FAYETTEVILLE — Most everyone knew that the TCU Horned Frogs are quicker, faster and more experienced than the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Turns out they are stronger and tougher, too and better at Arkansas’ game than is Arkansas. Embarrassingly better, the Razorbacks discovered. Coach Gary Patterson’s now 2-0 Horned Frogs thumped Arkansas 28-7 in a Big 12 vs. SEC nonconference CBS televised Saturday afternoon nonconference clash before a sellout 73,668 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Patterson’s Horned Frogs arrived displaying their customary accelerated up-tempo offense and closed playing the smash mouth ball-control that’s supposed to be the trademark of Arkansas fifth-year coach Bret Bielema.
The now 1-1 Razorbacks have an open date before opening their SEC campaign Sept. 23 against Texas A&M at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
Running down the play-clock to the max in the fourth quarter, the Horned Frogs were the true hogs of the ball Saturday. They possessed it 33:52 to Arkansas’ 26:08 and both outrushing, 195-121 and outpassing, 166-138 the Razorbacks.
The yardage wasn’t that much different but third conversions,10 of 14 for TCU to Arkansas’ 4 of 14, were pivotal.
So was the red zone, a Razorbacks woe last season vexing them again Saturday.
Twice TCU denied them with nothing in the red zone as Arkansas place-kicker Cole Hedlund missed PAT type fourth and goal chip shots 23 and 20-yard field goal attempts after Arkansas’ lone touchdown tied it 7-7 in the first quarter.
Highly recruited out of Argyle, Texas, Hedlund has lost his kicking job during the last two seasons and apparently will again.
“The two missed field goals were just embarrassing,” Bielema said postgame. “We’ll go for it every time or we have to find a new kicker. I’m done with this.”
Hedlund’s first attempt on fourth and goal at the five that would have given Arkansas a 10-7 lead after Arkansas safety Santos Ramirez’s interception set up the drive, went left starting the second quarter.
The second, with some of the crowd booing for Arkansas not going for it on fourth and two down 14-7 and mushrooming to a chorus when the kick failed, galled Bielema most.
“The reason I wanted to go for it (the field goal) was we were lined up in the middle of the field and we had a PAT,” Bielema said. “And he doinked it with a perfect snap and perfect protection.”
Missing the field goals deflated momentum, Bielema said, but so did other things.
“Every time it seemed momentum was going to swing our way we’d shoot ourselves in the foot,” Bielema said, first giving TCU due credit before describing his own team’s woes.
Other than Arkansas’ touchdown drive that featured the line opening enough power holes for running back David Williams, 10 carries for 65 yards but mostly on that one series, for quarterback quarterback Austin Allen, 9 for 23 for 138 yards and sacked three times, to find receiver Jonathan Nance open for 49-yard TD pass.
Nance was open because the Horned Frogs bit on fake sweep to Williams, the Razorbacks couldn’t get their ground game going against a very quick and surprisingly physical TCU defense.
Otherwise Arkansas didn’t have much run complementing pass or vice-versa.
One of their biggest plays was one they don’t prefer, Allen scrambling 20 yards and taking a hard hit for a first down fleeing a pass rush.
“We couldn’t consistently do anything on the ground and that really affected our play-action passing game and ability to find some receivers downfield,” Bielema said. “I think we physically have to strain a lot harder. They have a lot smaller players that we wanted to lean on and put some weight on them to turn it into our type of game.”
Defensively the Razorbacks, securing turnovers on Ramirez’s interception and a fumble recovery by backup defensive end Briston Guidry hung tough for three and a half quarters of a 14-7 game, Bielema said.
But the defense’s last eight minutes with TCU tallying two touchdowns, reminded him of the 2016 season closing second fizzles in the 28-24 and 35-24 losses at Missouri and to Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl after Arkansas led, 24-7 and 24-0 at half.
“ Obviously defensively we played our tails for three and a half quarters and then everybody gets their daubers down and feeling sorry for themselves,” Bielema said. “Those last two scores were just embarrassing.”
He was ready for the bye week back to the grindstone.
“We’ll take a self-inventory,” Bielema said. “Offensively we have to figure out what we can do better. Because what we did, didn’t work. I think the biggest thing is we have to be the most improved football team in the country from this next week until we play A&M, a team that’s very similar to the one we just played.”
“I feel like they out-willed us,” Ramirez said. “I don’t want to point fingers, it’s a team game, but we didn’t get the job done.”