Will The Aggies Shut down K.J? Has Arkansas’ Secondary Been Lucky? Plus a Story About the ’77 A&M Game

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This and More in This Week's Ask Mike

Q. Our first question this week comes from AlabamaHog who says: I hear favorable comments regarding our defensive secondary; however, in the first three games there have been receivers wide open but the quarterbacks didn’t deliver an accurate throw. Is this a correctable issue or will the DC have to come up with a scheme camouflage the issue?

A. That’s always gonna happen some and yes, the more accurate the opposing quarterback the bigger the problem for any secondary. Most of the time when I’ve seen it happen this season is when the defense is heavily engaged in run support. Arkansas did such a good job of stuffing Georgia Southern’s run game that the Eagle were forced to throw it more. If the Hogs face a more balanced attack or a team that throws a lot the defensive scheme will be adjusted. Your question implies that Arkansas defense has been really lucky. I don’t that’s the case. This is a very good defense. One of the better ones at Arkansas that I’ve seen and I think Barry Odom is an outstanding defensive coordinator.

Q. BloodRedHog says: After the first 3 games, I feel our pass protection might be a weakness, as well as KJ’s accuracy. If A&M loads the box, and dares us to pass, do you think we can be successful and come out with the win?

A. I don’t think A&M will load up the box and dare Arkansas to pass. Not after studying video from the Georgia Southern game. That’s what the Eagles did and it backfired on them. They held KJ Jefferson to 18 yards rushing and cut Arkansas run game from 330 yards against Texas to 239 yards on Saturday. But at what price? Jefferson scorched them for 366 yards passing and four touchdowns if you count the one that was called back because a lineman was blocking downfield. Feleipe Franks never threw for 366 yards last year and he’s an excellent passer.

Jefferson is still struggling with consistency but he’s good enough, along with Arkansas excellent receivers, to light an opposing team up if they try to sell out to stop the run. A&M will play Arkansas straight up and I like the Hogs chances running a balanced offense. The Aggies are giving up just under six points a game which is impressive but they haven’t played against a good offense yet.

Q. my3boneheads wants to know: Do you see the similarities between the Hogs and K.J. and Auburn and Bo Nix? Is this rushing attack sustainable or will the SEC load the box and force K.J. to be more efficient in his intermediate routes?

A. KJ’s a better runner than Nix. Nix is a better passer. The answer to the second part of your question is the same as the one I just gave. I don’t think SEC teams will load the box to stop the run because KJ has proven that he can beat you deep. He does need to work on the short and intermediate routes but it’s not like he’s bad at it.
In addition to completions of 60, 47 and 44 yards, Jefferson had passes of 21, 18 and 10 yards plus a little out route which Treylon Burks turned into a 91 yard touchdown catch and run.

Like I said last week, Jefferson is growing into this job. You don’t develop overnight in your first season as a full time starter.

Q. Oklahawg wants to know: Is the mutual admiration and support amongst the UA head coaches more about the coaches, or the role Hunter Yurachek plays in building a successful “culture” at UA?

A. It’s about both. It started when Yuracheck hired a basketball coach and then a football coach who each really wanted to coach specifically at Arkansas. Once they got here they embraced all of the sports not just their own. They did it in person at games and on social media. Once that happened the other coaches joined in and it just snowballed and honestly I haven’t seen anything like it in my 46 years of covering Razorback athletics. I definitely think the group mentality among these head coaches helps each of them individually.

Q. pghawg1 asks: Before Steinmetz was fired I remember reading an article saying he was working on a raise for Hunter Yurachek, have you heard anything about if that is being worked on?

A. I’m sure they have a plan for that. The way this usually works is a coach or AD gets a raise when some other school comes looking. Barry Odom got a rise last year when some he got some other offers to be somebody else’s defensive coordinator. Eric Musselman got a big raise after tkain Arkansas to the great eight. I don’t know that he got another offer but he would have. Yurachek made sure he didn’t leave. An AD is a little different. They’re not going to give themselves a raise. The school president or chancellor can recommend one but it has to be approved by the board of trustees. With the success Arkansas is having in multiple sports, yes, it’s only a mtter of time until Yoracheck gets a raise but there’s been no word on a timetable.

Q. Twinky275 says: Do you think we should have run the points up on Georgia Southern like some other teams would, or do you like Pittman “culture” thing, saying we don’t have to. Personally I like this – he has the expectations of other prominent SEC coaches, without the ugliness.

A. I don’t think very many coaches do that. Steve Spurrier when he was at Florida did it a lot. Lane Kiffin left his starters in against Tulane after the game was completely out of hand. The result was a 61-21 beat down. It was a 40-21 game at the half and Ole Miss put up 21 unanswered points in the 3rd quarter. I guess it could have been worse. Kiffin did take his starters out in the 4th quarter and the score never got worse after that.

I definitely like Pittman’s attitude about that but there are a lot of coaches out there who call off the dogs before the score gets completely embarrassing for the losing team.

Superhog1959 says: We all needed the beat down that the Hogs gave Texas. I felt from before the year began, that game would set the tempo for the entire season. Tell us your thoughts, on the ways the Texas game could benefit the Hogs, this year and future years to come.

A. First of all let’s go back to some comments I was reading on social media last week. Texas was vastly overrated. Arkansas didn’t actually beat a good team in game two of the season. Well we know that Rice is decent and Texas beat them on Saturday 58-0.

The first thing that win did was get Arkansas in the top 25. That was huge and this week they are in the to 20. I think that win showed what this Arkansas team can do in a big game at home with great fan support. That bodes well for the SEC home games this season.

Next it showed Arkansas’ younger fans what a real rivary is about. When Texas and Oklahoma start playing in the SEC those two schools will immediately become rivals beyond anything Arkansas currently has in the SEC.

That win was a giant step forward in bringing this program back from the worst shape it’s ever been in. It’s amazing what Sam Pittman, his staff and these players have done in less than two years. This program is not a joke anymore. It’s ranked. It’s got respect around the SEC. It has helped recruting already. You no longer hear the media talking about a three or four year rebuilding process. Yes, that win was huge.

Q. redleg says: I have heard that Coach Pittman is brewing success because he knows how to build a program one layer at a time, and he knows how to connect with his players and recruits. Can you expand on this statement?

A. I’m not sure it’s been one layer at a time. I think it’s been several layers at a time. That’s why so much progress has been made in such a short period of time. I do think he connects with players the same way he connects with just about everybody, fans, his coaches, the media. He’s one of those people who comes across as who he is and not somebody trying to sell you something. That’s extremely important to players. Coaches are asking them to do things that frankly is not normal. The way they drive themselves physically and mentally on a year round basis is astounding to me. And what’s required to win at the SEC level is a notch above that. So having a head coach and staff of assistants that you are willing to run throught a door for because you have total respect for them, is huge.

Q. ChicoHog says: Seems like Hudson Henry is not getting much playing time this year. Is it still injuries or Kern is just playing better? Henry not doing well as a blocker?

A. He’s been hurt. Missed every practice last week but the last one on Thursday. Unless you are an established starter like Jefferson or Treylon Burks, if you miss that much practice the week of the game you usually don’t play. Henry should be back for the A&M game.

Q. Dr. Strangepork wants to know: Is a 2-2 split of the next 4 games a reasonable expectation?

A. Maybe but it will be tough. I think the most likely win of the next four is A&M. Georgia may end up as national champions this year. Ole Miss and Auburn are both potentially top 10 teams. Personally I think Arkansas will beat the Aggies. I’m not sure about the other three.

Q. PorkSoda says: A&M struggled against Colorado, then dominated New Mexico. Do you think A&M showed a weakness that the Hogs can exploit, or was it just a momentary lapse? Do you expect the Aggies to be back to playing like a top 10 team against us in Dallas?

A. I don’t think A&M is a top 10 team. Kellon Mond is gone. He was a huge part of their success over the last four seasons. Their starting QB for this season is already out. They ran over Kent State and New Mexico, two bad teams. Colorado, which got zapped by Minnesota 30-0, played the Aggies to a 10-7 loss. I think Arkansas defense will attack A&M the way it attacked Texas and I think Arkansas will use a balanced offense to move the ball
on them. Texas is better than A&M. I think Arkansas breaks that nine-game losing streak against the Aggies on Saturday.

Q. hogcards says: While watching Hornsby run on that last drive against Texas, all I could think is, he’s fast! Do you think the Hogs may find another way to get him on the field in another spot?

A. I can’t say that they won’t use him on a trick play at some point but this kid is the backup quarterback. You never know when he’s gonna have to come in and play, especially with KJ carrying the ball as much as he does. To me you don’t mess with him. He’s to important. Keep Malik on the sidelines. Bring him in late if the game is in hand to gain some expereince but use him as a receiver? I wouldn’t. They’ve got plenty of receivers.

Q. Alex4Hogs88 says: This is another “Mike Down Memory Lane” question: What was your favorite win against Texas A&M and why?

A. Let me start off by saying that I got to talk to former tight end Robert Farrell at the Hall of Honor inductions last Friday night at the Walton Arts Center. He played from 76 to 79 and he finally got in. That was special to me because he has always been one of my favorite ex Razorbacks.

It was November of 1977. I drove to College Station by myself with a camera and a tripod to shoot the game. I got there plenty early bit it didn’t matter. The Aggies have this tradition where the band marches on a long route through the campus to the stadium. Three of four times on campus I had to stop and wait for them to pass by. I got to the the press box with about 10 minutes to spare but there was no space on the photo deck. A&M SID was no help. He said I should have arrived earlier. I told him I did but was sandagged by the band. He didn’t care

So I decided to look outside of the press box and I discovered a ladder to the roof. I took my camera and tripod up there and shoot from the rood of the press box. Definitely an OSHA violation.

It was a 20-20 game in the 4th quarter. At that point the batteries to my camera conked out so what could I do? I decided to watch the end of the game from where I was. A&M had a kicker named Tony Franklin who had the record for the longes collge field goal of 65 yards when the season started. But both Arkansas’ Steve Little and Russell Erxlaben had broken it during the season. So the aggies got to mid field on 4th down and instad of punting they decided to let Franklin try a 67 yard field goal to try the record. He didn’t come close.

I’m up there all by myself. Nobody can hear me but I’m laughing and having a geat time. SO Arkansas get the ball at midfield and Robert Farrell gets himself all alone on the home sideline.
Ron Calcagni throws a perfect pass and Aggies fans watch in horror as Farrell beats them with a 40 yard touchdown catch and run. I was up there laughing and going nuts.

A Little Rock television station helped me out with their video of the winning touchdown and some post game comments. As I drove out of College Station to myself that what had been a really bad day actually got a lot better when I ended up on top of the press box watching a great game with a terrific ending and I got to be a fan.

Awesome.

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