Comparison: Arkansas versus WIU and Missouri State

Since we only have a week of football under our belts, the only thing we can do right now for comparison's sake is look at what teams did last year versus what they did this year. So with that in mind, let's take a look at Arkansas versus Western Illinois last year and versus Missouri State this year.

Arkansas struggled to beat WIU last year, but they blew out Missouri State this year. Just how different were these two games? Very different, as you're about to see. I don't claim to know the minutiae of I-AA football, but last year WIU went 6-3 against I-AA competition and Missouri State went 4-5 against I-AA competition.

OFFENSE

Sack yardage has been taken out of the rushing totals to more accurately reflect actual rushing.

CATEGORY vs. WIU vs. MISSOURI ST.
Total Yards 429 591
Passing 318 447
Yds. per Pass 7.8 10.9
Rushing 111 144
Yds. per Rush 6.8 4.8
Turnovers 3 1
Time of Poss. 23:17 30:24
Sacks All. 4 (-35 yards) 0

 

What a difference a year makes. After struggling mightily against the WIU Leathernecks (23:17 time of possession?!), the numbers were up pretty much across the board. The 447 passing yards were a school record, the passing average was a lot better, and the one turnover was by a reserve player. The rushing average fell some, but a lot of that had to do with starter Michael Smith getting the rest of the day off after just four carries. He had an average of 10.8 in those four carries, so if he's healthy, there's no reason to worry about the ground game.

Ryan Mallett was as big an upgrade as billed over Casey Dick, as his passing average was a sterling 14.0 yards per pass. He completed 17 of 22 attempts and didn't throw a pick. Tyler Wilson, the backup who famously has had to learn to play under center after doing the shotgun all of high school, had a Casey Dick-like day with an average of 7.3 yards per pass and an interception. He did have two touchdowns though.

DEFENSE

Again, sack yardage has been taken out.

CATEGORY vs. WIU vs. MISSOURI ST.
Total Yards 263 220
Passing 105 123
Yds. per Pass 4.0 5.6
Rushing 158 97
Yds. per Rush 3.5 2.9
Turnovers 0 2
Time of Poss. 36:43 29:36
Sacks For 1 (-1 yard) 3 (-15 yards)

 

The biggest problem for the Hogs last year was defense. The offense ended up decent, even becoming one of the top passing offenses in the conference. It was the defense that really held them back.

The early returns are sort of inconclusive, though promising. Missouri State had an easier time throwing the ball, but a tougher time rushing. The improvement in time of possession and sacks is quite noticeable. Perhaps the best sign is that WIU was able to sustain scoring drives of 76 and 57 yards while the game was tight, whereas Missouri State's longest drives were of 56 and 53 yards, the latter of which coming after the game was out of hand.

The predicted offensive improvement has definitely arrived. The defense is looking a little better, though not dramatically just yet. It's hard to draw too many conclusions in games against I-AA opponents, but at least this year, no one is saying "uh oh" about Arkansas' opener.

Previous Comparison: Alabama.

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