It's hard to win on the road in the SEC.
That's the first thing we should all remember. Secondly, we took a travel squad on the road for the first time in 2013 with a majority of that squad being made up of players on their first road trip wearing the maroon and white. It was a tough task last night for the A&M coaches, no matter what you thought of the Arkansas team coming in. We beat an SEC team on the road by 12 points. That's a quality win no matter who much you try to spin it.
Now let's get to the ugly.
It begins and mostly ends with the defense. Players? Schemes? Coaches? Probably a mix of them all. But here is where it all begins – this defense likes fire and passion. Sometimes you watch them and you ask "how much do these guys really want it?" We knew coming in we were losing great players in our defense. But I think we forgot just how much losing a guy who plays all out like Spencer Nealy hurts. His type of play was contagious to the rest of the team. Other players fed off of his play. Now, we really don't have anyone who can lead by example. Who is the guy on this defense who makes another below average player into an average defender? No one. That is the answer and where most of the trouble starts.
But we have some good players -- Deshazor Everett is a guy who will play in the NFL. After that though, we have to go to the freshmen to find really good players. And most of those freshmen -- guys like Isaiah Golden and Daeshon Hall – don't play enough in my opinion. I just don't understand that. Why does it take an injury to Kirby Ennis for Golden to come in and play? Golden played really well last night. He is ready. Now maybe Golden doesn't fit our coaches' ideal player as a 3-Tech where Alonzo Williams is currently playing. So? Isn't Golden one of the best players we have on defense? Then you get that player on the field, period. We finally did it with Claiborne, and he ended up leading the team in tackles last night although he missed most of the second half due to injury. Screw your schemes, get these players on the field and let them make plays. That's the one thing I really dislike about our coaching staff's decisions – once a player gets on campus they seem to pigeonhole guys into a certain position and it takes a lot to get them to switch it up. I wish they would be a lot more flexible with our personnel. First, get the best players on the field, and worry about where they play later. I mean, is continuing to send the same group of guys on the field a better alternative?
The first correction we have to make is our tackling. I'm tired of guys trying to throw a shoulder into ball carriers hoping that will take them down. Who taught them that? Where does that mindset originate? We have too many good coaches in the high school football ranks to let that be taught there. One thing that concerns me in that regard is the weight of our players. Steven Jenkins should never try to shoulder or arm tackle. But when you read from Bruce Feldman that he may not even weigh 210 pounds, you wonder if his weight really is factoring into how he plays. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. I just find it hard to believe that year after year players don't know how to simply tackle.
The good news is that our defense made stops when it mattered most. Just check the highlighted box from Arkansas' drive chart
The highlighted box shows all of Arkansas' drives in the second half. Two touchdowns, but also two turnovers, a turnover on downs, and two punts. I'll take that every game. Especially for the 4th quarter drives. No points given up in the 4th quarter when it mattered most. It has to start somewhere, and that is a good beginning.
The stat to watch over the course of the season is third down conversion percentage.
5-12 third down conversion percentage isn't great, but again I'll take it. You would have thought that number was above 50% for the game.
Now I'll answer some questions from Twitter that you may be asking as well.
Q: Critique the DB play. Especially Harris.
Well, this is a tough one actually. Especially when it comes to De'Vante Harris. Harris is such a hot/cold player right now. He will have a good pass break up and great stop on 3rd and short, but then he will also blow a coverage like he had no clue what is going one, arm tackle Alex Collins leading to his long run before half, and just seem disinterested in defending the run. At times he is really good, and other times you wonder why we put him out on the field. Just too inconsistent right now. On the other side, Otis Jacobs has always played well, but not necessarily great. He also doesn't play well against the run. Then you have Howard Matthews who will bust a coverage every now and then. It's scary because these guys can play really well but also blow coverage leading to a long TD on any play. That has plagued our defense all season. We do a pretty good job on short plays, but we give up way too many plays of 20 yards or more. It happened last night. And the answer to that is just guys like Harris becoming more consistent players. At some point, maybe against Ole Miss, you will have to add Floyd Raven to the mix. And while Raven may be talent, he is a guy who hasn't even played one series at safety. Is that the answer? No, I think it just adds one more guy who is prone to giving up a big play.
Q: Critique Golden and the D-Line. Are schemes the cause of lack of pressure?
Golden played really well last night. He really answered the call when Kirby Ennis went down with an injury. It's really frustrating that it took so long for him to see the field. As far as pressure, it all comes back to the speed on the field along the defensive line. Right now we don't have it. We are asking guys like Obioha and Stansbury to generate that pressure when that is not what they are built to do. In fact, Arkansas picked on our defensive end speed with that pitch play they ran several times last night. We really lack edge rushers right now. The one we have in Hall doesn't play enough. Now Mark Snyder could try to dial up some different blitz looks to help out the defense, but you wonder if he is too concerned about our defensive backs to call those type of plays. Right now we are just really lacking in defensive personnel.
Q: Breakdown the run game, and if you think we will see it more.
We averaged 6 yards per rush last night. No wonder we decided to run it down their throats late. Arkansas just didn't have the "hogs" up front to battle our offensive line. I thought our run game really complemented our screen game last night, allowing us to play a true numbers game of what Arkansas was giving us in the box. The one thing I don't like about our run game is sometimes we try to get too horizontal with it and then we also run some plays that take too long to develop like that Brandon Williams draw play. We are best at just running the ball downhill. We need more of that. I also would like to see Cam Clear on the field more. I just love watching that guy block. We continue to develop new looks, like a counter play out of the diamond formation. Trey had 9 carries last night, Carson 9, and Malena 12. I wouldn't mind that 10-10-10 split the rest of the way.