Report Card: Auburn 45, Arkansas 21
Arkansas took a 45-21 loss at the hands of No. 5 Auburn on Saturday but did show signs of improvement from a year ago. Here's a position-by-position report card on how the Hogs played:
Brandon Allen played well enough for Arkansas to win the game. He was 18 of 31 for 175 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception (returned for a touchdown). Down by 17 points and placed in obvious passing situations in the second half, his stat line got away from him a little bit as he finished 3 of 8 for 23 yards.
The junior also dealt with a huge drop by Keon Hatcher that would have gone for a 70-yard touchdown, in addition to drops by Demetrius Wilson, Hunter Henry and Drew Morgan. Allen was also sacked only once on the day.
Arkansas' problem was not Brandon Allen. His performance gives the Razorbacks hope for having a good chance at winning enough games to reach a bowl game this season, which is a far cry from last season.
RUNNING BACK: B+
After rushing for 151 yards in the first half, the Razorbacks were held to only 2 rushing yards on 8 carries in the second half. A lot of that was due to Auburn's adjustments at the break, but for the first two quarters Arkansas showed why its trio of backs is considered one of the nation's best as all three finished with rushing averages over 4.9 per carry.
Alex Collins led the way with 68 yards on 10 carries and one catch for 5 yards. Korliss Marshall missed quite a bit of time with an injury but still managed 59 yards on 9 total touches. Jonathan Williams was the only one to hit paydirt but finished with only 34 yards on 7 touches.
Auburn got the ball after half and made it 28-21 and, for whatever reason, Arkansas coach Jim Chaney dialed up three straight passes on the Hogs' ensuing possession instead of keeping things on the ground. The Razorbacks went three-and-out, punted, forced a turnover on Auburn's first play, then stalled out at Auburn's 34 yard line and decided to punt. That's not on the running backs, this group did its job and just needed more opportunities to make plays.
WIDE RECEIVER: D-
It was good to see some positive things out of Demetrius Wilson, but he also had a drop that can't be overlooked. Only three wide receivers made a catch, and Hatcher's touchdown drop is one that's very, very hard to overlook as it would have knotted the game at 14-14 instead of the eventual 21-7 Auburn lead.
Jared Cornelius and Drew Morgan both went without receptions after being tabbed as two of the team's top three receivers in fall camp.
For as much talk about this unit this offseason, there certainly wasn't much to back it up in Saturday's game. The highlight of this group's weekend was K.J. Hill committing to join it next year.
TIGHT END: B
A.J. Derby had an impressive debut with 4 catches for 40 yards and Arkansas' second touchdown of the game. Hunter Henry got the Hogs on board first with a 14-yard touchdown reception, but he also failed to come away with a ball that probably should have been caught as the Razorbacks trailed 38-21 in the fourth quarter. Jeremy Sprinkle made a nice 10-yard play in the second quarter.
All in all, it was a good day for this group, but they'll need more production from these guys if the receivers can't do any better than they did against Auburn.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C+
This was really the story of two halves, as Arkansas absolutely manhandled Auburn's front seven in the first two quarters but only mustered up 2 rushing yards on 8 attempts in the second half.
Had Arkansas pressed the issue instead of abandoning the run, who knows, maybe the final stat line (and the scoreboard) would read much differently. The Hogs only gave up one sack on the day but Auburn did have 9 quarterback pressures on Allen.
Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland seemed to have very good outings. Brey Cook was solid but did have a pre-snap penalty (Skipper also had a 15-yard personal foul at one point). Arkansas rotated Luke Charpentier and Sebastian Tretola for most of the day at left guard. Center Mitch Smothers seemed to get blown up on a few occasions in Saturday's game, so it'll be interesting to see if Arkansas hurries up the process with talented freshman Frank Ragnow with this week's pancake opponent (Nicholls State).
DEFENSIVE LINE: D
Arkansas did get a total of 3.5 tackles behind the line from this group, but one of the biggest reasons Auburn had so much success through the air was the Hogs not getting any pressure on the Tigers' two quarterbacks.
The Razorbacks also gave up 302 rushing yards (6.3 YPC), which, even against a great team like Auburn is an embarrassing total.
Trey Flowers, as one might expect, led the way with 9 tackles including one behind the line.
Auburn had 9 quarterback hurries to Arkansas' 2. Both teams had one sack apiece.
Brooks Ellis finished with 8 tackles and 2.5 behind the line of scrimmage, and Martrell Spaight added 7 tackles including some that would be considered Arkansas' biggest hits of the game.
However, it's clear that Arkansas still lacks speed and a true playmaker in this group. TiQuention Coleman played quite a bit and didn't have an outstanding performance by any means.
Strength is also a concern in this group. Auburn was able to pile up yardage after contact and move the pile throughout the day on Saturday.
One could argue that Arkansas' corners had a decent enough game but just didn't have any help from the safeties or in terms of a pass rush from the defensive line. I'm not sure that wasn't the case for a large portion of the game.
Jared Collins and Carroll Washington both made big stops in run support, but overall, the Hogs came away with zero interceptions and zero pass break-ups while giving up 293 yards through the air.
The silver lining here is that Arkansas should be able to convince current safety recruits that there's immediate playing time to be had in Fayetteville.
Alan Turner led the Razorbacks with 10 tackles and Rohan Gaines added 8 more, but the stats are pretty misleading.
Arkansas' safeties, including true freshman Joshua Liddell in his limited time on the field, were pretty bad in terms of limiting Auburn's big plays -- especially in the passing game. It was almost as if Auburn game-planned to pick on Turner and Gaines.
Granted, Auburn has a great play-action attack that puts a lot of pressure on opposing safeties, but the missed tackles are why this grade is so low. Arkansas simply isn't good enough to overcome missed tackles.
This D- might be generous, by the way.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Sam Irwin-Hill had a very nice day, as expected. He punted 7 times for an average of 43 yards per punt, landed four inside the 20 yard line, including one at Auburn's 2, and had a long of 52 yards.
Irwin-Hill also kicked off four times and put two of them in the end zone for touchbacks.
Arkansas' return game wasn't much to write home about, as D.J. Dean returned two punts for 11 yards and Marshall had one kickoff return for 15 yards. Auburn's Daniel Carlson showed he may end up being the SEC's best this year by averaging 53.3 yards per punt and getting touchbacks from 7 of his 8 kickoffs. The Tigers also had an 18-yard punt return and a 32-yard kickoff return against the Hogs.