The Arkansas Razorbacks (7-6) appeared poised for a strong finish to the 2016 season. Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, they couldn’t play 60 minutes of solid football and finish the season with a gut-wrenching 35-24 loss to No. 22 Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl.
Arkansas went into halftime with a 24-0 lead on the Hokies. The Razorbacks could do no wrong in the first half. The defense held down a potent Virginia Tech offense and quarterback Austin Allen looked like an NFL prospect.
Then, just before the half, one of the strangest officiating sequences in recent history went the way of Arkansas. The fumble, which should’ve been ruled Virginia Tech ball, led to the Razorbacks gaining possession. Arkansas didn’t score, and this appeared to fire up the Hokies as the second half proved to be a tale of two different teams from the game’s first 30 minutes.
Just over a minute into the second half, Arkansas’ fumbles and the Hokies quickly turn it into seven points. Then, on the next possession, Allen is picked off, leading to another Virginia Tech score. Just like that, it’s 24-14.
Allen was picked off again, this time inside the 10-yard line, leading to an easy Tech score.
The Razorbacks continued to crumble and failed to put together one meaningful drive in the second half. Allen was sacked six times and his decision-making was impacted.
Arkansas’ 2nd-Half Drives— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 30, 2016
Virginia Tech makes 3rd-largest comeback in a bowl gm in last 10 seasons
Allen finished the game 18 of 31 with 278 yards and two scores. He was just five of 15 with 63 yards and three interceptions in the second half.
What we learned
Austin Allen remains an inconsistent quarterback
The Razorbacks have been a terrible second-half team all season. Allen’s night is a microcosm of what’s wrong with this team. They can play with anyone for 30 minutes and then fall apart in the second half. While Allen was bad in the second half, it wasn’t all his fault. Arkansas had no answer for Bud Foster’s continuous blitzing and it led to multiple turnovers.
Bret Bielema will start feeling the heat
The Razorbacks have gotten better over the course of Bielema’s tenure in Fayetteville. However, at some point the same team cannot continue to lose games in the same manner. When you continue to look flat and uninspired during the second half of games it comes back to coaching. One team adjusts, while the other does not. There’s simply not one reason why the Razorbacks continue to struggle in the second half of games. But it’s up to the head coach to get to the bottom of it or he won’t be around too much longer.
The Razorbacks could not run the ball
For the Razorbacks to win this game, they were going to need a strong effort from running backs Rawleigh Williams III and Devwah Whaley. Instead, the two talented running backs combined for 17 carries and 35 yards. As a team, Arkansas rushed for 36 yards on 34 attempts. Allen isn’t good enough to win without a running game. That, once again, proved to be true. Allen was hot in the first half, but once the Hokies shut down the ground game, they relentlessly harassed Allen, forcing him into numerous mistakes.