Despite loss, Hogs finally establish run game
College Students, get a year of HawgBeat coverage for just $11.95. Request details via email from your school account (.edu) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Despite facing one of the top run defenses in the country, Arkansas finally established the ground game Saturday night.
The Razorbacks rushed for 222 yards in their 42-31 loss to No. 8 Texas A&M at Kyle Field. That is nearly triple what the Aggies allowed, on average, over their first four games of the season.
Only three FBS teams who had played multiple games were allowing fewer than the 75.5 rushing yards per game that Texas A&M was giving up entering the game, while Arkansas’ 102.3 yards per game ranked 89th nationally.
Head coach Sam Pittman said several factors went into the performance.
“We had a new play in there that took advantage of their edge guys,” Pittman said. “Starting the game fast I think helped us. We couldn’t have had a better first drive. That was very impressive.”
Perhaps most importantly, though, Rakeem Boyd looked like the Rakeem Boyd of old.
Arkansas’ only preseason All-SEC selection, the senior put together his first 100-yard performance of the season, finishing right at the century mark on 18 carries. He also caught one pass for nine yards.
“It seemed like he ran really hard and did a nice job carrying, holding onto ball, getting extra yards,” Pittman said. “It was good to see him have a game like that.”
Even though it came in a losing effort, it was an encouraging sign for the Razorbacks. Boyd was completely bottled up in the opener against Georgia and then got hurt early against Mississippi State.
The injury forced him to miss the Auburn game and then kept him from being 100 percent healthy against Ole Miss. Entering Saturday’s game, Boyd had managed just 88 yards on 33 carries for a measly 2.7 yards per attempt.
He averaged more than double that - 5.6 yards per carry - against the Aggies and eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark for his career, becoming the 18th player in UA history to do so. It was also his ninth career 100-yard game, which is tied for eighth most in school history.
“I thought he did a pretty good job today getting up in there and getting some hard-earned yards,” quarterback Feleipe Franks said. “It was good to have him back.”
Speaking of Franks, he was another key to the Razorbacks getting their run game going. The graduate transfer from Florida ran for a career-high 91 yards on 16 carries. If it weren’t for four sacks that knocked 18 yards off his total, he would have cracked triple digits.
Even with the sacks, though, Franks still finished with the most rushing yards by an Arkansas quarterback since Matt Jones had 126 against Ole Miss in 2004.
“You look at 91 yards that comes from the quarterback, that usually doesn’t happen,” Pittman said. “But we designed some quarterback runs knowing Feleipe is a good, physical runner.”
It was the fourth straight game the Razorbacks have improved their rushing total. They had just 63 yards on the ground in their win over Mississippi State and then had 119 at Auburn and 150 against Ole Miss.
Arkansas will try to build off its 222-yard performance when it hosts Tennessee at 6:30 p.m. CT Saturday. The game will be televised on either ESPN or the SEC Network.