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You Pick ‘Em: Arkansas-MSU

Arkansas
Content provided by The Slophouse.

FAYETTEVILLE - Next up for No. 13 Arkansas is a trip to No. 21 Mississippi State. The Razorbacks have had some of their best success against the Bulldogs in recent years, winning 10 of the last 11 meetings between the schools.

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Slophouse Pick (9-1)

On paper, this is the best match-up between these two schools in a long time. Both are ranked heading into the game for the first time since 1999 and it should be a game that lives up to its primetime billing.

The key will likely be if Arkansas can slow Mississippi State’s rushing game. The Bulldogs rank third in the SEC in rushing yards at 211.7 per game. At the same time, the Razorbacks are near the bottom of the league, allowing more than 150 rushing yards each contest.

Gone is Anthony Dixon, who had some great performances against Arkansas during his career, but Vick Ballard serves as a apt replacement. The Bulldogs running back is among the league leaders in rushing yards and creates a nice 1-2 punch with quarterback Chris Relf in the triple option attack. Razorbacks defensive coordinator Willy Robinson noted earlier in the week his unit is used to seeing the option as each of Arkansas’ last seven opponents have run some variation of it.

If the defense can slow the Bulldogs, the offense should be able to do its part. Arkansas is hot offensively, averaging 45.8 points in the last five games. Mississippi State does some unique things on the defense, but the Razorbacks seem to have a counter for each with its multitude of talented players on the other side of the ball. If Arkansas can continue to run the ball well it should slow a good pass rush and open some things up int he passing game. The Bulldogs and the cold might slow the Razorbacks a bit, but shouldn’t do too much to derail a team with its sights set on the BCS.

Arkansas 35, Mississippi State 21

For more visit WholeHogSports.com. You can follow Matt Jones on Twitter @NWAMatt.

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Arkansas Well-Versed in Option

Arkansas
Content provided by The Slophouse.

Arkansas will once again be asked to defend an option running attack when it travels to No. 21 Mississippi State this weekend.

Led by quarterback Chris Relf and running back Vick Ballard, the Bulldogs are third-best in the SEC, averaging 211.7 rushing yards per game this season.

“They’re a lot like Auburn and they run the ball well,” Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said. “They have a very physical offensive line, probably comparable to Auburn. The quarterback is a lot like the Texas A&M kid, Jerrod Johnson – real quick They don’t have the big bruiser like they had in the backfield last year but these kids run physical.

“They’re a good football team. They really are.”

The No. 13 Razorbacks have struggled against the run at times this year, allowing more than 150 rushing yards per game. Arkansas has faced several mobile quarterbacks similar to Relf. In addition to Johnson, the Razorbacks have had to defend the likes of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, among others.

“There hasn’t been an offense that hasn’t given us an option look since the Georgia game,” Robinson said, citing the Razorbacks’ third opponent of the year. “The biggest concern here is the fact they have three ways to go – the dive, the quarterback and the pitch. You have to have great discipline and know where your assignments are against these guys.”

Arkansas prepared for the flurry of option offenses by practicing against it quite a bit during the spring. Razorbacks quarterback Brandon Mitchell served as the option quarterback in those drills, though he isn’t on the scout team this week.

“We made sure that we got to practice on some of the things we were going to see throughout the year, option wise, so it wasn’t just three days before you practiced it,” Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said Monday. “There were a lot of things put on video, a lot of study over the summer time. A lot of preparation has gone to it besides this week.”

Joneses Bouncing Back

Robinson said both DeQuinta “D.D.” Jones and Byran Jones have had good weeks of practice despite difficulties off the field and with injuries.

D.D. Jones was suspended one game after being arrested last month for possession of marijuana. Last weekend his brother, Deddrick, was one of three Southern Miss football players shot outside a club. Deddrick Jones remained hospitalized Wednesday, though his injuries are not considered life-threatening, according to reports.

“D.D. is doing good,” Robinson said. “He’s giving it all he can and he does a great job when he gets in there. One thing about D.D. on Saturday is he comes to play hard and has a different mentality about him. If there’s one thing he needs to mature is he needs to continue that as he grows up day in and day out.”

Byran Jones has missed the last two games with an ankle injury suffered in the first quarter against Vanderbilt on Oct. 30. He has practiced all week and should be ready to play Saturday.

“Byran is in the rotation and is giving us some depth there,” Robinson said. “He keeps working on his treatment and he’ll play for us this week.”

Quotable Willy

Robinson is a reporter’s dream when it comes to quotes for his uncanny way to mix words together and his brutal honesty.

The third-year defensive coordinator delivered again Wednesday when asked about his unit’s success this season on third downs and whether it was the most important down during a series.

“I lost a job answering that question a long time ago, answering that question in an interview,” Robinson said. “I always thought the most important down was first down. I still believe that.”

Arkansas ranks tops in the SEC and seventh nationally, allowing opponents to convert third downs at a 30.8 percent clip.

For more visit WholeHogSports.com. You can follow Matt Jones on Twitter @NWAMatt.

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#21 MSU Tops UK 24-17; Dawgs 20th in BCS; Crowd Noise?

Mississippi State
Content provided by All Things Maroon – A MSU and SEC blog.

ballarduk “7″, that’s right, “7″ WINS. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t pretty. But, for the 3rd straight week, MSU has found a way to win in the closing minutes of a ball game. On Friday, I referenced our legendary announcer Jack Cristil’s quote about this match-up, as always being a Cat n’ Dawg fight…and it was just that. MSU mustered up just enough Offense and Defense, to continue on their best start to a season, since 1999 (8-0). After winning their 6th in a row, and 7th game on the season, MSU now heads into a bye week-for some much needed R & R, before heading into Tuscaloosa next week. Not only do the Bulldogs need a week off to rest up from all the weeks of tension and on-field drama, but I feel the fans do as well. With that said, here’s my thoughts on the game…

(1) Defense- What a performance by Manny Diaz’s Defense. There were times when we were all scratching our heads, be it a coverage call here, or a wide open UK receiver there, but it worked. UK had their chances in the 4th Quarter, with possessions at the 14:53, 10:21, 7:05, and 5:08 minute marks. State was dominant on 3 of the 4 UK possessions, but it was the Cats’ final drive that tested the Dawg D. UK would move the ball from their own 10 yard line, to the the MSU 20. For 17 plays and 4 and a half minutes, the Wildcats methodically marched toward pay dirt, and 54,000 + held their breath. With their backs against the ball, the Bulldog D made sure that UK didn’t make it past the 20 yard line. Cats’ QB Mike Hartline, was forced into 3 straight incompletions, and a game sealing interception (Johnthan Banks) with 31 seconds left. I think we could all complain about the D’s inability to contain Randall Cobb, who put up 182 total yards, and the fact that we failed to find our way to Hartline at times, but we can’t ignore all of the positives:

  • State has yet to allow a 100 yd rusher.
  • State forced 4 turnovers: 3 INTs & 1 Fumble
  • 3 of those 4 Turnovers were forced inside the MSU 25 yd line.
  • State was held below in their average Offensive production in: Rushing (-10), Passing (-22), and Points (-17).
  • State gave up only 17 points, which is their yearly average. 
  • State also had 4sacks, 7 QB Hurries, and 9 Tackles for Loss
  • State only surrendered 347 yds on 85 plays.

LB Chris White continues to make a name for himself, leading the team with 15 tackles, and an INT. Charles Mitchell totaled 8 tackles, and fellow DB Corey Broomfield had 7 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 2QB hurries, and a Tackle for loss. LBs KJ Wright and Cam Lawrence, played solid with 6 take downs apiece. On the DL, Josh Boyd was an absolute ‘Man’, with 5 tackles, 2.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks, for -13 yards. Sacks were registered by: Wade Bonner, Josh Boyd, Shane McCardell, and Fletcher Cox. I can’t say enough about how risky Diaz’s philosophy is, but it works. And Manny Diaz said it himself:  “That’s how we win. We win grind-it-out affairs. That’s a situation that we feel very comfortable in. We’re in the same boat at Florida, and the whole mindset on that drive is, nothing matters until they cross that goal line. And we’re mixing up pressure and coming from different places, and we figure at some point during that drive, we’re going to get you.” A great night, considering the Defense was on the field for almost 36 minutes. They made the kinds of plays that you have to make-in that type of game. I’m just glad we ran our Defense.

(2) Les Keonning…What are you thinking (Part 3)? First Downs, Etc. : (1) If you asked anyone who watches SEC football, what MSU’s strength is on Offense, they would have to say running the football. 54,000+ in Davis Wade know it, millions at home know it, but why doesn’t Les Koenning? If we are going to win any of our remaining games, we have to run the football on 1st Down. If the strength of your team is not throwing the football, then why do you pass on 1st down? His terribleplay calls, continually put State in bad yardage situations the entire night. I guarantee you, that if we were to go back as far as the Alcorn game, that 90% of our 3 and Outs, or drives that we failed to earn more than 2 First Downs on, were halted by pass play-calls on 1st Downs. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing a second time, and expecting a different result. Now, with that said, I know there are times you have to mix it up, such as the pass to Bumphis for 35 yds vs the Cats, but we can all admit that-that type of success is a rare occurrence for our QBs. Stick to our strength, run the football, get some type of yardage on 1st Downs, and eat up some clock. State had the ball for only 24minutes in the UK game, and the play-calling not only had a lot to do with the time of possession battle, but the scoreboard as well. (2) Secondly, I think we might be the worst team in the country, after a momentum grabbing play. On the 3Turnovers we forced vs UK, State went 3 and Out on every possession. That’s a big time ’thanks, but no thanks’ to the D, who just did their job. If Koenning calls plays that fit the Offense’s strengths, then UK doesn’t even have a shot after the first quarter, and we could go into how many other times he has done the same thing this year (Hello, Auburn). Run the ball Les. (3) In short yardage situations, why are we running plays that take time to develop? It’s those very situations when the DL is going to get some push up front, and fight for penetration…it’s a given. There should be NO fake hand-offs, NO read options, NO draws, NO counters, and NO hesitation (unless you’re in 4 down territory, and have an extra play to follow). Direct snap to Relf, push behind that big OL, and fall forward. Worked vs UGA and vs UF, why would that not work vs UK? Common sense goes a long way. And finally, why run LaDarius Perkins in those same situations when you need inches or a few yards? He is not a 3rd down back, and he needs space, not congestion. Vick Ballardis the tough yards guy, but like I said, just snap it to your 240 lbs QB, and fall forward. Long story short, we were on our way to torching UK, but took our foot off the pedal. Something tells me we can do better than Keonning? I’m not calling for heads to roll, after all, he has a hand in our success this season as well.

(3) Game Ball, Special Teams: PK Derrick DePasquale hit from 33 yds out, and improved to 6-7on the year, and 6-6 during the last 2 weeks. P Heath Hutchins punted for a 43 yd average, with a long of 63, placing 5of those inside UK’s 20 yd line (2 inside the 10, late). The kickoff coverage team held Randall Cobb to a 22yd avg, and -1yd on 2 punt returns. In the return game, MSU’s Chad Bumphis had 1 KR for 32 yds, and also returned 4 punts for 44 yds (11 yd avg). I think the only time that I have ever criticized FB Patrick Hanharan, was when he released his block too early on Bumphis’ miraculous run from the goal line. If the FB holds his block, Bumphis turns a flat-out mistake, into a 99 yard punt return for a TD. Anyway, great night for the unit.

(4) QB’s: First off, Chris Relf was really close to having a good night passingthe football. I know he missed a deep shot early on, 2 other easy throws on the run (Heavens), and one other time he had Bumphis as a decoy, sitting wide open on the sideline. I wouldn’t pin what appeared to have been an overthrown ball to Henderson on him (on the goal line). The TE just didn’t run his route fully, and seemed to open his stance up to early for the catch. We scored on that drive anyway. Relf did finish 7-17, for 111 yds, with a beautiful TD strike to WR Arceto Clark. Relf also finished with 16 rushes, for 79 yards, and another TD on the ground. Tyler Russell, saw the field for one possession (0-2), and missed a perfect opportunity to hit a wide open Chad Bumphis, when he threw to a deeper man, and his pass fell short. Sometimes I wonder if Tyler is played so little, that he tries to over-compensate when he gets on the field. That was a perfect situation, where you hit your #1 WR in the open for 30 yds, rather than throwing 50 yards down field on a well-guarded man. The maturity will come though. Arkansas, Ole Miss, and even Bama, have secondary problems at times, and we could see him in those games. 

(5) 200 yds Rushing=Wins: State continued to tap into it’s identity, by running for over 200 yards yet again. As for the men who made it happen- Vick Ballard- 103 yds and Relf- 79 yds. MSU is 6-0 when rushing for 200+ yards this season. And yes, those 6 came during this stretch of 6 straight wins for the Bulldogs. State’s only win without 200+ yards rushing? Memphis, when the Dawg Offense ran for 197 yds. I’m really liking the way that WR Michael Carr runs with the ball in his hands, and the kid is gonna be a good one. Relf missed some reads that could have broken the game open in the 2nd half. But, a win is a win.

(6) Officiating was RIDICULOUS: I hate to complain about officials, and I abide by a strong motto that if you have something taken from you, you simply take it back. Was it just me, or was just about every critical and pivotal UK possession extended by a penalty on State? I know we only had 4 penalties on the night for 50 yards, but the timing of those calls were crucial. The pass interference calls were especially B-A-D. They robbed us of one of our INTs, in which the defender positioned himself to get a hand on the ball before the receiver, and did. Heck, they even threw out the yellow laundry on MSU WR Chris Smith on a jump ball. Bad calls all around, and I expect more from Steve Shaw and his officiating crew. Either way, we won, but rarely does MSU beat the other team and the officials in the same night. To quote a guy beside me at the game, “when you do those 2 things, that tells you the direction we might be headed in.”  I’m glad this team keeps its’ composure, and finds ways to overcome adversity…where ever that adversity may come from.

(7) I…Brett Holloway…Rang Responsibly ; Proud of the Stadium Noise: It went against every bone in my body, but I did not not ring when I was not supposed to. And now, I’ve become the designated Yell Leader in my section, with the help of Chris (Morecowbellplease). The 2nd quarter crowd noise was pitiful, and Davis Wade was falling into a lull of becoming about as loud and intimidating as grandparents at a tee ball game (not very loud, Btw). But, when it counted in the 4th quarter, I’d have to say that was the loudest I’ve heard our stadium, when only using our voices. Many on the site have mentioned how dependent we have become on the bells to make the noise for us, and it showed on Saturday night. Our first critical 3rd down on Defense-in the 4th quarter, caused me to just yell at every one in front of me in my section, and told them they “sounded like a high school stadium.”  But, after that point they got into it, and the stadium as a whole made it difficult on UK. We ‘almost’ got as loud as VT their for a second, and I was proud. Get the people around you to yell. If you are not close to losing your voice on Saturday nights, you are not doing your job. I’m a firm believer that our voices are louder than the cowbells will ever be. I’ve been on the field at LSU, Auburn, Bama, and Arkansas, and that blanket of natural sound, coming from nothing but people, is a lot more intimidating. Let’s keep it up. Buzzard, is the only one excluded from almost losing his voice, because he has to be able to spread the gospel on Sundays. The rest of us, no excuse. 

 

______SEC News______   

Auburn’s still #1, spoils the Bears’ UPSET party…Ole Miss got dressed up all pretty, and then gave up 572 yds. Link

Arkansas torches Vandy. Link

Carolina continues to play to the level of their opponent, but beats UT. Link

UF beats UGA in OT. Link

Your thoughts on the WIN?

On being 7-2?

And the crowd noise without the cowbells?

*Btw, I predicted INTs by Chris White and Nickoe Whitley, and it happened on 2 straight plays, not bad. And, another prediction that’s becoming even more true, week-by-week, that this would be a HUGE year for the State and Ole Miss rivalry, and the direction of the 2 schools…looks like it to me.

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