FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas and BYU have spent the majority of the season ranked, but they will enter Saturday’s key game both unranked.
Both are coming off weekend losses and thus dropped out of the rankings. Arkansas (3-3) has lost three in a row and hopes to break that heading into the bye week. BYU (4-2) fell to Notre Dame in Las Vegas and also dropped a game to Oregon earlier in the year. They do own a win over Baylor among their biggest achievements.
Here’s five keys for Arkansas to defeat BYU and head into the bye week with a good feeling and some momentum.
Don’t Allow BYU to Both Run, Pass at Will
Mississippi State had its way on offense against the Arkansas defense last Saturday. The Arkansas secondary has been dealing with injuries all season and it only got worse against the Bulldogs. Jalen Catalon and LaDarrius Bishop are out for the season. Myles Slusher didn’t make the trip to Starkville and then both Khari and Jayden Johnson left the game with injuries. The Bulldogs scored 40 points while piling up 568 yards of offense. They rushed for 173 yards and passed for another 395. The Hogs simply can’t let BYU do the same thing which they are capable of doing. BYU is averaging 32 points per game and putting up 417.8 yards of offense each outing. Of that total, 264.3 comes through the air and 153.5 on the ground. The Hogs will have to pressure quarterback Jaren Hall which they didn’t do to Mississippi State’s Will Rogers. Sam Pittman talked about applying pressure to Hall.
“We’re going to have to pressure him because I believe he’ll pick us apart if we don’t,” Pittman said. “We’re going to have to stop the run and then we’ve got to pressure him, because if we don’t, I think he’s really good and a really accurate thrower and his receivers are big. They’re 6-2 and better.”
Cut Down on Penalties
Arkansas has shot itself in the foot many times this season with penalties. Last week was no different. They had 10 penalties for 84 yards compared to four for 45 by the Bulldogs. That has been similar to many other games this season. It seems odd for a Pittman team to still be committing so many penalties heading into Week 7. Arkansas needs to reduce that number to three or four penalties on Saturday to help its chances of winning.
Improve Red Zone Production
Arkansas had three trips to the red zone on Saturday and came away with one touchdown. Two times they came up empty and that will only lead to get them getting blown out on Saturday if those stats continue. Getting KJ Jefferson back will help, but they have had their issues even when Jefferson was in the game at times. They have to at least come away with three points in the red zone while obviously six is much preferred. But empty possessions two of the three times leads to the other team taking an easy win.
Win the Turnover Battle
Arkansas had numerous chances to pick off Rogers last Saturday and they came up empty. The defensive backs and linebacker had their hands on balls and didn’t haul them in. If they get a chance to pick off a Hall pass they need to capitalize on it. Also, the Arkansas offense needs to play a clean game and not turn the ball over. They had two interceptions against the Bulldogs. Jefferson has only thrown one interception all year and that bounced off a receiver’s hands and should have been a completion. But Jefferson and the running backs have had issues with fumbles at times. Arkansas needs to create some turnovers and not commit them on Saturday.
Have Success Running the Football
Rocket Sanders leads the SEC in rushing and is having a very good season. Notre Dame ran on BYU and the Hogs need to do the same. If Arkansas can run the ball and have success that will also help open up the passing game. A good balanced offense should allow the Hogs to put points on the scoreboard, keep the defense on the sidelines allowing them to get some rest in the altitude in Provo and also keep the crowd out of the game.