Primetime College Football: AutoZone Liberty Bowl
The 52nd annual Liberty Bowl will see East Carolina Pirates from Conference USA, in their second consecutive appearance, to face from the SEC the Arkansas Razorbacks in Memphis.
The Razorbacks have a long history of participating in bowl games, but unfortunately winning those matchups have been tough for this school. This will be the 37th bowl game for Arkansas, but the team is just 11-22-3 in the postseason, and has lost 12 of its last 14 bowl games, including a 38-7 setback to Missouri in the 2008 Cotton Bowl.
Bobby Petrino’s Razorbacks definitely possessed one of the most dangerous offensive units in the entire nation, as the team produced 37 ppg. The ground game is churning out 136 yards per without a true running back. Michael Smith led the way on the year with 396 yards, while Broderick Green added 392 yards and 11 touchdowns on 4.2 yards per carry. Ryan Mallett was the difference maker throwing for 3,422 yards with 29 touchdowns against just 7 interceptions. Greg Childs hauled in 45 receptions for 862 yards and 7 touchdowns and Jarius Wright collected 37 passes for 591 yards and 4 scores while Joe Adams also caught 7 touchdowns.
The Razorbacks were unable to keep up with the top teams in their conference was because the defense was simply not good enough. The defense allowed 25 ppg throughout the season and was unable to stop opponents on the ground or through the air. Arkansas was gashed for 150.1 rushing ypg, and even worse was their performance against the pass, as teams torched this unit for 251.8 ypg and also tossed 21 touchdowns against Arkansas. The defense however, was one of the top teams in the country in forcing turnovers, racking up 34 takeaways on the year. Pressuring the quarterback was also another solid area for this team, with 26 sacks. The Razorbacks also stepped up their effort when it mattered most defensively, as the team held opponents to just 36 percent on third downs and allowed just 17 touchdowns in 39 red zone chances for the opposition. Jerry Franklin led the way for Arkansas on the season with 84 tackles, while Adrian Davis and Jake Bequette both collected 5.5 sacks apiece.
As for Skip Holtz’s Pirates, they could not find their stride out of the gate in 2009, splitting their first six games down the middle however the Pirates really took off winning six of their last seven games. East Carolina’s bowl history is not as dated as Arkansas but do have a mark of 5-5 in postseason. However, the team has lost three of its last four and that includes a 25-19 setback to Kentucky in last season’s Liberty Bowl.
The Pirates relied on their rushing attack as the team rumbled for 149.6 ypg on 4.1 yards per attempt. 23 of the team’s 37 touchdowns came on the ground and those scores helped ECU average a respectable 27 ppg. Dominique Lindsay was the main source of production rumbling for 1,029 yards and 5 scores on 5.0 yards per carry. The passing attack has not been as successful as the ground game because Pat Pinkney was inconsistent throwing for 2,738 yards and 14 scores against 10 interceptions. Dwayne Harris was the top wideout with 79 receptions, 914 yards and 6 touchdowns. Darryl Freeney was also a solid option for Pinkney and finished the regular season with 42 catches for 624 yards and three scores.
Overall the play by the defensive unit for East Carolina was solid, as the team held the opposition to just 22 ppg. The Pirates did a solid job against the run, limiting teams to just 123.3 ypg however the secondary was torched for 262.3 ypg through the air, and surrendered 23 passing touchdowns. C.J. Wilson led the way with 5.5 sacks on the year, while Scott Robinson added five sacks. Nick Johnson led the team with 94 tackles on the season, while Van Eskridge racked up 93 stops and a team-best six interceptions.
This is the first ever meeting between the two schools on the football field.
PICK: University of Arkansas Razorbacks