Five Keys to Kentucky
Stop the Pass
Kentucky’s offense has gained 65.5 percent of its total yards through the air. However, the injury bug has been going around in Kentucky’s backfield, with sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith spraining an ankle against South Carolina and missing last week and freshman Patrick Towles spraining an ankle just before half time against Mississippi State last week. No matter who is under center for the Wildcats, the pass will be an important part of their offense. Arkansas’ young, injury-depleted secondary will need to step up again to have a chance tomorrow.
Protect Tyler Wilson
Arkansas’ offensive line has steadily improved all season. Against the Tigers last week, senior quarterback Tyler Wilson was only sacked once and had much more time in the pocket to find open receivers. The offensive line will again have their hands full, as Kentucky is in the top 30 in the country with 14 sacks. Kentucky will attempt to pressure Wilson, as other teams have this year, so the offensive line must be prepared to stop the rush.
Last week, Arkansas snapped a four-game losing streak by beating Auburn 24-7. The defense played better than they had all season, sacking Auburn quarterbacks eight times, forcing five turnovers and causing Auburn to switch quarterbacks after halftime. Auburn sophomore Kiehl Frazier was 9-for-14 with one interception and four sacks for a loss of 25 yards before they replaced him with junior Clint Moseley. Offensively, Arkansas only lost one fumble and gained 372 total yards. Senior running back Dennis Johnson turned in a solid performance, rushing for 76 yards and catching four passes for 15 yards. The Razorbacks must maintain this all-around solid play in order to put another check in the win column.
Continue Pressuring the Quarterback
Before last week, the Razorbacks only had seven sacks. They were able to rack up eight in last week’s game alone, bringing their season total to 15, which is tied for 22nd in the country. With a sophomore and two freshmen taking snaps the last two weeks, Kentucky will start a young quarterback. If Arkansas can get to him early, it will get into his head and affect his performance later in the game, no matter who it is.
Shore Up the Return Game
Along with an offensive fumble, the Razorbacks also committed a special teams turnover. Sophomore punt returner Keante Minor muffed a punt return in the third quarter that cost Arkansas a possession. Minor has bobbled punts a couple other times this season, so he needs to focus on fielding punts this week. It would also be big for the Razorbacks if he could gain some yards on the returns. As a team, Arkansas is averaging 6.7 yards per return, compared to last year’s 13.5 yards per return. Since Joe Adams graduated and moved on to the NFL, no one has stepped into the return man roll. If Arkansas can get something going in the return game and not give up any fumbles, they’ll be hard to beat.