The Arkansas-Alabama game this past Saturday was one of the best college football games so far this season, and despite the tough loss, Arkansas still did a lot of things right. Ryan Mallett took advantage of a young Alabama secondary and passed for 357 yards and a touchdown toss. The defense forced turnovers with the Razorback secondary picking off Bama QB Greg McElroy twice, and the special teams play was solid.
What proved to be Arkansas's undoing was turning the ball over themselves. Mallett threw three interceptions, the final two being especially costly as they came in the fourth quarter and led to a Alabama field goal and a touchdown run by Mark Ingram that helped The Tide win the game 24-20.
Let's get some things straight. Arkansas's season is not over by any means despite starting their SEC schedule with a loss. Maybe they won't contend for a national championship, but they can still contend for the SEC West title.
Alabama still has to play Florida, South Carolina, Auburn and have to travel to Tiger Stadium to take on LSU, one of the most hostile environments in the country. Auburn has really impressed me the last two weeks with their play, but they have struggled against LSU and Arkansas in recent years, plus they have to play Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
LSU is undefeated thanks to a superb defense, special teams, and catching some breaks with the September schedule, not because of the anemic play of the offense which will catch up with them when they play the best teams. Ole Miss and Mississippi State are not serious threats to contend this season.The SEC West division is far from being decided, so Arkansas still has a chance to win the division and go on to the SEC title game.
What can Arkansas learn from this heartbreaking loss? First things first, Arkansas needs to learn that it doesn't matter how many turnovers you force if you turn the ball over you will still lose the game. I know that Mallett has taken the loss on his shoulders, and will focus on making better decisions in practice this week. Arkansas also needs to control the clock better so that the defense gets rest and to keep good offenses off the field.
Arkansas played a great game on defense, but they got fatigued in the fourth quarter due to blown drives by the offense and the physical play of Alabama's offense. That, along with Mallett's two interceptions, allowed Alabama to escape an upset. Arkansas has an excellent passing offense, but running the ball effectively wins you a lot of games. I would also expect them to work on more running plays in practice this week.
Since Arkansas has a bye week this week, my next article will be previewing the Southwest Classic, the Arkansas-Texas A&M rivalry game that is played at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. The article will be a scouting analysis of Texas A&M's offense and defense, and what Arkansas must do to win.
Go Hogs Go!!!