Four Downs: Arkansas 39, Coastal Carolina 38

Razorbacks survive scare from 1-7 Chanticleers in ugly performance

By Bart Pohlman

Arkansas survived.

That’s about all you can say about the Razorbacks’ (4-5, 1-4 Southeastern Conference) 39-38 win over one of the worst teams in college football.

Having to come back from a 38-25 fourth-quarter deficit isn’t how anybody envisioned Arkansas’ homecoming game going, and was the latest in a series of disappointments for the Hog football program. Here are some takeaways:

FIRST DOWN: TJ Hammonds saves the day

Hammonds’ 88-yard touchdown run with 10 minutes left in the game pulled the Razorbacks to within a touchdown, giving Arkansas a chance to win the game.

The sophomore finished the day with seven carries for 119 yards and a touchdown, and also caught one pass that went for a 60-yard touchdown. As Hammonds continues to impress and help the offense in a big way, fans are wondering where he’s been all season.

After the game, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema was asked about why Hammonds didn’t get more touches in the game when he had such an impact.

“As far as the amount of touches, we’re trying to get him the ball more and more,” Bielema said. “I think the better he learns the offensive in all phases he’s going to help us. We can’t dictate on the flow of the game when it’s in there. As head coach I’m hoping we get him in there as much as anybody.”

Bielema has previously mentioned injuries and a struggle to learn the playbook as reasons Hammonds hasn’t featured more for the Hogs, and was also asked if there’s any regret to not playing him more in the past.

“No, I think you look forward and say I’m glad that he’s there and try to get him the ball as much as we can,” Bielema said. “I think negative people think negative thoughts, we try to stay positive.”

SECOND DOWN: Defense struggles against a bad offense

Heading into Saturday’s game, Coastal Carolina ranked 100th nationally in scoring offense, 87th in passing offense and 69th in rushing offense. The Chanticleers were 106th in third-down conversion rate and 53rd in red zone conversions.

In short, Coastal Carolina isn’t a great offensive team. Yet the Chanticleers managed to rack up 38 points on the Hogs, who eventually did come up with a critical stop to seal the game.

But what’s happened with Arkansas’ defense this season is concerning. The Hogs are giving up 36.1 points per game, which ranks 13th in the SEC. Arkansas is 11th in the SEC in rushing defense, 10th in passing defense and 12th in total defense. On top of all that, the Razorbacks can’t seem to get opposing offenses off the field, allowing them to convert on more than 46 percent of their third downs, a number that ranks next-to-last in the conference.

THIRD DOWN: Where was Austin Allen?

After saying that the plan was for Allen to play a little against the Chanticleers, the fifth-year senior didn’t see a single snap.

Bielema said it was important for Cole Kelley’s development to keep him in the game.

“We did plan on getting Allen in there,” Bielema said. “He practiced almost all practice on Tuesday, and Wednesday and Thursday was 100 percent. We intended to get him in there, but obviously the flow of the game, we were going to come out in the second half a little bit because of the score and the situation, really felt for Cole’s (Kelley) development just to keep staying where he is. He’ll be a hundred percent next week, which will be exciting for us and our preparation.”

FOURTH DOWN: Hard to see this team winning final three games

At this point, it’s really tough to envision a scenario in which the Hogs win any of their final three games.

LSU is more talented, Mississippi State has a good defense and a great quarterback and Missouri can score in bunches. Arkansas can’t stop anyone and is inconsistent on offense. All those things mixed together is a bad recipe for the Hogs down the stretch.

ESPN’s Football Power Index ranks Arkansas as the 70th-best team in the country, and gives the Hogs an 11.8 percent chance to win at LSU, a 17.2 percent chance of beating Mississippi State and a 43.0 percent chance of taking down Missouri. The likelihood of Arkansas finishing the season with more than four or five wins isn’t very high—at least, according to the numbers.