Five Keys vs. Jacksonville State
By now, most Hog fans have heard of true freshman wide receiver Mekale McKay. He will be starting tomorrow as one of the replacements for Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright, who graduated and are now in the NFL. It is key for McKay, as well as Keon Hatcher, Dayvon McKinney, Will Hines and Rohan Gaines, to get acclimated to college football and gain some confidence for the rest of the season.
Senior quarterback Tyler Wilson and junior running back Knile Davis have received a lot of hype concerning the Heisman Trophy during the offseason. When players are considered Heisman contenders, they and their coaches tend to “pad their stats” against smaller opponents, such as Jacksonville State. However, this can backfire if Wilson or Davis try to do too much, possibly resulting in costly interceptions or fumbles. These turnovers keep games close when they should really be blowouts, leading to the next key.
Score Early, Score Often
In recent memory, Arkansas has been notorious for allowing smaller schools to stay in the game longer than they should. Last year, a mid-third quarter interception pulled Troy within ten points of Arkansas, before a fourth quarter Joe Adams touchdown reception made the lead more comfortable. The Hogs must score early and score often, not letting their foot off the accelerator, in order to take a lead that Jacksonville State can’t overcome.
Stop the Run
The Gamecocks are led by junior quarterback Coty Blanchard, who played in all 11 games last year, starting nine of them. Not only did he throw for 1,703 yards, but he was also the third leading rusher on the team, with 427 yards. Jacksonville State also has senior 2011 First Team All-Conference running back Washaun Ealey, who gained 1,082 yards on 178 carries last year. Arkansas struggled against dual-threat quarterbacks last season, as well as in overall run defense (74th out of 120 teams). In order to come out on top tomorrow, the Hogs must shut down Blanchard and Ealey.
Avoid an Appalachian St. Repeat
Everyone remembers Appalachian State of the FCS (formerly Division IAA) upsetting then-#5 ranked Michigan in their home stadium in 2007. Arkansas isn’t immune to such upsets either, as they fell to The Citadel of the FCS in 1992, leading to the firing of Jack Crowe as Arkansas’ head coach.
Crowe, now the head coach at Jacksonville State, hopes to be on the winning side of an upset tomorrow. In order to prevent this, John L. Smith must stress that this game isn’t a “cupcake” as everyone makes it out to be. They must take it seriously and not look past the Gamecocks.