Razorbacks Complete First Challenge And Move On To Second

Arkansas Challenges

Challenge number one of the 2022 season has been completed by the Arkansas Razorbacks as they knocked off the Cincinnati Bearcats 31-24 in an opening-week battle. Saturday was a sloppy game for both teams, Arkansas would take advantage of some misses from the Bearcats to pull away at the end. Above all, this was a physical matchup to begin the long season, the Hogs welcomed the challenge to get stronger going into week two. In this article, we will look at the following topics. First, we will look at what Arkansas did well last week. Then, we will see who the next challenge is and how Arkansas can counter them.

Crowd Was Electric

Arkansas fans got to ‘The Hill’ early to see what year three of Sam Pittman would look like. The 74,751 would make their presence felt for all four quarters. The Pittman Effect is in full force for Hog fans around the country and it was felt in the stadium. The fans in attendance were the seventh largest crowd in school history. In addition, they were the second largest for an Arkansas home opening game and the third largest for a non-conference game, behind only the 2006 USC [76,564] and 2004 Texas [75,671] games. Arkansas broke last season’s Texas attendance making it the largest crowd since the 2016 season when the Hogs topped 75,000 and LSU and Alabama.

This was key in the opening week victory against the Bearcats on Saturday. At one crucial point, Cincinnati had the ball on the Arkansas 1-yard line and had two penalties that resulted in a missed FG from 43 yards away. Sam Pittman in postgame would have this to say regarding the crowd. “That was the crowd,” Pittman said. “Ten of those yards was Razorback nation, so we thank them for that.”

There is no doubt that Arkansas fans were partying on Dixon Street long after the clock hit 0:00.

Poise In Jefferson

Hogs’ fans were abuzz to see if quarterback KJ Jefferson would continue to grow in this offense. Jefferson would finish 18 of 26 for 226 yards with 3 TDs through the air combined with 62 yards rushing on 18 attempts and a Td on the ground. His confidence, poise, and leadership in this offense honestly are what I think was the deciding factor in the week one matchup. Jefferson even had some fun late in the game with a game-clinching jump pass to TE Trey Knox [6 catches for 75 yards for 2 Tds} to clinch the match. Pittman had this to say about Jefferson’s performance “It seems like he just does it,” Pittman said of Jefferson’s play-making ability. “They had him dead to rights and he — pshhew! — first down. It seems like when the game gets a little tighter, a little closer, a little where he’s got to take over the game, he has that knack to do it.”

Jefferson has more weapons than he had last season and is utilizing them thus far. If week one is any indication of his growth and understanding of this offense, then this could be an even more exciting season than 2021 for him and the Hogs,

Rocket Rushes To Century Mark for Second Time In Career

Raheim ‘Rocket’ Sanders got his first career start and did not disappoint. The standout sophomore would rush for 117 yards on 20 carries against a strong challenge in the Bearcats’ defense. Those 20 carries are now a career-high for the man they call ‘Rocket’ and the second 100-yard game in his young career. Sanders would rush to a record for Arkansas as the most rushing yards in a season opener since Chase Hayden had 120 against Florida A&M. In fact, you would have to go back to the 2015 seasons to find a back to rush for more against an FBS opponent, To start that season Alex Collins would run for 127 against UTEP to open the year. To put this into some more historical perspective, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones only rushed for a combined 90 yards in their debut against USC in 2006. Sanders is running with purpose in 2022 and doesn’t look to slow down soon. The rushing attack of Arkansas is legit, and it has many legs that can attack a defense.

Who Is The Next Challenge?

These and more were factors in the Hogs completing the season’s first challenge. With week two upon us, let us look at challenge number two and what challenges they present. Arkansas fans will see a familiar foe in South Carolina in week two. Some fans are leery of this challenge based on recent games with the Gamecocks. South Carolina comes into Fayetteville 1-0 on the season following a 35-14 win over Georgia State in week one. What history do the Hogs and Gamecocks have?

Series Historically

Arkansas and South Carolina have met 23 times in the field, with the Hogs holding a 13-10 advantage, in their most recent game in 2017, the Gamecocks would win 44-22 in Columbia to make the series record there 7-5 in favor of Arkansas. With this season’s game in Fayetteville, the home Razorbacks hope to add to the current 5-2 advantage. The last meeting on ‘The Hill’ came in 2013 and resulted in a 52-7 loss for the home Hogs. Before the 2013 season, the Razorbacks had won 6 of the last seven games played in the state of Arkansas {2011,2009,2007 in Fayetteville, 2003, 2001, 1999 in Little Rock] and look to continue this trend this week.

What Challenges do they present?

If you ask the average fan this question, they will tell you quarterback Spencer Rattler, and I agree. By all means, he does present a challenge for the Razorback defense. What are the challenges that South Carolina will present to Arkansas?

The first one presented by this team is their special team play. In their opening game, South Carolina kicker Mitch Jeter became the first Gamecock to make two field goals of fifty or more yards in a game. Jeter hit 53 and 51-yard field goals in the win over Georgia State. Jeters 53 yard kick, is the seventh longest in school history. This, combined with two blocked punts, presents a challenge Arkansas will need to take very seriously. As we have learned this season, Special teams can instantly change game momentum, and Arkansas must be prepared for this.

The next challenge is the most heard, and that is Quarterback Spencer Rattler. The talented transfer from Oklahoma had an exciting debut going 22-37 for 227 with one TD and two ints. This coupled with Rattler being held to -12 yards rushing in addition to his passing game in week one. As a result, Rattler will be looking to decrease his mistakes and increase his productivity in week two against the Razorbacks.

The last challenge will be defending the passing game as the gamecocks used eight different receivers to accumulate 227 yards. Of those yards, 106 of them came after the catch. As we have seen in early season games, tacking has been an issue. The Razorbacks need to secure their tackles to contain a dangerous passing attack.

Gameday

Arkansas welcomes its second challenge of the season in South Carolina to Fayetteville for an 11 am kickoff. The Razorbacks will need to lean on what worked in week one to accomplish the week two challenges.  Pittman will have his team confident for an early season challenge from a familiar foe.

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