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Ew, Pig Sooie! Virginia Tech scores 35-unanswered points to win Belk Bowl, 35-24

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For one half of football, it appeared as though Arkansas (7-6) could do no wrong in the Belk Bowl against No. 22 Virginia Tech (10-4), but the Hokies roared back from a 24-0 halftime deficit with 35 unanswered points in the second half to capture a wild bowl victory. It may be a tad cliché, but this truly was a tale of two halves that showed why football games are 60 minutes long.

Bud Foster coached up his defense to tighten things up in the second half, and they responded with flying colors. The Hokies sacked Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen six times in the second half, with Mook Reynolds notching two. Reynolds and Tremaine Edmunds each recorded an interception as well to help turn the game around in Virginia Tech’s favorite. With the defense doing its part to prevent Arkansas from scoring again after taking a short-lived, yet commanding 24-0 lead, the Hokies offense had to do their part as well. And oh boy did they.

The Hokies scored five touchdowns in the second half, starting early in the second half after the defense forced an Arkansas turnover on the third play of the half. Jerod Evans completed 21-of-33 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns and he led the Hokies on the ground with 87 rushing yards and two more touchdowns. Travon McMillian had 34 key yards as well, including a six-yard scoring run one play after rumbling 21 yards for a big gain. McMillian’s touchdown run was likely the final nail in the coffin for the Razorbacks, who went from being down four points to down 11. Arkansas went three-and-out on their next drive and fumbled the football away on their next offensive series after that.

The play of the game may have been a one-handed touchdown snag by Sam Rogers to help cut the Razorbacks’ lead to 10 points.

The comeback from Virginia Tech goes down as the third-largest comeback in a bowl game over the last 10 seasons. Last year’s Alamo Bowl saw TCU dig its way out of a 31-point deficit against Oregon. Texas Tech also played its way back form a 31-point deficit in the 2006 Insight Bowl against Minnesota, going from trailing 38-7 to winning 44-41 in overtime.

The ACC’s impressive bowl season continues

With Virginia Tech’s victory over the Razorbacks, the ACC improved to 5-1 in the bowl season. No other conference has won more than four games so far in the bowl season. The ACC’s lone bowl loss so far was suffered by Pitt in the Pinstripe Bowl (the Panthers lost to Northwestern of the Big Ten). The ACC has winning records against the SEC (2-0) and Big 12 (1-0), is even with the Big Ten (1-1) and owns a victory over the AAC champion (Wake Forest beat Temple in the Military Bowl). The ACC is close to clinching a winning record this postseason with six postseason games to go (seven if Clemson advances to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game).

The SEC drops to 1-4 this bowl season after South Carolina and Arkansas each lost today. The SEC still has a very good chance to see Alabama win a national championship and there are still six additional games to be played to turn things around this bowl season, but this is a bit of a sloppy start to the bowl season for the SEC.

Looking ahead

So, where do we go from here? At Virginia Tech, the Hokies will go into the offseason very positive about the future of the program under the leadership of Justin Fuente. In Fuente’s first season on the job, Virginia Tech won 10 games to capture the ACC Coastal Division and gave Clemson a good battle in the ACC Championship Game, and it all ends with a victory over an SEC school in a bowl game. The 2017 season will commence in Landover, Maryland against former Big East rival West Virginia from the Big 12 on September 2, 2017. The Hokies will play an ACC schedule that includes a home game against Clemson in addition to North Carolina and Pittsburgh and road games against Miami and Georgia Tech. The Hokies should be one of the teams to watch in the ACC once again in 2017 as Fuente’s offense continues to come together in year two.

Arkansas will go back to the drawing board and contemplate just how this season went so up-and-down and ended the way it did. The Razorbacks will still be a team worth paying close attention to and not take for granted in 2017, and if they can find any positive consistency next fall they should be at least a mnild factor in how the SEC West plays out. They won’t be likely to de-throne Alabama, of course, but they can mess with teams like LSU, Texas A&M, and Auburn. Of course, Arkansas will only play Auburn at home, while Alabama and LSU will be played on the road and Texas A&M will be played in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Arkansas begisn the 2017 season at home against Florida A&M on September 2, 2017 in Little Rock, and the Razorbacks host TCU of the Big 12 on September 9, 2017 in Fayetteville.

Arkansas going hog wild on Hokies in Belk Bowl with 24-0 halftime lead

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Few teams in college football have been quite as puzzling to figure out on a week-by-week basis as Arkansas. after one half in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina, it appears the good Razorbacks have shown up against Virginia Tech. Arkansas leads the Hokies 24-0 at halftime of the Belk Bowl.

Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen has thrown for 170 yards and two touchdowns, including one that was the result of an overturned call following an instant replay review in the second quarter to put the Hogs up 24-0 (Keon Hatcher caught the ball near the goal line and was credited with a score following a review).

Virginia Tech has been unable to get anything going on the ground against an Arkansas team that has struggled to stop the run all season long, and it was on the wrong foot right from the first snap of the game. Sam Rogers fumbled away the football to Arkansas on Virginia Tech’s first play of the game, setting the Razorbacks up at the Hokies’ 26-yard line. Arkansas was held to a field goal as the Virginia Tech defense came to the rescue. The Hokies turned the ball over on downs on their next possession when Jerod Evans was sacked by JaMichael Winston and Jeremiah Ledbetter. Evans was intercepted two possessions later, leading to an Arkansas touchdown town plays later.

There was a bit of an officiating meltdown toward the end of the first half on a muffed punt by Virginia Tech. Arkansas, despite never having control of the football during this sequence, was awarded the football following a penalty by Virginia Tech and multiple meetings between the Big 12 officiating crew and separate tongue-lashings by both head coaches Bret Bielema and Justin Fuente.

The Razorbacks are without tight end Jeremy Sprinkle. Sprinkle was suspended after reportedly shoplifting from a Belk department store, despite the Belk Bowl giving players a Belk gift card to spend.

No. 21 Auburn rushes for 543 yards in 56-3 win over No. 17 Arkansas

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No. 21 Auburn (5-2, 3-1 SEC) rushed for more yards against No. 17 Arkansas (5-3, 1-3 SEC) than any team has since before the turn of the century en route to a smashing 56-3 victory over the Razorbacks Saturday evening in Jordan Hare Stadium. When all was said and done, the Tigers racked up 543 rushing yards.

Kamryn Pettway led the ground attack with 192 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Eli Stove had a 78-yard touchdown run to boost his 94-yard day and Stanton Truitt rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns to add to Auburn’s wildly productive day on the ground. Quarterback Sean White was a part of the fun too, with 61 rushing yards and a score to go with his 77 passing yards and passing touchdown.

On the other side, Auburn’s defense never allowed Arkansas to get a running game going. The Razorbacks ran 31 running plays and managed just 25 rushing yards in the game. A combined loss of 14 yards were credited to Arkansas quarterbacks Austin Allen and Ty Storey. Allen was forced to leave the game in the first half due to an apparent knee injury but he returned after a brief absence. Rawleigh Williams III was the leading rusher for the Razorbacks with 22 yards on 13 carries.

Auburn also played a pretty clean game with just two penalties for 10 yards and no turnovers (Arkansas had two turnovers). The Razorbacks are going to have to think long and hard about this one, or simply put the game film in the trash and forget about it. Either way, there was no denying this was one of the worst losses Arkansas has experienced under Bret Bielema.

Arkansas will get a little extra time to prepare for their next game. The Razorbacks have a much-needed bye week coming up next weekend, giving them an extra week to prepare for a home game against Florida.

OK, so time to look forward for Auburn. Before you start looking to the end of the year with the Iron Bowl matchup with Alabama, Auburn has to go on the road next week to play Ole Miss. Yes, the Rebels may be a fringe top-25 team this season, but there is no question they can be a dangerous opponent. However, Auburn’s defense has been playing very well the past month and has now held each of their past four opponents to fewer than 15 points. Doing that against Ole Miss may be difficult, especially on the road, but Auburn is playing with confidence.

No. 1 Alabama forced five turnovers in 49-24 win at No. 16 Arkansas

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If you thought No. 16 Arkansas was going to give top-ranked Alabama a good battle in the SEC West, well, you were out of luck Saturday night. Alabama improved to 6-0 (3-0 SEC) with a 49-30 victory that never felt as the final score might even suggest. Arkansas (4-2) fell to 0-2 in SEC play on a night in which they turned the football over five times. Against Alabama, that is far too many turnovers to have, and Alabama showed why.

Alabama returned two Arkansas turnovers for a touchdown and converted another Razorback turnover into a touchdown. One of the highlights of the night for the Alabama defense was Minkah Fitzpatrick‘s 100-yard interception return for a score in the fourth quarter. The score was somewhat crucial too, as a touchdown for Arkansas could have cut Alabama’s lead to 11 points. Instead, Alabama padded its lead and took a 49-24 lead to essentially hold Arkansas at arm’s length the rest of the way.

Nick Saban will find plenty to be upset about despite his top-ranked team once again coming through with a double-digit victory, because that’s just what Saban does. Giving up 400 yards through the air surely will catch the ire of Saban. Austin Allen tossed three touchdowns and hit the 400-yard mark, but he did so while also having three passes picked off. Alabama did do a good job of taking away the run, which Arkansas loves to use to their advantage. The Razorbacks were held under 100 rushing yards for the first time since November 21, 2015 when Mississippi State held them to 73 rushing yards. Alabama was one of two teams in 2015 to hold Arkansas to fewer than 100 yards. The last time Arkansas had more than 100 rushing yards against Alabama was in 2013, with 165 yards in a 52-0 defeat at the hands of the Crimson Tide.

Alabama also had three turnovers of their own, which will not sit well with Saban. Quarterback Jalen Hurts completed 13 of his 17 pass attempts for 253 yards and two touchdowns with one interception, and Damien Harris led all players with 122 rushing yards. Hurts led the way with two touchdown runs. ArDarius Stewart was the leading receiver for Alabama with five receptions for 120 yards. Jared Cornelius of Arkansas topped that with five receptions for 146 yards. Neither scored a touchdown, however.

One other stat Saban will likely focus on is his defense’s lack of getting off the field. Arkansas converted half of their third down plays for a first down, and one of two fourth-down plays.

Next up for Alabama is another road game, this time against Tennessee. Expect Alabama to put a hurting on the Vols in the first half before Tennessee inexplicably battles back to make things interesting and perhaps dicey in the second half. If this season has taught us anything thus far, it is that Tennessee does not go away easily. Can they do the same against Alabama?

Arkansas hosts Ole Miss next week.

Alabama turns two Arkansas turnovers into 14 points for 34-10 halftime lead

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Turnovers have been the story of the first half as No. 1 Alabama holds the halftime edge on No. 16 Arkansas, 35-17. While Arkansas was unable to capitalize on an Alabama turnover early in the game, the Crimson Tide have turned two first-half turnovers into 14 points.

Arkansas was unable to take advantage of an early Alabama mistake. Joshua Jacobs lost a fumble at the goal line on the game’s opening possession, but Arkansas could only manage to reach the 23-yard line before having to punt the football back to the Crimson Tide. Alabama made sure not to make that mistake again with a short three-play, 73-yard touchdown drive. Jalen Hurts finished the drive with a five-yard run immediately after a 57-yard run by Damien Harris.

Arkansas fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, and Alabama took advantage of the Razorback turnover with a second Hurts touchdown run a few plays later. Arkansas answered with a touchdown drive of their own on the next possession, with Jeremy Sprinkle catching a 24-yard pass for a score from Austin Allen. Arkansas’ next offensive possession would also end with a touchdown, but this one was for Alabama instead. Tim Williams returned a Razorback fumble 23 yards for a score.

Alabama padded their lead with a 56-yard touchdown pass from Hurts to Harris, putting the Tide up 28-7. After Arkansas had a touchdown called off due to a penalty, the Razorbacks had to settle for a field goal, which was no good because Alabama came right back with another touchdown after Bret Bielema exploded on the sideline and drew an unsportsmanlike penalty to push a kickoff back 15 yards. Bo Scarbrough took off for a 21-yard score for the 35-10 lead.

Arkansas did manage to score one more touchdown before the end of the first half with Allen tossing to Keon Hatcher in the end zone.