Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Midseason review: Arkansas
By Chris Low
Record: 5-1 (1-1 SEC)
Say this for Arkansas’ football team: The Hogs don’t easily discourage. For the second year in a row, they lost in the first month of the season to Alabama in a game they’d placed special emphasis on going all the way back to the summer. But just like a year ago, the Hogs refused to let that loss keep them down. They’ve turned back Top 25 foes Auburn and Texas A&M each of the last two weeks following their 38-14 beatdown in Tuscaloosa. Even more impressively, they’ve been able to stay the course despite a rash of injuries. In their win over Auburn last week, five starters missed the game. That’s not counting star running back Knile Davis, who fractured his ankle during the preseason. Senior defensive end Jake Bequette returned from a hamstring injury to play against Auburn, but it was his first game back since the second week of the season. The Hogs had missed Bequette on defense, especially his leadership. But to their credit, they’ve been able to recover defensively each of the last two weeks after shaky starts. They held Texas A&M to a field goal in the second half and shut out Auburn in the final three quarters. The passing game has really started to click these last two weeks, and that’s despite senior receiver Greg Childs still not being all the way back from his torn patellar tendon injury last season. Fellow seniors Jarius Wright and Joe Adams, though, have turned in one big play after another, combining for 10 touchdowns. The Hogs are off this coming weekend, and if they can start getting some players back from the injury list, are still very much in contention for at least an at-large BCS bowl bid.
Offensive MVP: QB Tyler Wilson. He took a beating against Alabama, but kept getting back up and competing. Ever since, Wilson has played some of his best football. He’s thrown five touchdown passes in his last two games and set a school record with 510 passing yards in the win over Texas A&M. Just as importantly, he’s been the kind of leader Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino hoped he would be in his first year as a starter. Wilson is completing 64.9 percent of his passes and has thrown 12 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
Defensive MVP: LB Jerry Franklin. He’s been starting since his freshman season, which is why everybody around the league swears that Franklin has been playing for six or seven seasons. He’s well on his way to leading the Hogs in tackles for a fourth straight season. He has 51 total stops, including five behind the line of scrimmage, and has also broken up three passes. Having Franklin’s experience in the middle of that defense is invaluable.