Five Keys: Razorbacks vs. Louisiana Monroe
Improve Special Teams
The Hogs did block a field goal early in last Saturday’s game against Jacksonville State, but there were still rough spots in the special teams. A booming punt by Dylan Breeding was brought back with a penalty for misalignment and the next punt only went 17 yards. On kickoff return, Dennis Johnson was swarmed before he could reach the 20-yard line. He had one 42-yard return, but his other three returns totaled only 54 yards (an 18.0 yard/return average). Arkansas also muffed a punt return; however, it was called back due to a Jacksonville State penalty. These special teams mistakes must be fixed if Arkansas expects to have success against Louisiana-Monroe.
Stop the Pass
Against Jacksonville State, the Razorback defense gave up 322 yards, 227 of which were passing yards. Early in the game, senior cornerback Darius Winston gave up several big plays and was replaced by senior Kaelon Kelleybrew. Senior safety Ross Rasner turned in a solid game in the secondary, gaining 11 tackles and breaking up one deep pass. Starting at quarterback for ULM is junior Kolton Browning, who has thrown for over 5,000 yards in two years. It is crucial that Arkansas stops the pass against the Warhawks and gains some confidence heading into the Alabama game.
Senior wide receiver Cobi Hamilton had two receptions for 13 yards before coming out of last week’s game with an injury. He is expected to play this week, but it is key that he stays healthy. If Arkansas intends to have success against ULM and have a chance against Alabama the following week, they must keep Hamilton and the rest of the team healthy.
Protect Tyler Wilson
The offensive line only gave up one sack against the Gamecocks last week, but interim head coach John L. Smith still expects improvement. Senior Jason Peacock will be back with the Hogs this week after sitting out last week due to disciplinary reasons and will add competition that will improve the offensive line as a whole, Smith said. Junior David Hurd, senior Tyler Deacon and sophomore Brey Cook made their first starts as Razorbacks last week and need to continue to improve.
Don’t Look Ahead
With No. 1 Alabama around the corner, Arkansas must not overlook the Warhawks. Just four years ago, ULM almost upset the Hogs, leading 27-14 with 12:56 remaining in the game. A late rally eventually won the game 28-27 for the Hogs, but it was much closer than it should have been. If the players don’t come out swinging at the beginning of the game because their minds are already on next week’s game, ULM could pull off the upset. John L. Smith must make sure his players are focused on this week’s game.