FAYETTEVILLE, Ar. (KNWA/KFTA) – Watching the Razorbacks move the football against LSU had me convinced that Dan Enos was starting to figure out how to best use the players he inherited when he took the Arkansas job. As a coach you can go through spring football, you can scrimmage in August Camp, but until you line your players up in a real game it’s hard to know what works and what doesn’t in a new offense. It certainly appeared, with some adjustments to his play calling and the way he allowed K.J. Jefferson to move around more post snap, that Enos had hit on a formula for success.
Maybe I should have paid more attention to the fact that LSU doesn’t have a top 60 defense while Texas A&M came into Saturdays’ game top 15, but I had also watched Miami throw for almost 400 yards on the Aggies. It seemed logical to me that with the right play calling the Hogs could successfully move the ball on them too.
To be fair Arkansas’ opening drive went well to a point, and there’s no question that the loss of Luke Hasz to a broken clavicle on that drive was a blow to the offense, but his absence seemed to convince Enos to dial down the passing game. If you compare what I just saw to a chess match, Enos appeared to play into his opponent’s strength over and over again. It’s not just the fact that he called up 39 running snaps for an average of 1.1 yards per carry compared to just 17 passes at almost 8 yards per catch. It’s that he doesn’t seem to get the concept of throwing on first down.
Throwing mostly on 3rd down exposed Jefferson to a fierce pass rush that resulted in seven sacks. The Aggies didn’t tend to blitz on first down.
Another issue is the type of passes Enos seems to favor. He likes to throw the ball laterally. We saw that watching practices back in August, but once the season started, behind the line of scrimmage throws by Jefferson have mostly gotten blown up. Trying to attack the edges with the running game often suffers the same fate. Knowing what works and what doesn’t would seem to be a no brainer part of play calling.
Good play calling involves finding open spots in the opposing defense. Granted that’s way more difficult facing a defense like A&M’s, but it appeared to me that quick passes in the eight to ten yard range were not part of the game plan. Some of that no doubt was the result of receivers not getting open or Jefferson’s reluctance to throw the ball into tight coverage with the picks he has thrown lately, but you’d have a hard time convincing me that that Enos had no options. It appeared that he ignored them.
The bottom line on all of this is that this offense is not working and Jefferson in particular once again looked lost trying to operate within it.
After a good week against LSU the offensive line once again did not look anything like what you would expect from a Sam Pittman coached team. I can also find no reason to disagree with those posting angrily on Twitter that he made the wrong hire when he set out to replace Kendal Briles. Barring an amazing turnaround putting Jefferson into a new offense after three years under Briles and his tempo, RPO attack was clearly a mistake.
I have never been one of those who felt the need to predict that a head coach will get fired. The athletic director makes that decision. I won’t have anything to do with it. They don’t tend to share their thinking with the media. Will Hunter Yurachek be influenced by a growing pushback against Pittman on social media from Arkansas fans? I don’t have a clue.
I do know that it’s impossible for me to once again defend the decision to go for it on fourth and one with a running play out of the shotgun. Pittman/Enos tried that against BYU and the pushback against that failed decision was like a storm front blowing in. The notion that those two men would do it again this week is baffling.
To me it was a sign of arrogance. All you fans who think we can’t convert a fourth and short out of the shotgun with an offensive line that is struggling to run block, watch us prove you wrong.
So where to we go from here? I know what I would do if I were retired and watching games from home. I’d turn my attention to the other athletic programs at the University of Arkansas. I told a buddy over the phone that I watched and enjoyed Arkansas’ win in soccer and volleyball this week. Soccer is in the Top 10 and Volleyball is Top 15.
Basketball is just around the corner and there are projections that Eric Musselman has a Final Four team in the making. Right now that’s just talk but based on his track record, his recruiting and his use of the portal it doesn’t seem like a stretch. Unlike football, basketball season has become fun again.
The softball program is in great shape under Courtney Deifel and Dave Van Horn’s 2023 baseball recruiting class was just named No. 1 nationally.
If Yurachek can preside over that type of success I see no reason why he can’t figure out this football issue. I flatly reject the notion that you can’t win big in football at Arkansas. Frank Broyles did it. He did it with a staff that could recruit and coach. His offensive coordinators in the 60’s knew how to call plays. Lou Holtz, Ken Hatfield, Houston Nutt and Bobby Petrino also had top 20 football teams at Arkansas.
So fix it Hunter. I’m not going to suggest how. That’s not my function. But with some exceptions Arkansas has the best fans I’ve ever been around. They deserve and yes bleed for a football team that can make noise in the SEC. With an expanded college football playoff system they also deserve a team that get in the mix for a national title using that system. TCU did it last year. Is there something about TCU football that exceeds what can be expected at Arkansas?
Northwest Arkansas is a wonderful place to live. It provides an environment where college athletes can succeed and fans can enjoy that success. Yes, even in football.
So make it happen Hunter.