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Inside the Numbers: Arkansas was nearly historic on the ground

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The Razorbacks ground game was like few we’ve seen in the last 10 years.

Texas v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

There are very few ways to say it, but the Texas Longhorns put together one of their worst performances in recent memory in the 40-21 blowout by the Arkansas Razorbacks. Texas was held scoreless in the first half for the first time since 2015 and was the largest losing margin since the 22-point drubbing from TCU that ended the Charlie Strong era.

How did they end up here?

Texas: 155 sack-adjusted rushing yards, 4.1 sack adjusted yards per rush

If you add back in the 17 yards of sacks, the Longhorns still had a terrible game on the ground. The Arkansas defensive front had its way with the Longhorns’ offensive line and kept the Longhorns’ offense from finding any sort of rhythm. Texas managed just 2.8 line yards per rush - meaning that the offensive line created less than three yards of space per rush, while Texas had just 13 rushing yards at the second level (between five and 10 yards past the line of scrimmage). Compare that to a week ago, Texas managed 3.3 line yards per rush and nearly 30 yards at the second level.

Head coach and play-caller Steve Sarkisian also shied away from using his best player - Bijan Robinson - as the game closed. Robinson touched the ball on 63% of Texas offensive plays, but did not record a single touch in the final frame of the game. In spite of having 20 touches in the game, Robinson was unable to find a rhythm and recorded his fourth performance under four yards per touch, only two of which he was given more than 10 carries.

Arkansas: 333 rushing yards, 7.1 yards per rush

The Razorbacks got whatever they wanted on the ground yesterday, allowing their offense to cruise and keeping quarterback KJ Jefferson to have to beat the defense with his arm. But it was way more than Jefferson to get the job done on the ground. Arkansas had five players with more than six carries and all of them averaged at least 6.3 yards per carry in the contest - led by AJ Green. Green managed 67 yards on seven carries for a whopping 9.6 yards per carry - a number buoyed by a 30-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter once the game was already well in hand for Arkansas.

In the last 10 years there have been just three instances of a higher yards per carry number, the Oklahoma Sooners in 2019 and 2018 and the 2013 BYU game - the game that cost Manny Diaz his job.

The last time Texas gave up that many yards was actually in a win, the 2016 35-34 win over the Baylor Bears. That game featured a 180-yard performance from running back Terence Williams and a 138-yard performance from quarterback Seth Russell. However, D’Onta Foreman put the team on his back in that game, rushing for 250 yards and two scores - averaging 7.8 yards per carry.

3rd Downs: Arkansas 4/12 (33.3 percent)

On the surface, this isn’t a particularly bad outcome from the Texas defense, but the way they converted those four first downs is what gives pause. Of those four conversions, just one was on an attempt longer than five yards and on average the Razorbacks had just 5.3 yards to go on third down. All four of their conversions came on the ground, averaging 7.5 yards per rush on third down by the Razorbacks.

The Hogs found this third-down success by their ability to run the ball on first down and get ahead of the chains. Of the 333 total rushing yards from Arkansas on Saturday, 160 of them came on first down for an average of seven yards per carry. Playing ahead of the chains gave them incredible offensive efficiency and kept them out of third-down situations. They managed to convert a first down on eight of their 31 first downs and went three-and-out just one time in the entire game - the opening drive. They had just four drives that did not end in points, the first two drives of the game and then the two drives to close out the two halves of the game.