Bret Bielema hasn’t coached a game at Arkansas and Jim Chaney hasn’t called a play, but Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth is pretty sure physicality will be the name of the game when the teams meet Saturday.
The Louisiana-Lafayette coach specifically mentioned the battle at the line of scrimmage and points to the new Razorback’s coach reputation at Wisconsin.
“The success they (the Badgers) have had has just been phenomenal,” Hudspeth told The Advertiser in Lafayette. “Now to get a call to come to the SEC – he’s doing some things that are right.
“Plus, to me, he’s doing it the right way. He’s trying to be a physical, tough football team, and that’s what he was at Wisconsin.”
When Bielema took the job, he emphasized that the Hogs’ offense may not be a carbon copy of the Wisconsin game plan. Chaney’s Tennessee teams had success passing the ball and mixed it up.
However, Hudspeth is probably right. Arkansas may pass the ball more later in the season, but with an inexperienced quarterback in sophomore Brandon Allen, and with an unproved wide receiver corps, the Cajuns should see a healthy dose of the run.
“I think this game is gonna be won up front,” Hudspeth told The Advertiser. “I think most big football games are won at the line of scrimmage, and make no mistake about it: This one will be (too).
“In the past, Coach Bielema has done a great job of running the football. I don’t see them getting away from that. A tough, physical mentality. And I see them trying to line up and do that Saturday.
“Obviously we’ve had success running the football, too. We’re gonna have to be able to run the football. I like our backs. Our backs have had a great camp. Our offensive line has (come) together,” the Cajun coach added. “So, I’m hoping we can have some success there with the run game. But I really think this game will be dictated on who can run the ball and who can stop the run first.”
Arkansas’ line should be the standout part of the offense with All-American candidate Travis Swanson anchoring the corps at center. Springdale natives Brey Cook and Mitch Smothers have seen action and while the group is green, offensive line guru Sam Pittman has talent to work with. Early indications are, his tutelage has been well received.
Conversely, the Hogs defensive line, which is very experienced, could have its hands full with a Cajuns running game, which features three-year starting bruiser Alonzo Harris (6-1, 216). Harris ran for more than 800 yards last year, and racked up 120 yards and two touchdowns in a New Orleans Bowl win against East Carolina.
True freshman Elijah McGuire (5-11, 185), who dominated at Vanderbilt Catholic in Houma, La, is listed as the backup.
“I think it is gonna be a big man’s game with Alonzo Harris as we try to run the football and put some drives together,” Hudspeth says. “But I definitely think we’ll see (McGuire), as well as some of the other backs too, that have played well.”
UL has passed the ball effectively under Hudspeth, but containing Harris could be the key to the win. The Hogs defensive line could test some SEC lines and should be a big challenge for the Ragin Cajuns.
Hudspeth is right, at least for this game. Bielema is going to keep it simple in his debut. Control the ball and pound it at the smaller Cajuns line and try to wear them down in the late August mid-afternoon heat. That’s an effort the defensive line and their mates can aid if they produce three-and-outs keeping the UL defense on the field to endure long, physical drives.