FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas’ defense is incapable of totally shutting down any competent offense on the Hogs’ 2017 schedule. The unit lacks overall depth and has little elite talent. That being said, let’s focus on realistic expectations for this defense.
The realistic expectations are, to a certain extent, exactly what the unit accomplished Saturday against New Mexico State. Despite giving up 344 passing yards in a 42-24 victory, it was a solid performance for what should be expected.
Why? Because Arkansas’ defense dominated in the run game. The Hogs allowed just 11 total rushing yards. They made the Aggies, who have some offensive weapons, one-dimensional.
Honestly, that’s about as much as this defense can hope to accomplish. If the unit can make opponents one-dimensional, the Hogs will have a chance in most of their remaining games. It’s not a strong enough group to expect or attempt a total shutdown against any team with a well-rounded offense, which includes New Mexico State.
The Aggies, from the Sun Belt Conference, have one of the best unknown running backs in college football in senior Larry Rose III. Rose had the highest 2016 overall grade of any returning college running back, according to Pro Football Focus. And 2016 was the least productive of his first three years at New Mexico State.
Rose averaged 110 yards per game in 2014, another 138 in 2015 and 96 last season. His lowest output this season before Saturday was 60 yards on 13 carries in Week 1 against Arizona State. The Razorbacks held him to 25 yards on 8 carries.
“I thought the run defense was tremendous,” Arkansas safety Santos Ramirez said. “We were playing the gaps and playing disciplined. They didn’t have a chance to get out and have running success against us. That had a lot to do with this win.”
This defense isn’t going to be perfect in any game, so don’t expect that. But if they can make opponents one-dimensional, the Hogs can at least be competitive going forward in SEC play, starting with South Carolina on the road next Saturday.