Troubles with the #2 Offense, Blake Kern Stepping Up, Yes, an Open Date Story Plus the Mystery of “Watch It!”

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This and More in This Week's Ask Mike

Q. Our first question this week comes from PorkSoda who says: Hornsby was 1 of 5 passing in the second half of the UAPB game. Do you think his struggles have more to do with experience, lack of blocking, or is he just not cut out to be a QB?

A. He still has time to develop but right now he doesn’t look like a winning SEC quarterback. This game was big for him. He had an entire half of football to show that he could lead an offense, moved the chains and put points on the board. Instead the second unit got skunked by UAPB.

I thought the back up defense played fine. They gave up a field goal in the second half and that was it. But the offense was a different story. Arkansas coaches knew going in that UAPB would use and all out blitz package against them at times. The first unit beat it several times in the first half but Hornsby and the second O-line unit struggled against it.

You beat a blitz by throwing the ball into vacant areas of the defense or by processing RPO’s away from the pressure. Hornsby didn’t do a good job of that. A one point he overthrew a wide open Rocket Sanders for a sure fire touchdown. Those guys had a chance to move the football for an entire second half of play and, as Sam Pittman noted, they didn’t do it.

I’m sure all this is going to be discussed in the off season. If I’m Lucas Coley I’m going to double my efforts to go after that backup QB job next spring. We might see a grad transfer or two added to the O-line.

Q. Lanny says: Other than some nice plays on defense the second half of the UAPB game was pretty much a bust with most of the starters on the bench. But what did you think about the first half?

A. It was just about perfect. Those guys didn’t fool around. They got up on UAPB early and kept adding to the lead. They looked good on both sides of the ball. The starters were resting by the second half. Nobody got hurt.

They’ve now got this week to work mostly on mental prep for Mississippi State and rest up physically. Anybody that’s banged up a bit should be ready for the final four games of the regular season. Those games will determine what kind a of a bowl game this team goes to. Eight wins is certainly possible.

Q. Razorback RedNeck wants to know: What players surprised you on Saturday and were there any disappointments?

A. Nathan Parodi was the biggest surprise. We’d been told that he was fielding punts to make sure they didn’t hit the ground and that was pretty much it. Saturday he returned four of them for 114 yards. It would have been more like 140 yards but one return was called back on a block in the back. His 81 yard return was the first TD punt return since 2011.

I don’t know that Dominique Johnson was was surprise but his six carries for 91 yards did enough for Sam Pittman to say that Johnson is now either the number one running back or number two.

On defense I liked what Dion Edwards and Andrew Parker did at linebacker the second half. They combined for seven tackles, a sack and a half and two TFL’s. Grant Morgan and Hayden Henry are gone after this season. Bumper Pool is going to need some help.

Disappointments? I’ve already mentioned Hornsby. I’m trying to figure out what’s going on with Morgan. He had just three tackles in the game, only one one of them a solo tackle. His production has dropped off since the A&M game. I haven’t heard that he’s hurt. He needs to get back to being the leader on defense now that Jalen Catalon is out for the season.

Q. holman24 wants to know: Do you think we’ll see the cancelled Arkansas vs TCU game from the last bowl season finally played this season? They both will have similar records by the end.

A. Hopefully they won’t have similar records when bowl selection time comes. Arkansas is 5-3 right now. TCU is 3-4 with tough games ahead with Baylor, Oklahoma State and Iowa State which are currently 2, 3 & 4 in the Big 12 standings. I’m not sure TCU will make a bowl game. To me Arkansas has a realistic shot at going 8-4. Alabama is the only game left that looks unwinnable.

Q. pignparadise says: Just to clarify from 10/18 show. Darren Mcfadden was indeed a 5-star.

A. As you can see from the graphic pignparadise sent us D-Mac was indeed a Rivals 5-star. That was my recollection but as I mentioned I’ve had people tell me he wasn’t. The question that brought this up last week had to do with the few 5-stars Arkansas has landed over the years not panning out. D-Mac sure did. Some fans believe that a lot of five-stars are overrated. Clearly some are but the point I made and will make again is, yes, coaches do their own evaluations but if you’ve got a shot at a five-star go after that that guy. Sam Pittman has improved recruiting as a major goal in getting his program at the top of the SEC West, Hopefully we’ll start seeing his staff land some five-stars soon.

Q. Dr. Strangepork says: I understand running the clock down, I even agree with shortening the quarters to get the game over with and not hurt any starters. 2nd half mop-up though, were you shocked at the apparent talent level dropping off from the 1s to the 2s and 3s? Or are they just not good in mopping up?

A. I’ve already covered this but I want to re emphasize that the backups on defense played fine. I’m not sure that what we saw with the two offense was a lack of talent, at least not across the board. The quarterback and the offensive line did not handle UAPB’s blitz pressure. Go back and study what the one’s did in the first half and you will see what the two’s didn’t do in the second half. I’m not saying that Hornsby and those O-linemen cannot be starters in the future but they did miss a really good chance to do some positive things in a game, things that would have helped them moving forward. As I’ve said, the coaches will be addressing what happened in the offseason.

Q. Bobby Jackson on Facebook says: Blake Kern is finally starting to look like the player he was last year. He had a couple of nice catches against Auburn and opened up the scoring in the Pine Buff game. Do you think Hudson Henry getting back on the field has something to do with that?

A. I’d have to be in Blake Kern’s head to know that for sure but it’s a good guess. Coaches say, and a lot of players admit, that competition from teammates makes them better. This development could be huge for the stretch run coming up. Both Kern and Henry are legitimate receivers and blockers from the tight end spot. If K.J. Jefferson has them as receiving threats the offense becomes even more multi dimensional. Also when they are in the lineup defenses don’t automatically know if a pass or run is likely.

Q. dmfdds asks: Why do you think that traffic control for the UAPB game was so non existent. We were in bumper to bumper from 630 exit to Markham and never saw a police officer. Same after the game. Lots of merging anger going on felt very unsafe.

A. I think a lot of the complaints I’ve heard about from fans who were at that game are due the the fact that Arkansas is only playing one game every other year there. A big event like that with over 40,000 people coming into an concentrated part of the city not set up to handle that kind of traffic load needs special planning. I can remember when four games a year were played there. You get into a routine when you deal with it that often. You have a problem and you say, okay, for the next game where gonna do this or that. It’s much harder to make that process work when you have a game there once every 24 months. This sounds like a good story for KARK News to look into. I’m going to pass it on to them and we’ll talk about what they find. If this arrangement with WMS is going to continue, and I believe that it is, traffic problems, parking problems and concession stand problems that fans are complaining about, need to be addressed.

Q. BigHoggard says: Do you think that the NIL money could possibly lead some athletes to be a bit more selective about coming out of college early? Instead of coming out and being a 3rd-5th rounder, they have the NIL money coming in so it might be easier for them to stay another year and maybe be a 1st rounder.

A. Maybe. It would depend on how lucrative their deals are. Most of those still aren’t going to equal 3rd through 5th round NFL money. I would say these NIL deals are more likely to keep a kid in school for a super senior year over the next two years until the COVID extra eligibility goes away. Also it could help in making a grad transfer decision.

Q.BloodRedHog says: Arkansas is ranked 16th in the AP preseason basketball poll.
I expected the Hogs to be ranked higher, possibly 8th to 12th. Do you feel 16th is too low?

A. Before Sunday I would have said yes. But after these guys struggled to beat East Central in Sunday’s first exhibition game, maybe not. They are a Division II school out of Ada, Oklahoma in the Great American Conference. They played an all conference schedule last season and went 10-9. Typically when you have as many newcomers as Arkansas has this season it takes time to figure out who should play and when. Coaches need time to get them playing in sync.

The seasons that Duke and Kentucky had last year showed that having a lot of talent doesn’t assure winning basketball. The bottom line, it’s too early to worrying about rankings.

Q. Alex4Hogs88 wants to know: Since Halloween is right around the corner, what was the strangest experience you’ve had covering the Razorbacks when they were at home and when they were away (like when they are visiting Baton Rouge, etc.)

A. The strangest experience at home came several years ago at an Ole Miss game. I don’t like the press box and I often watch from the field. That particular game there was a lightening delay. The security people ushered the media into the southwest tunnel. Then the teams came off the field. We were backed up as far as we could be on the east side of the tunnel. When the Ole Miss players entered the tunnel somebody wearing an Ole Miss windbreaker who I did not know came up to me and started saying loudly, “Watch it. Watch it.” I thought he was telling me that I was in the way of the team but there will several other media people next to me and he was clearly talking to me only. Plus I was probably 20 feet away from the team.

Plus he kept pointed to his left eye when he was saying it so maybe he was saying to me, watch what’s going to happen next. Arkansas won that game 38-24 so if he was predicting a comeback win he was wrong.

But to this day I’m not sure what that whole thing was about.

The strangest experience on the road did indeed happen at Baton Rouge. I was working for another TV station at the time and was getting to do a live shot behind the home side of the stadium maybe an hour before the game. The Razorback Nation crew (that’s what they were called back then) was up on a sidewalk maybe 30 feet away. Suddenly this LSU fan comes driving up in his car and just plows over their camera, which was up on a tripod, totally destroying it. He told the cops that he didn’t see it but what was he doing driving on a sidewalk? It certainly confirmed to me that Baton Rouge is the worst place to visit in the entire SEC.

@Q. @mousetown asks: Do you have any funny open date stories?

A. This is getting pretty silly but I’ll play along.

Decades ago, when I was first covering Arkansas, I decided I would start taking Saturday’s off if the Razorbacks had an open date. I love watching college football games and it was fun to sit down in front of a TV and do it all day long and into the night. However, as anybody who works here can tell you, I get pretty loud when I’m watching games. I like yelling at refs. I criticize announcers when they say stupid stuff. I will also pick a team to pull for and badmouth the other team big time. These are habits going back to when I was a kid.

My wife is a very practical person. On those open date Saturday’s she goes shopping all day, visits with the grandkids or goes down to Van Buren to see her mother which is great because I can yell all I want. It scares our pets but we have pet doors so they go out into the back yard. I’m already looking forward to this Saturday.

So what games will I be watching?

Kentucky at Mississippi State. I’m interested in seeing how the Cat’s handle Mike Leach’s strange passing game which is more like a running game with lots of four and five yard catches.

Ole Miss at Auburn. I don’t like Ole Miss. I never have. I don’t like Widdle Wayne Kiffin. I will be an Auburn fan on Saturday.

Georgia and Florida in Jacksonville. I like Georgia. I don’t like Florida. I want Georgia to bury Florida.

Missouri at Vandy. I don’t like anything about Missouri. I don’t like their pop off coach. I’ll be pulling for Vandy but probably in vain. Mizzou is not much this year but everybody is better than Vanderbilt.

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