This is the teams’ first meeting
Strengths: Receiver, defensive line
Weakness: Inexperienced offensive line
Strengths: Size, speed
Weakness: Key injuries
Coastal Carolina’s defensive line vs. Arkansas’ offensive line: The offensive line was projected to be a strength of the Razorbacks with four returning starters, including center Frank Ragnow, who was the top graded offensive lineman in the country by Pro Football Focus over the last two seasons. But the line has been beset by injuries and Ragnow is out for the year with a high ankle sprain. Arkansas has started five different offensive line combinations over the past five weeks, though the Hogs rushed for 260 yards on 53 carries against Mississippi last week and have rushed for at least 200 yards four times this season. Coastal’s experienced defensive line featuring Marcus Williamson, Ja’ree Tolbert, Dwayne Price and Myles White will likely have to slow Arkansas down for Coastal to keep the game close.
Players to watch
Senior quarterback Tyler Keane: He has thrown for more than 325 yards in two of his past five games and has a streak of 105 consecutive passes without an interception.
Junior cornerback Anthony Chesley: He recorded Coastal’s only touchdown last week against Texas State with a 50-yard fumble return and had a career-high 13 tackles including 11 solo stops.
Senior linebacker Shane Johnson: The inside linebacker was credited with 19 tackles last week to come within a tackle of the CCU single-game record set by Dominique Davenport in 2008 and matched by Quinn Backus in 2014.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Cole Kelley: He has started the past three games for injured senior Austin Allen, and on the season has completed 68 of 116 passes for 738 yards with seven passing TDs, a rushing TD and two interceptions.
Junior receiver Jonathan Nance: The 6-foot junior college transfer leads the Razorbacks with both 436 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns. Four of his touchdowns are on catches of 30-plus yards.
Senior defensive back Kevin Richardson II: He had a fumble recovery and return for a touchdown last week, and since Sept. 30 against New Mexico State he has three interceptions and the fumble recovery.
He said it
“As a team we’re looking forward to this environment. Last year we didn’t play in any of these environments so it’s going to be new to us. Although this season we’ve played in some pretty loud environments. I kind of look at those as a warmup to this environment Saturday. It’s going to be loud and hostile, but the guys need to focus on mental focus as opposed to being distracted by the external factors.” – CCU junior cornerback Anthony Chesley
“It’s something that will allow our program to continue to market what we’re trying to accomplish, what we’re trying to do. Secondly it allows us to see what the big boys are about, and what we’d like to eventually get to. … We might improve tremendously but they might just be that much better than us, when you’re playing a team that’s that higher level and has got better players in a lot of areas.” – CCU interim head coach Jamey Chadwell
“I think the way the game is coached, officiated, set up, the ability to have a huge momentum swing involving a lot of points is more capable than ever before. It seems like when that ball gets rolling the other way sometimes it’s just unbelievable what you can see happen in front of you. . . . In today’s game I think anybody can get anybody on any given day. It’s about those who believe and want to play a little bit longer than anybody else.” – Arkansas head coach Brett Bielema
Arkansas (3-5) earned its first SEC victory last week via the largest comeback in school history. The Razorbacks trailed Mississippi by 24 points on the road before rallying for a 38-37 win on kicker Connor Limpert’s 34-yard field goal with 4 seconds left.
“For guys to finish it out the way they did and never stop playing, never stop the faith and belief, and to get that win was a huge one for us,” Bielema said. “I’ve seen those kind of plays to catapult not only a game but a season.”
Coastal has previously played two SEC members, losing 70-10 to South Carolina in 2013, which the last time the Chants played any Power 5 Conference school, and 59-0 to Georgia in 2011.
“You’re watching them [on film] thinking, ‘Hey, maybe we can do this.’ Then you’re seeing they’re playing Alabama and some of those people so you know those teams are playing pretty good,” Chadwell said. “Just the size and speed of what they’re playing with is going to be the biggest challenge for us.”
Coastal has lost a program-record seven consecutive games and is coming off a 27-7 loss to Texas State, which entered the game 1-6 and winless in the Sun Belt Conference.
“We were really disappointed overall by our effort, or lack of effort, last week after watching the video,” Chadwell said. “… I thought we had turned the corner the previous week as far as their effort and the way we wanted to play, and I felt the last four weeks we’d been getting better and last week we took a step backward, which was disappointing.”
Arkansas senior quarterback Austin Allen, who has missed the past three games with a shoulder injury, was expected to practice Tuesday through Thursday and would be evaluated for his availability Saturday. He led the SEC with 3,430 passing yards in 2016.
Redshirt freshman Cole Kelley has replaced Allen for the past three games against No. 2 Alabama, No. 14 Auburn and Ole Miss. Arkansas lost the first two 41-9 and 52-20. At Mississippi, Kelley threw three touchdowns and rushed for a 15-yard score to lead the comeback, and led a 62-yard drive late in the fourth quarter to set up the game-winning field goal. The Lafayette, La., native was 19 of 30 for 189 yards on the day and rushed for 22 yards.
“I think you’ve got to have a No. 1 quarterback and the kids need to know who it is over the course of the week,” Bielema said. “The good news is now we’ve had two guys that have had success. But I don’t think Austin is at a point where right now we can say he’s the No. 1 quarterback to prepare all week to get to Saturday. Maybe next week, yes, but right not it’s not the case.”
Both teams are dealing with injuries, as CCU running backs Osharmar Abercrombie and Marcus Outlow are returning from injuries but may not be full strength, starting left tackle Rodney Mitchell is out and in concussion protocol, guard Adam Lawhorn is questionable for the game and defenders Dwayne Price, Silas Kelly and Amir Howard are all probable after missing last week’s game.
Injuries are contributing to Coastal’s projected offensive line consisting of two true freshmen, two redshirt freshman and a sophomore.
Injuries have impacted Arkansas’ offensive line, and the Hogs are without or are expected to be without senior quarterback Austin Allen, running backs Rawleigh Williams III and Chase Hayden, receiver Jared Cornelius and defensive back Ryan Pulley – all led Arkansas in key categories either in 2016 or this season.
▪ The Razorbacks have already played a Sun Belt member this season, defeating New Mexico State 42-24 at Reynolds Stadium on Sept. 30.
▪ The game is homecoming for Arkansas
▪ Bielema is in his fifth season at Arkansas, and after a 3-9 first season in 2013, the Razorbacks have been 7-6 in two seasons and 8-5 in 2015, making a bowl game in each of the past three seasons. A 5-3 mark in 2015 was Bielema’s only winning record in the SEC.
▪ Before being injured, Allen led the Razorbacks to a 2-3 record with losses to TCU, South Carolina and Texas A&M in overtime, and a pair of wins against lesser non-conference opponents.
.▪ CCU receivers Chris Jones and Malcolm Williams are each averaging more than 20 yards per catch, with Jones at 22.3 and Williams at 20.1.
Arkansas 45, Coastal Carolina 17: Coastal’s play will have to improve greatly from last week for the Chants to be competitive.
Who: Coastal Carolina (1-7, 0-5 Sun Belt) at Arkansas (3-5, 1-4 SEC)
When: 4 p.m. (ET)
Where: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Ark.
TV: SEC Network Alternate, ESPN3 online
Live stats: Through www.goccusports.com GameTracker
Radio: WRNN 99.5-FM