Hogs present running challenge
P.J. James swears he will not think about Arkansas’ running backs Saturday when he gets his first carry.
“Our defense does a great job of stopping the run,” the sophomore running back said. “I feel like it’s not really a battle between [the other running backs and me] because I feel like our defense is just going to stop them.”
One can bet the rest of the Rutgers football team (2-1) will direct its full attention to the Razorbacks’ backfield.
Arkansas (3-0) features two running backs — Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams — who both average more than 100 yards per game. Collins, a true freshman, is fourth in the country this season with 418 rushing yards.
Williams is the bigger of the two, serving as the Razorback’s power runner. He has fewer carries than Collins — 51 to 70 — but has one more rushing touchdown. If Arkansas is down by the goal line, the ball will probably end up in the sophomore’s hands.
Collins, who is 5-foot-11 and 206 pounds, provides more of an up-field running approach, as he leads all freshman in the country in yards per game.
The Razorbacks offensive line, whose starters average 317 pounds, has aided both. The size advantage has allowed Arkansas to rush for more than 290 yards per game.
Head coach Kyle Flood is aware of the differences Arkansas will bring to Piscataway.
“Will we be challenged in ways that we haven’t been so far this week? I think we will,” Flood said. “I think this will be a bigger offensive line then we’ve faced this year. They have two big strong running backs. … So we’ll be challenged in different ways because of the talent for sure.”
Senior defensive end Marcus Thompson has also heard of the statistics in terms of size and numbers Arkansas will feature.
He is also constantly reminded about what conference the Razorbacks reside in.
Arkansas will be the first Southeastern Conference opponent to play in Piscataway and will serve as one of the most marquee opponents, in terms of reputation, to ever play at High Point Solutions Stadium. Rutgers is 6-11-2 all-time against the SEC.
“As far as their name, it doesn’t mean much,” Thompson said. “As far as how they play, yeah it’s a different game because they based their offense off the run. They’re definitely different than the previous teams we faced so far.”
Flood is also aware of what Arkansas brings in terms of reputation and prestige.
“I think there will be an excitement level in our fan base and in the stadium because of what this program represents for the first time coming to Piscataway,” Flood said. “I’m not naive to that.”
The game will be the Rutgers’ biggest test thus far, as the Knights boast the fifth-best rushing defense in the country.
That unit will face one of the better running attacks in the nation this season, so it is only inevitable one will prevail past the other.
Thompson hopes it is not his side that gives way.
“They’re going to be bigger than us, but we’re not worried about that because a lot of people we go up against will be bigger than our D-line,” he said. “They’re just going to know they have to bring it, because we’re going to bring it.”