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UK vs. Arkansas: For the 'Cats, as "must win" as it gets

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With Arkansas riding high off of their 25-22 upset road win over Auburn, UK is once again catching an opponent feeling good about themselves (South Carolina had just won in Oxford).  Victories like that tend to build confidence and team unity, especially in a team as young as Arkansas.  Will Bobby Petrino's squad continue to improve, or was the Auburn victory more of a showcase for all that is wrong on the plains of Tubber-ville?   I know that Bobby Petrino will have his group ready to play, so UK better bring the good stuff if they harbor any hopes at all of reaching six or seven wins.

Razorback Personnel

Quarterback Casey Dick: 6'2", 215 lb senior -- On the year Dick is 115-197 through the air for 1,411 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions.  He has started all six Arkansas games.  Last year Dick started all 13 games and was 150-262 for 1,695 yards, with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. 

Running back Michael Smith: 5'7", 173 lb junior -- Smith has 109 rushes for 599 yards, which is good for a 5.5 yards per carry average.  He leads the SEC with 119.8 yards per game and he has ran for four touchdowns.  Of course last year Smith played behind Darren McFadden and Felix Jones (both future NFL superstars), so he only garnered 46 carries for 303 yards (6.6 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. 

Tight end D.J. Williams: 6'2", 250 lb sophomore -- Williams has made 28 catches for 315 yards (11.2 yards per catch) and two touchdowns (all three totals lead the team).  He was selected to the All-SEC Freshman first team last year after making five catches for 94 yards.   

Wide receiver Joe Adams: 6'0", 175 lb freshman -- The true freshman is second on the team with 22 receptions for 285 yards (13.0 yards per catch) and one touchdown.  The multi-talented athlete is a converted cornerback.  He was ranked the #12 best cornerback prospect in the country by Rivals, and the #2 overall prospect in the state of Arkansas.  He's started in five of six games this year.

Wide receiver London Crawford: 6'2", 200 lb junior -- Smith has 15 catches for 163 yards (10.9 yards per catch).  Last year he started the first six games at split end, making eight catches for 147 yards and a touchdown.  He missed the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Wide receiver Greg Childs: 6'4", 205 lb freshman -- Childs has made 12 catches for 171 yards (14.2 yards per catch) and one touchdown.  Another true freshman, the receiver was the #9 ranked recruit in Arkansas, and was the #72 rated receiver prospect nationally.

Defensive end Adrian Davis: 6'4", 238 lb junior -- Davis is second on the team with 35 tackles.  He has also recorded three sacks (all versus Auburn), five tackles for loss and one interception.  In '07 Davis made 65 tackles (10 tackles for loss), two interceptions and three sacks.

Linebacker Jerry Franklin: 6'2", 229 lb redshirt freshman -- Franklin leads the Hogs with 48 tackles.  He also has 2.5 tackles for loss, and one interception.  Franklin is another conversion; he was the #38 rated safety prospect according to Rivals and the overall #8 prospect in Arkansas. 

Cornerback Jamar Love: 6'1", 197 lb senior -- Love has recorded seven pass-breakups, which is impressive considering the Hogs have only had to face 161 thrown passes by their opponents.  He is experienced, having played in all 13 games last year ( 22 tackles and four pass break-ups).


Arkansas Related Statistics

  • Arkansas scores only 18.7 points per game, while giving up 35.3.
  • Arkansas averages 3.8 yards per rush, while giving up 4.8 yards per carry.
  • Arkansas has turned the ball over 14 times (five fumbles and nine interceptions), compared to only six takeaways (five interceptions and one fumble recovery).  The 'Backs have had 10 opportunities to recover fumbles but gathered in only the one.
  • Arkansas quarterbacks have been sacked 21 times.
  • Arkansas has been outscored 48-3 in the fourth quarter.
  • Arkansas averages 362.8 total yards per game, but they give up 355.5 yards per game.
  • Arkansas is 13-16 (11 touchdowns) in red zone scoring opportunities.  Their opponents are 18-22 (14 touchdowns) in the red zone.
  • Opponents are converting 41% of their third downs against Arkansas.
  • Arkansas opponents are averaging 183 yards rushing versus the Razorbacks.
  • Alabama running back Glen Coffee ran for 162 yards versus Arkansas ('Bama had 328 total rushing yards).  By way of comparison, Coffee ran for 218 yards on 25 carries versus UK, and Alabama had 282 total rushing yards.
  • The University of Texas recorded seven sacks versus the Razorbacks.

The Razorback Schedule

Arkansas has defeated Division I-AA Western Illinois 28-24, Sun Belt member La.-Monroe 28-27, and Auburn 25-22.  They've lost to #9 Alabama 49-14, #7 Texas 52-10, and #12 Florida 38-7. 

Which one of these doesn't belong?  Think Sesame Street.

Never have I been so surprised than to see Arkansas beat Auburn, on the road.  Their other five games are rather uneventful; the 'Backs were soundly defeated by the big boys, and they beat a couple of teams that they should have, but sticking out like P Pat's new coif is the Auburn game.  We all know that the Tigers have had trouble scoring, so much so, that they ('they' being Tommy Tuberville) fired new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin after only five games.  To say that things are in disarray in Dixie would be an understatement.

A closer look at the Arkansas vs. Auburn game revealed a few revelations of note:

  • Auburn couldn't run the ball -- The Tigers ran for only 56 yards, which was good for only a 1.7 yards per carry average.
  • Arkansas could run the ball -- Tailback Michael Smith had a career day; rushing 35 time for 176 yards and a score.  As a team the Razorbacks ran for 188 yards (4.3 yards per carry).
  • Since Auburn couldn't run the ball, Arkansas controlled the clock -- The Razorbacks won the time of possession battle 35:02 to 24:58. 
  • Auburn quarterbacks Kodi Burns and Chris Todd were atrocious -- The two combined to go 10-28 for 137 and three interceptions.
  • Auburn had their chances to put the game away, but failed to deliver -- The Tigers were only two of five in the red zone.  In the three unsuccessful trips they threw an interception, turned the ball over on downs (they had the ball 1st and Goal from the five yard line), and missed a field goal.
  • Arkansas converted their third downs -- The 'Backs were 8-17 on their attempts, while Auburn, unable to run or throw, converted only 4-15.
  • Both teams turned the ball over three times.
  • Total offense=total domination -- Arkansas 416 yards, Auburn 193 yards.
  • Casey Dick was serviceable -- The Razorback signal-caller was 17-32 for 222 yards and two interceptions.  Well, on second thought, 'serviceable,' is being kind. 

UK and Arkansas -- An SEC Stat Comparison

  • Scoring -- UK averages 26.2 points per game (6th in the SEC), Arkansas averages 18.7 (10th).
  • Scoring Defense -- UK allows 10.5 points per game (1st), Arkansas gives up 35.3 points per game (12th).
  • Total offense -- UK gains 317 yards per game (8th), Arkansas gains 362.8 (6th).
  • Total defense -- UK holds opponents to 274.2 yards per game (5th), Arkansas gives up 355.5 yards per game (12th).
  • Rush offense -- UK averages 129.2 yards per game (8th), Arkansas averages 115.2 (11th).
  • Rush defense -- UK gives up 108.2 yards per game (6th), Arkansas gives up 183.0 yards per game (12th).
  • Pass offense -- UK throws for 187.8 yards per game (7th), Arkansas throws for 247.7 yards per game (2nd).
  • Pass defense -- UK gives up 166.0 yards through the air (4th), Arkansas gives up 172.7 yards per game (5th).
  • Kick-off returns -- UK averages 29.4 yards per return (1st), Arkansas averages 21.9 yards per return (8th).
  • Punt returns -- UK averages 11.5 on punt returns, Arkansas averages 5.7 yards per return (11th).
  • Kick-off coverage -- UK nets 46.4 yards per kick-off (2nd), Arkansas nets 36.8 yards per kick-off (12th).
  • Sacks against -- UK has allowed four sacks (1st), Arkansas has allowed 21 sacks (11th).
  • Opponents third down conversions -- UK allows a 29.3% conversion rate (4th), Arkansas allows a 41.0% conversion rate (11th).
  • Third down conversions -- UK converts 30.1% of their third downs (11th), Arkansas converts 39.8% of their third downs (7th).
  • Turnover margin -- UK is +7 (t2nd), Arkansas is - 8 (12th). 

What Must Happen Offensively

Kentucky has to win this game.  They just have to.  But how ...

In order for UK to come out victorious Saturday night they must run the ball better than they have all year.  With Tony Dixon out with an injury, Derrick Locke and Alfonso Smith will be receiving the bulk of the carries.  Locke will also be on the receiving end of his fair share of passes, considering the loss of Dicky Lyons leaves him the leading receiver on the team (22 catches for 189 yards and one touchdown).  But, the game-plan needs to be run, run, run.  Because what happened last week can't happen again ... 

Last week versus South Carolina, UK threw the ball twice as much as they ran the ball (44 passes, 22 rushes).  That's a ratio designed for failure, and it has to change, pronto.  I realize Brooks can't run if they aren't gaining positive yards, so Locke, Smith and Moncell Allen have to find what it is they have been looking for all year, and that might be ... 

With the addition of Randall Cobb to the starting lineup (he'll play wide receiver), one can at least hope for a more productive vertical game (actually, the mere existence of a vertical game would be news we can use).  His athleticism and evade-ability make him a very dangerous weapon when healthy.  UK fans will be watching every cut and catch, waiting for him to break a long one for six.  But if he doesn't, always remember this ...   

Simply Cobb's presence on an every-down basis will quite possibly loosen up the defenses UK faces, because now the defense has a definite play-maker they must keep one eye on at all times.  The offensive possibilities are limitless when a coach possesses a talent like Cobb, lets hope we witness a healthy number of those possibilities versus Arkansas.  He's not only talented, he's a good teammate ...

Classy move; the freshman displayed real leadership with his decision to wear Dicky Lyons' #12 Saturday.  Dicky, we all wish you well, and only the best.

Here's a quick look at the remaining UK receivers and their numbers:

  • Derrick Locke -- 22 catches for 189 yards, one touchdown.
  • Randall Cobb -- 11 catches for 84 yards.
  • T.C. Drake -- 8 catches for 121  yards.
  • Kyrus Lanxter (will not play versus Ark.) -- 7 catches for 89 yards.
  • Maurice Grinter (questionable) -- 7 catches for 76 yards, one touchdown.
  • E.J. Adams -- 6 catches for 59 yards.
  • Aaron Boyd (he may start versus Arkansas) -- 4 catches for 30 yards, and ZERO DROPS.
  • Eric Ademyemi -- 4 catches for 24 yards.
  • Gene McCaskill -- 3 catches for 27 yards.
  • DeMoreo Ford -- 1 catch for 48 yards and a touchdown.
  • Matt Roark -- 1 catch for 6 yards.

In case you're counting, that's six freshman (and only three touchdowns).

What Must Happen Defensively

UK cannot allow running back Michael Smith to have a big day on the ground.  The 'Cats have already fallen victim to running backs Glen Coffee ('Bama) and Bobby Rainey (WKU).  Smith going for more than a-buck-twenty-five will lesson UK's chances at winning this game, and as we all know this is a "must win" for the boys in blue.  At only 5'7", perhaps a brain-rattling hit from Micah Johnson is what our Mr. Smith needs to readjust his goals for the day.  How they do it is of no consequence to me (that sounds harsh), as long as UK doesn't allow Smith to do his best Barry Sanders impression.

Razorback quarterback Casey Dick is only average.  If Kentucky can get pressure on him, the likelihood is high that somebody will make a play on the ball (if he throws Lindley's way I'll be surprised).  He's apt to throw picks, and UK's secondary is one of the best he'll face this year.  UK must capitalize.

This is a tough one to predict, but since it's a "must win" I'll go with UK - 23 Arkansas - 14. 

Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats, beat the Hogs!