Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Midseason review: Arkansas
By Chris Low
Record: (3-4, 2-2 SEC)
After a nightmarish start, the Hogs are suddenly on a two-game winning streak. Their offense is starting to show the kind of explosiveness everybody predicted when the season began, and they’re also starting to get back some of their injured players. The defense was abysmal in the Hogs’ four-game losing streak in September, but they were also dealing with a rash of injuries. With Eric Bennett and Tevin Mitchel out, they’ve been starting three freshmen in the secondary -- cornerbacks Will Hines and Davyon McKinney and safety Rohan Gaines. They’ve also been decimated by injuries at linebacker, losing both Alonzo Highsmith and Tenarius Wright for the season. It’s a team that appeared to be on the verge of crumbling after a humiliating 58-10 loss to Texas A&M during the final weekend of September. In their four consecutive losses, starting with a 34-31 setback in overtime to Louisiana-Monroe, the Hogs gave up 179 points. Twice, they were lit up for more than 50 points. Alabama won 52-0 the third week of the season in Fayetteville. But as the calendar flipped to October, the Hogs ran into a team that was struggling even more than them and whipped Auburn 24-7. And then last week, they dismantled Kentucky 49-7 in a game that was shortened to two and a half quarters because of inclement weather. Interim coach John L. Smith has received a ton of criticism for the way he’s handled the team, and some of it’s been deserved. But the Hogs seem to be settling down now and still have a chance to salvage a bowl trip out of what was a complete mess just a few weeks ago. They’re off this week and then take on Ole Miss in Little Rock on Oct. 27 in what will be a key game for both teams’ postseason hopes.
Offensive MVP: QB Tyler Wilson. In retrospect, his comments about teammates quitting right after the Alabama game when he didn’t play because of a concussion might have been ill-advised. But he’s come back from that concussion and played very well. Wilson leads the SEC with 1,957 passing yards and has thrown 14 touchdown passes, including five last week against Kentucky.
Defensive MVP: S Ross Rasner. The Hogs are ranked last in the SEC in total defense, so there haven’t been a lot of stars on that side of the ball. Rasner, though, has played his heart out after moving from linebacker to safety this season and is second on the team with 51 total tackles. He also has two interceptions and two forced fumbles and has saved touchdowns on more than one occasion with tackles down the field.