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Arkansas Razorbacks Football: Offense Can't Finish Drives

A team that has punted only four times in three games shouldn't lack for wins.

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

On yesterday's Solid Verbal podcast, Ty and Dan pointed out that Arkansas has only punted four times on this year. The Hogs are tied in that respect for second-to-last in the country with Baylor, and only Navy with its three punts (in just two games) has fewer.

A team that has only four punts in three games shouldn't be hurting for wins unless its defense is a disaster. While Arkansas's D has regressed some from a year ago, it's not a disaster.

The issue comes down to the fact that the Razorbacks just can't finish drives. I hammered on that fact in my review of the Hogs' loss to Toledo, but it didn't get fixed entirely in the game against the Red Raiders. Let's go over Arkansas's drives to see how things have broken down.

I am not counting drives intended to run out the clock that ended halves, and trip inside the 40 must have a first down inside the 40. Same for red zone trips. I'm not counting plays longer than the targeted zones, so for instance, Jared Cornelius's 58-yard touchdown against UTEP isn't a trip inside the 40 or a red zone trip.

Opponent Pts. Per Drive Pts. Per 40 Trip Pts. Per RZ Trip
UTEP 5.3 5.9 5.0
Toledo 1.1 1.7 0.6
Texas Tech 3.0 4.8 4.3
Overall 3.2 4.2 3.1

It all got off to such a good start against UTEP. Arkansas scored touchdowns on its first six drives against the Miners. They've gotten just four since.

Already in that laugher of a game, you can see a red zone problem forming. The Razorbacks scored more points per drive when they didn't enter the red zone than when they did. They are 120th nationally in scoring on just 64.3% of their red zone trips, and they're 121st nationally in getting touchdowns in the red zone at a rate of 35.7% of their trips.

In fact, the Razorbacks have gone inside the 40 five times without getting into the red zone. They're 5-for-5 in getting touchdowns in those situations, and they've got that aforementioned 58-yard TD from Cornelius too. They're fairly good at getting explosive touchdowns on the opponent's side of the field.

But once in the red zone, they've gotten just four touchdowns. In comparison, they've had six field goal attempts with two of them missed. They also hit a trifecta of other kinds of drive failures against Toledo with an interception, turnover on downs, and the game clock running out.

Of the 26 drives I counted, the Hogs came away with points on 12 of them—less than half. Four of the 14 empty drives were punts, and not the cowardly kind from the plus side of the field. That's a good sign. Every offense gets stuffed from time to time, and only getting stuffed like that in less than a quarter of your drives is good. They've lost turnovers three times in three games, which isn't terrible either (even if one was an end zone interception against the Rockets).

But being forced into so many short field goals isn't so great. In the losses, Arkansas has the same number of field goal attempts as touchdowns (four each) while also turning it over in some way five times (two interceptions, two on downs, one fumble).

Teams built on power running aren't supposed to be attempting as many field goals as they get touchdowns. They're not supposed to be getting into the end zone on a third of their red zone trips. They're basically tied with Missouri in red zone touchdown percentage, and Mizzou has no run game with Russell Hansbrough missing so much time. That makes sense. It doesn't for what Arkansas tries to be.

If the Hogs can get back to their roots, push defenses around, and actually cash in on scoring opportunities, then they'll get the season back on track. If not, they'll be sweating out bowl eligibility again and wondering if this season was worth $4 million.