When the Arkansas Razorbacks strap it up with the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns on Saturday, their season’s early initiative will be to do, what they continually didn’t do last season, stop opposing mobile quarterbacks from making big plays. Louisiana has the same kind of quarterback that worked wonders on Arkansas’ defense in 2012, Terrance Broadway.
Broadway is coming off a season where he amassed the school’s record of total offense in a season, 3,611 yards, compiling 2,842 yards passing in addition to his 769 yards rushing. The first year starter for Mark Hudspeth was well versed, providing three 100-yard rushing games in his team’s last four games, including 460 yards of total offense against Louisiana-Monroe and 374 passing yards against Arkansas State at the beginning of Louisiana-Lafayette’s conference slate.
Arkansas’ defense was punished mightily from mobile quarterbacks that could throw all of last season. The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel‘s first true statement came against Arkansas, throwing for a school-record 453 yards along with 104 yards rushing. Manziel’s mark in week five, 557 yards of total offense, broke an SEC single game record. The unthinkable happened in week two when No. 8 Arkansas fell by the wayside in the biggest upset in college football last season. The Hogs allowed Louisiana Monroe quarterback Kolton Browning to strike for 490 yards of total offense, the most he had all season long in the Sun Belt.
Arkansas’ defensive back seven, mainly the secondary was to blame for this erratic behavior. Their problems dealt from injuries and lack of experience to overall depth at all positions. The strong inability to cover the pass led to career days for opposing quarterbacks. Arkansas ranked 102nd in defensive pass efficiency, and their 19th ranked spot in rush defense is conducive to teams airing it out more than usual. The Hogs’ secondary proved to be the worst secondary in the league, giving up 200 yards or more in every game besides Kentucky.
Bret Bielema’s first and best act at Arkansas was hiring his defensive coordinator at Wisconsin the last three seasons, Chris Ash to close the gap in this area. Chris Ash is one of the best fundamental coaches in the great league and an excellent in-game adjuster. Ash has many things going for him to stop Broadway in the season opener. Arkansas’ defensive line was the strength last season and will be again this season. Linebacker play was the most improved group from play one to the last play of the season in 2012.
The Razorbacks will rely on discipline in all facets of the game with the new coaching staff, and that’s exactly what they’ll need to do against Broadway on Saturday. The Houston transfer will provide some spark, but to what extent? Broadway’s deadly accurate arm can’t be given real estate to operate, because that sets up his wheels. Being 19th in the nation in passing efficiency led Broadway to nine touchdowns rushing in 2012. Louisiana-Lafayette’s offensive options like running back Alonzo Harris and receiver Jamal Robinson helped them boast 36 points a game last season.
Chris Ash’s first team defense didn’t allow a single score to the Hogs’ first team offense during actual scrimmages, but it’s still highly questionable whether a dual-threat quarterback can be stopped, not just running but passing against this regrouped home defense. Arkansas did give up 163 yards against FCS Jacksonville State in the first half of last year’s season opener.