By Drake Priddy
FAYETTEVILLE — Over the course of the 2023 season, there are a few things that are for certain; the offensive line can’t block, the run game is abysmal, and the Arkansas defense is a takeaway and turnover machine.
On the day, the Arkansas defense surrendered 20 points and 341 yards of total offense to the 3-7 conference USA foe, Florida International University the defense scored another touchdown.
With that said, the Arkansas defense forced the Panthers to punt on seven of their 14 possessions. Six of those possessions being three and outs. The Panthers also had a turnover on downs on their first possession that led to an Arkansas touchdown.
Senior transfer safety, Alfahiym “Al” Walcott, snatched up two interceptions and one returned 33 yards for a touchdown. Walcott has gathered three interceptions on the year and one touchdown today. His first interception came in the loss against Mississippi State.
Head coach, Sam Pittman praised Walcott for his big plays and the impact he had on tonight’s game.
“Big,” Pittman said. “There was three guys that were talked about. One was Al, one was KJ (Jefferson), and one obviously was (Isaiah) Augustave, at the end. We talked about a lot, O-line play, all that kind of stuff, but that was a big-time play. The ball kind of went around the helmet and got it and ran it in on the first one. Then, the second one he really stole it. The second one was one where he was in the flat and the guy didn’t see him, threw it right to him. He made some good tackles tonight, too, I thought…”
The interceptions and defensive score today are nothing new to this Arkansas unit. On the season, the defense has intercepted 12 passes, forced six fumbles recovering five of them, and scored five combined touchdowns from their takeaways.
The Arkansas defense is tied for first in the nation in the defensive touchdown category, sharing the spot with Washington State. They are also ranked in the top 50 in most defensive statistics. Much better than being one of the worst defenses in college football last year.
Senior cornerback, Dwight “Nudie” McGlothern and Walcott, both lead the team with three interceptions apiece on the season. Four different defensive players have pick-sixes, but most notably freshman Brad Spence has the longest return of 85 yards followed by Walcott’s 33-yard return. The Arkansas defense has returned their interceptions for a combined 235 yards.
Out of all the fumbles forced and recovered only one was returned for a touchdown. In the win over Florida, freshman Jaylon Braxton stripped a Gator receiver before returning the fumble 33 yards for the defensive score.
The 2023 season can easily be described as a trash can fire. Poor offensive output has ultimately led us to this point. Five of Arkansas’s seven losses have come via a touchdown or less. More notably, the Arkansas offense went from the third quarter of the BYU game (September 16th) to the fourth quarter of the Auburn game (November 12Th) without scoring a touchdown in Razorback Stadium. The Arkansas defense would score at least two touchdowns in away games during that time.
This year has been another rough ride for Razorback fans, and hopefully, the Hogs can retain their defensive coordinators and key players. If the Hogs can get things going on the offensive side of the ball, then who knows how dangerous they will be in the 2024 season.
The Razorbacks have a short week ahead of them as they get ready to host Missouri Friday at 3 p.m. The game will air on CBS.