The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: What appears to be a lopsided SEC affair takes place in Fayetteville this weekend, as the 19th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks welcome the Vanderbilt Commodores to town.
Vanderbilt is led by head coach Robbie Caldwell, who is in his first season as the face of the program. His team has suffered back-to-back defeats to fall to 2-5 overall, including 1-3 in SEC action. Last week, the Commodores couldn't get anything done offensively in a 21-7 loss to South Carolina.
"We didn't get it done," said Caldwell after the loss. "We could have done a lot better. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. There's no excuses."
As for Arkansas, it improved to 5-2 overall with a 38-24 victory over Ole Miss last weekend. Bobby Petrino's Razorbacks have now won two of their last three outings and are 2-2 in SEC action. The only two losses to date came against Auburn and Alabama, two of the nation's truly elite teams.
Against South Carolina last week, the Vanderbilt offense struggled mightily, as the unit finished 3-of-15 on third down conversion attempts and maintained possession of the ball for fewer than 23 minutes. The Commodores finished with a mere 250 total yards, including just 108 rushing yards on 30 attempts. Quarterback Larry Smith completed only 13-of-31 passes for 142 yards, and while Vandy didn't commit a single turnover, the overall showing was highly disappointing.
"It's tough," said Vanderbilt linebacker John Stokes of the team's offensive struggles. "It's frustrating. Football's a tough game. You don't just need one side of the ball playing well. You need both sides playing well."
Coach Caldwell was complimentary of his defense after the South Carolina game, but it should be pointed out that the Commodores permitted 484 total yards to the Gamecocks, including 355 passing yards. In fact, of the 39 passes that the Gamecocks attempted, 31 resulted in completions. USC was able to make good on 9-of-17 third-down conversion attempts and hold the ball for over 37 minutes, so there is room for improvement defensively.
Overall this season, Vanderbilt is generating just 18.9 ppg while gaining 305.9 total ypg. The Commodores have only committed nine turnovers, so they have obviously taken pretty good care of the ball if nothing else. Smith has completed a mere 51.8 percent of his passes for 1,005 yards and five touchdowns against four interceptions. The ground attack is paced by Warren Norman, who has rushed for 395 yards and four touchdowns at a clip of six yards per carry. As for the receivers, Brandon Barden is the best of the bunch, but he isn't going to scare Arkansas.
Opponents are scoring 24.9 ppg against Vanderbilt, which is yielding 393.9 total ypg. Of the 20 touchdowns permitted to opposing offenses, 11 have come via the ground attack. There have been 12 sacks registered and 10 takeaways have been recorded, but there is obviously room for improvement in both areas.
The good news for Arkansas is that star quarterback Ryan Mallett should be able to play through shoulder pain this weekend. It is unclear, however, if receivers Joe Adams and Greg Childs will be able to fight through the ankle injuries that have both listed as questionable for Saturday's tussle. Against Ole Miss last week, the Razorbacks posted 464 total yards. Mallett completed 13-of-24 passes in that tilt for 196 yards and one touchdowns with one interceptions. Childs scored in that game, but both he and Adams were rather quite. Fortunately, Knile Davis had career day, rushing for 176 yards and three touchdowns.
"I was real proud of how we finished the game running the ball," Coach Petrino said. "Knile did a great job running the football, but our offensive line did a great job blocking for him."
Arkansas played poor defense against Ole Miss last week, permitting the Rebels to rack up 512 total yards, including 327 yards through the air along with three touchdowns. The effort against the run wasn't much better, as 185 yards were surrendered. Surprisingly, the Razorbacks' defense spent over 36 minutes on the field despite limiting Ole Miss to 4-of-17 success on third-down conversion attempts.
The Razorbacks are generating 33.0 ppg and 477.7 total ypg, 352.1 ypg of which comes through the air. Mallett has completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 2,040 yards and 15 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Even if the star passer can't play, Tyler Wilson is more than capable of stepping in an excelling in a backup role. Childs has recorded 41 catches for 572 yards and six touchdowns, while Adams has made 30 grabs for 544 yards and four scores. As for Davis, he has rushed for 470 yards and four touchdowns.
Foes are generating 23.4 ppg against Arkansas, which is allowing 356.3 total ypg. There is room for improvement against the run and the pass, as the Razorbacks are yielding 13.9 yards per pass completion and 4.2 yards per rushing attempt. Of the 19 touchdowns that Arkansas has given up, 11 of those scores have come on the ground.