessons learned from the season opener.
Tyler Wilson Belongs on Heisman Ballot
It may only be game one, but Tyler Wilson looks great and should already be considered among the Heisman chatter at your water cooler.
Wilson completed 19 of 27 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns, breaking a school record for passing yards in an opener. Although it happened against Jacksonville State, Wilson looked poised in the pocket and never swayed.
From day one it is quite obvious that Wilson is the leader of this team and will be on the Heisman ballot at season's end.
Chris Gragg Is a Playmaker
It didn’t take long for Wilson to find a favorite target.
Tight End Chris Gragg led the team with seven receptions for over 100 yards and two touchdowns. Gragg proved to be a big mismatch for Jacksonville State and will be a similar problem for teams in the future.
Gragg is quick for his size and has soft hands making him a perfect red-zone target. The Hogs learned early that Gragg will be a vital part of this offense.
Gragg is not the only wide receiver that impressed on Saturday.
Brandon Mitchell Has Made the Transition
The Hogs got some bad news early when it was reported that wide receiver Cobi Hamilton left the game with a neck injury. (@HOGZONE)
Someone had to stand up to provide a target for Wilson, and Brandon Mitchell proved he was up to the challenge.
Mitchell finished the game with four catches and 122 yards and provided Wilson with a tall target with the ability to leap over the opposition.
Regardless of Hamilton’s status, Mitchell is going to be a productive receiver on this team all year long.
Tyler Wilson and the offense looked great on game day, but the Hogs had their share of problems. The amount of turnovers against Jacksonville State is unacceptable and the team will hear about from coach John L. Smith during the week.
The Razorbacks had four fumbles on Saturday and lost three of the loose balls. It is possible to recover from turnovers against Jacksonville State, but not against some of the top teams that the Hogs face later on the schedule.
The big question mark coming into this game was on defense, where the Hogs were out to show that they have improved. If game one is any indication of how the defense will look, it’s going to be a long season.
The Razorbacks were very inconsistent on defense.
The defense was exposed against the pass early and missed assignments left wide open passing lanes. These open lanes allowed the Gamecocks to move down the field without much effort.
The Hogs adjusted accordingly and began to slow down the pass and pressure the quarterback. However, once that opened the running lanes began to open up.
The Hogs had several individual standouts like Ross Rasner with a team leading 11 tackles, but there is still room for improvement.
Not Ready for Prime Time?
The Razorbacks won the game as expected but still have plenty of work to do to prepare for the big game against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Hogs may have been looking ahead to the big game against the Tide, but if they don’t improve it may not be a close game.
The Crimson Tide looked flawless against Michigan, sending a message that they are ready to compete for a National Championship.
With another tune-up game against Louisiana–Monroe on the schedule, the Hogs need to focus on playing a complete game and send their own message.
That message needs to be loud and clear and show the college football world they are ready for Alabama.