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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Razorbacks have answered every test so far

by Wally Hall | September 13, 2022 at 3:27 a.m.

Last season it took four games but just two this season for the Arkansas Razorbacks to crack the top 10 in the Associated Press poll.

That's a strong tribute to Sam Pittman and his staff.

After wins over Rice and Texas last season, the Razorbacks were voted No. 20. A win over Georgia Southern moved them to No. 16, and then they faced No. 7 Texas A&M.

This is not the first season the Aggies have been overrated.

After a 20-10 win over A&M, the Hogs jumped to No. 8, then traveled to No. 2 Georgia where they were shut out by the eventual national champions 37-0 and dropped to No. 13.

A 52-51 loss to Ole Miss -- yes, the Hogs were two points away from a 10-win season in Pittman's second season -- they dropped to No. 17 and then out of the poll after a home loss to Auburn.

Wins over UAPB, Mississippi State and LSU got them back in at No. 21 and they dropped to No. 25 after a loss to Alabama. They finished at No. 22 after beating Penn State in the Outback Bowl.

Of the Hogs; four losses last season, two were against teams that played for the national championship.

Now the Razorbacks have jumped from No. 19 to No. 16 to No. 10.

Arkansas has established itself as a running team that defenses almost have to sell out to stop. But if they pull all stops, watch out for KJ Jefferson.

The Razorbacks have rushed for 529 yards in their two wins.

Raheim "Rocket' Sanders has rushed for a total of 273 yards -- it would have been much more if not for a facemask call against the Hogs -- and Jefferson 129 yards to lead the way.

Jefferson has not had to throw much, and definitely not deep, but he has completed 36 of 47 attempts without an interception.

He has 385 yards in the air and four touchdowns.

While he improved almost every game last season, his first as a starter, he appears to have made even greater strides between seasons.

He's poised, confident and has become the leader of the offense.

The offense answers every threat and through eight quarters the Razorbacks have never trailed and have outscored their opponents in five quarters.

Besides penalties, which is an issue, the third quarter might be a little troublesome for Pittman and his staff.

Obviously Cincinnati and South Carolina made halftime adjustments to their attacks.

The Bearcats outscored the Hogs 17-10 in the third quarter and the Gamecocks 7-0.

Arkansas' defense did recover in both cases.

The penalties, though, are piling up with 7 for 63 yards in the opener and 10 for 122 yards last Saturday.

The Gamecocks got five of their 22 first downs by penalty.

Basically, that's the biggest area of concern. Last season, the Hogs had 13 penalties in their first game but cut it to just four against the Longhorns.

Mostly, the Razorbacks have won the battle in the trenches so far.

The two biggest fundamentals in football are blocking and tackling, and the Hogs have 904 yards of offense after two games, an average of 30 more yards per game over last season and against better competition.

Being No. 10 in the nation is heady stuff, but the Razorbacks and their fans have earned it.

Considering where this program was the two seasons before Pittman was hired, it is almost mind boggling to see this type of complete turnaround.

Being No. 10 brings with it a target on your back.

Bobby Petrino and Missouri State may throw everything but the down markers Saturday night.

One thing is certain, Pittman has taken 25 games one at a time.


Print Headline: Razorbacks have answered every test so far

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