The Other Side: A Preview of the Razorbacks with the Arkansas Traveler

Deana Nichols, Contributing Writer

The No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0) takes on the No. 20 Arkansas Razorbacks (3-1) this Saturday at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The Crimson White sat down with Arkansas Traveler Editor-in-Chief Robert Stewart to discuss the upcoming matchup.  

How have the Razorbacks been preparing this week coming off last week’s loss against Texas A&M? 

“There have been two points of emphasis this week on the defensive side of the ball: tackling and turnovers. Arkansas held Texas A&M quarterback Max Johnson to 11-21 passing last week, yet time of possession was almost even because no one behind the defensive line could seem to make a tackle. Saturday’s loss also marked the second straight game for the Hogs without a turnover, so they are going to have to change that if they want a chance to beat Alabama.” 

Who are some of the players we expect to see make big plays? 

“Expect KJ Jefferson to be the toughest quarterback the Crimson Tide has faced all season. He kept last season’s matchup in Tuscaloosa close, but trusty wideout Treylon Burks, who hauled in eight passes for 179 yards and two scores in that contest, is no longer around to help him.” 

“Running back Raheim ‘Rocket’ Sanders has rushed for at least 100 yards in three of his four games, but last week featured a more balanced rushing attack with the return of Dominique Johnson, so we could see a backfield committee.” 

“Out wide, Jadon Haselwood has led the way with 18 receptions and two touchdowns, but the speedy Matt Landers may play a larger role after a one-target dud last week. Warren Thompson and tight end Trey Knox have also found the end zone twice this season, so Jefferson has plenty of options should the Alabama secondary limit the effectiveness of the top pass catchers.”

“On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Drew Sanders has made an immediate impact as an edge rusher, and the Hogs will need him to keep it up against his former team. He has teamed up with a relatively inexperienced defensive line to wreak havoc in opposing teams’ backfields.”

What are coaches hoping to see from these key players? 

“Sam Pittman and company are looking for points and ball security. The Razorbacks only trailed FCS foe Missouri State in the fourth quarter because they turned it over three times. Had they not allowed a 98-yard fumble return to go for six points last week, they very well may have beaten the Aggies.” 

“This Arkansas offense is capable of hanging with the Crimson Tide, but it cannot make any mistakes and it has to eat up as much clock as possible. Bryce Young had one of the games of his life against the Hogs last year, throwing for 559 yards and five scores, and he is poised to post similar numbers against a Razorback secondary that is hurting just as much as it was down the stretch last year.” 

Are there any injuries thus far that’ll be missing from the lineup on Saturday?  

“The most noteworthy injury is to safety Jalen Catalon, who sustained a shoulder injury in the season opener against Cincinnati. He underwent season-ending surgery for the second consecutive season, leaving the defensive backs without their leader.” 

“Also of note, Haselwood was in a green non-contact jersey during practice Monday and Tuesday, but nothing has indicated he will not be ready to go come 2:30 Saturday.” 

How does playing on their home field benefit the team? 

“Home-field advantage has been huge for the Hogs this season. The seventh-largest crowd in stadium history showed up in the opener against Cincinnati and made enough noise to force four Bearcat penalties on a drive that started on the Arkansas 3-yard line. A touchdown there could have tied the game, but the Razorbacks forced a field goal attempt instead.” 

“Even coming off a loss, fans know Saturday will be the biggest game of the season, and they will surely try to be as much of a factor in the outcome as they possibly can. If the Tide took 15 penalties at Texas earlier this season, one can bet Arkansas fans will take it upon themselves to force 16.” 

Is there anything specific the team is doing to stop some of Alabama’s big playmakers such as Will Anderson, Bryce Young and Ja’Corey Brooks? 

“No. The Razorback defensive players have to prove they can make open-field tackles before they can focus on doing anything in particular to stop the superstars.” 

“As for Will Anderson, the Hogs do have one of the better offensive lines in the conference, and Jefferson’s abilities to evade sacks, extend plays and gain yards is impressive. The more pressure Anderson brings; however, the more likely Jefferson is to make a mistake.” 

Kickoff is set for Saturday, Oct. 1 at 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]