D-line proves its worth against Hogs
Sophomore defensive tackle Darius Hamilton was well aware of the Arkansas offensive line’s size advantage.
“No question, they were huge up front,” Hamilton said. “One of their tackles was like 6-foot-10 and my guard was like 6-foot-7. They were all over 300 pounds so they were a big team and physical up front. I just think we were ready to play.”
True freshman Dan Skipper was that 6-foot-10 tackle — one of four Razorback offensive linemen 6-foot-7 or taller. Arkansas starters across the front average 317 yards and helped running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams become the 11th-best rushing offense before Saturday’s game.
Senior nose tackle Isaac Holmes, who is the heaviest defensive lineman for the Rutgers football team at 280 pounds, also knew what his unit was up against.
He looked at the size difference as an advantage in favor of the Scarlet Knights.
“We really pride ourselves on our movements, our low pad level and our toughness as a unit,” Holmes said. “So we’re able to look past size and as you can see, these guys were big and we were still able to get [tackles for loss] and get out there. As long as we can stay low, size doesn’t matter.”
He was right in terms of stopping the run, as the Knights held Arkansas to 101 rushing yards. The output was well lower than the Razorbacks’ season average of 294 rushing yards per game in their previous three contests.
Rutgers’ front seven also registered seven tackles for loss, and the longest run allowed was to Collins, who picked up a 19-yard gain. His longest run of the season was a 55-yard run Sept. 7 against Samford.
Arkansas provided Rutgers its biggest rush-stopping challenge this season, Holmes said.
“It was a real test. [The other teams we played], they did zone reads and stuff like that and kept the ball on the ground, but they didn’t pride themselves on the run,” Holmes said. “Arkansas prides themselves on the run, so that’s when we knew that this was a time to see where this run defense stands and I really say we did a really good job.”
Fresno State, Rutgers’ first opponent of the season, passed for 456 yards against the Knights but only rushed for 81 yards. Norfolk State and Eastern Michigan combined for 97 yards on the ground.
But Arkansas possesses athletes in the backfield and up front that all three teams do not. The way the defensive front contained the Razorbacks caught head coach Kyle Flood’s eye.
“I think we’re doing a good job against the run. I think we were tested last week in a way we hadn’t been [all year]. I knew that was going to be the case,” Flood said. “Bigger, stronger offensive line than we’ve seen all year and two of the finer running backs you’ll see in the country. … I knew we would be tested and I thought our players held up, and that’s a great sign for our defense.”
Rutgers will have a bye week before its next assignment, Southern Methodist, which nationally ranks 102nd in rushing offense.
While the Mustangs, or any team left on the Knights’ schedule, will not feature the offensive talent Arkansas possessed, Hamilton has a message for them.
“I think anybody who feels like they want to challenge us to any run game, any pass game, call us small, I think they’re going to be in for a long day,” Hamilton said.
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