Hogs not used to Gators’ pace

Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio looks for a receiver against Georgia during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio looks for a receiver against Georgia during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

FAYETTEVILLE -- The top billing in Saturday's matchup between Arkansas and No. 11 Florida is the Gators' No. 2 defense going head to head against quarterback Austin Allen and the Razorbacks' offensive weapons.


More headlines

The other side of the ball, which will pit Florida's low-excitement offense against Arkansas' disappointing defense, will have just as big of a bearing on the outcome of the cross-divisional matchup.

The Razorbacks (5-3, 1-3 SEC) have had a season's worth of struggles against fast-tempo teams with quality run games and dual-threat quarterbacks.

Florida (6-1, 4-1) doesn't boast either of those attributes, although the Gators possess a large offensive line, a stable of good backs, quality tight ends and a couple of burners on the edge in Antonio Callaway and freshman Tyrie Cleveland.

Florida's offensive blueprint is similar to Arkansas'. The Gators are second in the SEC behind Arkansas in time of possession, but their third-down conversion percentage (50.4 percent) leads the SEC and ranks sixth in the nation. They'll be opposing an Arkansas defense that allows 48.5 percent of third-down conversions to rank 124th in the FBS.

"They are explosive, but they are also based on moving the chains," Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said. "If you look at the end of the Georgia game, in the second half obviously Georgia was kept off the scoreboard and part of that was what they do, but also Florida just didn't give them a chance for those people to get back out there.

"It is not the normal approach in today's world, but it is one in which we both kind of share a similarity."

Junior quarterback Luke Del Rio, who missed two games in four weeks earlier this season with a sprained knee, will be making his first true road start of the year against the Hogs.

"I think he manages the game pretty well," Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith said. "He's a good decision-maker. I think he knows exactly what they want him to do within the offense."

Del Rio, who has completed 33 of 63 passes (52.3 percent) in two games since returning from a sprained knee, is not the focal point of a Gators' offense coordinated by Doug Nussmeier.

Florida likes to keep the chains moving by running behind its offensive line, which averages 325 pounds per starter, led by 357-pound left tackle David Sharpe and 340-pound right tackle Jawaan Taylor.

"They've got big guys up front, and they're physical. The running backs are very good, and we just have to focus on stopping the run so we can do our best to win the game," Arkansas defensive lineman Jeremiah Ledbetter said.

"They want to run the football, and they do a really good job with their play-action pass game," Smith said.

"They are committed to the run game," Bielema said. "By that, I mean they believe in it. You can tell that it's practiced. It's something that appears in their film week in and week out."

The Gators had been trying to split their carries among four runners, but they got more clarity at the position last week when Jordan Scarlett, a 213-pound sophomore, doubled his career high with 26 carries for 93 yards and a touchdown in a 24-10 victory over Georgia.

Lamical Perine, a 221-pound freshman, added 15 carries for 33 yards against the Bulldogs. Perine ran for 106 yards against Missouri, the same game Scarlett -- who has scored a rushing touchdown in six consecutive games -- added 101 yards.

"They've got a big, strong guy that'll pound you, then they've got a couple of guys that are really quick," Arkansas linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves said.

Mark Thompson, who has 57 carries for 262 yards, was suspended for the Georgia game after his citation for possession of marijuana late last week. Jordan Cronkrite, who had a season-high 46 rushing yards against North Texas in Week 3, will travel with the team to Arkansas, Coach Jim McElwain announced Wednesday, after staying home for the Georgia game.

Florida has not used an up-tempo offense, but Bielema said he wouldn't be surprised if the Gators try it Saturday.

Arkansas defensive backs coach Paul Rhoads said practicing for a team that huddles and doesn't speed up its snaps has been invigorating.

"In today's age of football, any time it slows down a little bit, defenses appreciate it," Rhoads said. "Maybe there's a level of excitement that goes along with that."

Callaway is Florida's top deep threat with 27 catches for 441 yards, 2 touchdowns and 16.3 yards per catch, but Cleveland has come on lately, with 3 catches for 79 yards and 1 touchdown against Missouri. He averages 19.6 ypc.

"We've got a good secondary, and we don't really mind their speed," Arkansas cornerback Ryan Pulley said. "We've got to go out there and do what we've got to do, execute our game plan and try to hold these guys."

Saturday’s game


WHEN 2:30 p.m., Saturday

WHERE Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville

RECORDS Florida 6-1, 4-1 SEC; Arkansas 5-3, 1-3


Sports on 11/03/2016

Upcoming Events