Despite my best attempts to wipe the mind’s hard drive clean*, I’m very much able to recall Arkansas piling up 605 yards of offense—442 of which came by way of the forward pass—against Ole Miss last year. As those passing yards piled up in front of me at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, I turned and told my dad (multiple times) that there was no way the Razorbacks could keep it going. OH YOU SILLY IDIOT.
*Like any good Cheatin Rebel Bear, COVERING YOUR TRACKS
Hogs QB Brandon Allen took full advantage of Ole Miss’ secondary and linebackers in that 53-52 overtime win, completing 33 of 45 passes with six touchdowns and a 9.8 yards-per-attempt average. Mercifully for Ole Miss, Brandon has moved on. Unfortunately for Ole Miss, Arkansas will have another Allen taking the snaps this Saturday, and he’s picked up right where his brother left off.
Through six games, Austin Allen leads the conference with 15 passing touchdowns and is in the top four in every significant statistical passing category. According to Hugh Freeze, he’s a reincarnation of his older brother:
"I feel like I am watching the same guy. I think they are extremely accurate, extremely tough, have a great understanding of defenses. The ball goes to the right spot, it's accurate. Just a really good player."
If Freeze is right about watching the same guy—and after watching some mirror-like tape, I believe he is—Austin Allen could very well do the same things his brother did last year.
After subjecting myself to all of Arkansas’ offensive plays from the game in Oxford (I treat myself well), their success was based on the idea that they could run the ball. While they ran for ONLY 163 yards (4.3 yards per attempt), Arkansas’ offense was able to keep moving through a combination of wonderful play design, Ole Miss’ obsession with stopping the run, and creating winnable one-on-one matchups due to said obsession.
To illustrate, we pick things up in the first quarter. Arkansas is driving and decides to attack the back end of Ole Miss’ defense.
Ole Miss drops three defenders deep, but Arkansas manages to create the one-on-one matchup they want.
The tight end charges into Trae Elston’s neighborhood, garnering his full attention, which leaves Tony Bridges in one-on-one coverage versus Drew Morgan.
Bridges is a mess, there’s no pass rush, and it’s a matter of whether or not Allen the Elder can make the throw.
The throw was fine, but Bridges couldn’t even close down a throw that traveled 30 yards in the air. Morgan caught the ball, then shrugged off Bridges’ tackle attempt before scoring.
In the second quarter, we see Arkansas letting their tight end go to work. Hunter Henry, who praise the good Lord above is in the NFL now, is matched up against defensive end Marquis Hayes, who is lined up in what’s basically an outside linebacker’s spot.
Arkansas uses play action and Henry engages Haynes for a brief second, which convinces the Ole Miss linebackers and safety that the Hogs are running the dang ball.
Aaaaaaaaaaand not so much. Haynes is unable to make a play either way, and due to the play action, the linebackers are not in a position to help.
Not to keep picking on Haynes, as Ole Miss is asking him to do something he had not done a lot of at that point, but Arkansas goes at him again when he’s in his outside linebacker-ish spot. This time it’s Morgan coming out of a bunch formation.
We see more play action, Haynes caught trying to defend two things while doing neither, and the linebackers and safety in no position to help Haynes.
A little later in the possession, Arkansas gets what it wants on the outside. The Razorbacks show a power run formation and Ole Miss has 10 defenders thinking about run support, which means Mike Hilton is in solo coverage against wide receiver Jared Cornelius.
To get a better view of this, LET’S TAKE IT TO THE SATELLITE CAM. The two players to watch are Trae Elston and Tony Conner.
Conner moves forward at the snap and Elston has eyes on another play-action pass and a tight end working his way into the middle of the field, which means:
The pass rush doesn’t get to Allen, meaning all that can stop this touchdown is a bad throw by Allen (lol) or Hilton making a play.
Here is the exact moment this play becomes a touchdown.
On Arkansas’ next possession, they go back to tormenting an Ole Miss defensive end and the linebackers. This time, it’s John Youngblood, who is playing a true defensive end spot, unlike Marquis Haynes earlier.
Even though this is a different formation from Arkansas, we see the same results.
After Arkansas tied it up, they decide to throw a two-tight end pattern at Ole Miss to see how they respond. Hint: Not well!
The defensive back has eyes for only one tight end, which means another big gain for Arkansas is on the way.
Believe it or not, Arkansas has yet another way to attack Ole Miss’ ends, linebackers, and safeties in the flat. This time, they use Drew Morgan and the play action to put a great deal of stress on Tony Conner.
To make matters even more difficult for the Ole Miss defense, the younger Allen also has Brandon’s ability to move in the pocket, buy more time for his receivers, and break containment, which the Rebel defense experienced last year, as well as this year against Memphis, Alabama, and Florida State.
Brandon Allen last year:
Austin Allen this year:
DO WE HAVE PROOF THEY’RE NOT THE SAME PERSON? LET’S SEE SOME BIRTH CERTIFICATES.
The good news for Ole Miss is that the Arkansas offense, particularly the running game, hasn’t matched last year’s blistering efficiency. However, given Ole Miss’ linebacker situation (help wanted asap) and young secondary, Arkansas could very well score and keep scoring* on Saturday night with the talent and plays at their disposal.
*It would be so very Ole Miss if a second Allen threw six touchdowns against them.