FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas defense entered the Rutgers game as — statistically — one of the worst in the nation.
A 35-26 loss where the defense surrendered 525 yards of offense to the Scarlet Knights solidified the Razorbacks’ spot at the bottom of the rankings.
Entering the game Saturday ...
• In total defense, Arkansas was 93rd out of 124 FBS teams, allowing an average of 437 yards per game.
• Arkansas was 99th in first downs allowed at 24 per game. Arkansas allowed 26 to Rutgers.
• The 1,310 yards allowed in three games put the Razorbacks at 101st in that category. Arkansas has now allowed 1,835 yards of offense.
• Arkansas was 110th in the nation in pass defense by allowing 852 yards and 75th in run defense with 458 yards. The Razorbacks have now given up 1,249 passing and 586 rushing.
• At 36.7 points per game, the Arkansas defense was 108th in the nation. Now the Razorbacks are allowing 35.5.
• The Razorbacks had allowed 18 red zone possessions in three games. That was tied for the most in the nation heading into this week’s games. Now Arkansas has given up 23.
Gary Nova, the Rutgers’ quarterback, had a career night against the Razorbacks. In 2011, the sophomore threw for 298 yards against UConn in 2011 and had never thrown for more than two touchdowns in his previous 12 games for Rutgers.
Against the porous Arkansas pass defense Nova posted 397 yards and five touchdowns. His NCAA quarterback rating for the game was 213.9.
He did most of his damage in the second half. After two quarters, Rutgers had just 195 total yards and Nova was 12-of-17 for 150 yards and two touchdowns.
Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said the Razorbacks’ tendency to just play one half of good defense has become a trend.
“We’re just not putting two halves together. It’s a tale of two halves. We got to make sure we have it for four quarters,” Haynes said. “It comes down to execution, missed assignments. We just got to make sure we put it all together. We talk about playing the whole game, all 60 minutes. ... We’re not doing that.
“We just aren’t playing a complete game and that’s surprising to me. You do good in the first half, then it looks like a completely different team in the second half.”
Trailing by nine late in the fourth quarter, the Arkansas defense had a chance to finally make a big play. With the Scarlet Knights pinned at their own 1-yard-line, Jawan Jamison took a handoff and ran into a stacked up offensive line inside the Rutgers’ end zone. It looked as if Arkansas was going to score a safety with more than six minutes left that would have cut the Rutgers’ lead to seven and given the Razorback offense the ball.
Instead, Jamison spun to his left and bounced outside containment. He scrambled for 24 yards before Ross Rasner drug him down.
“We looked like we had him 3- (or) 4-yards deep in the end zone, we had four guys on him. I thought it was a safety, then he just pops around the corner,” Rasner said. “I think that’s where the game fell apart for us. We make that play and we’re back in the game down seven points.”
Haynes said that play typifies the way the defense has played during the three-game losing streak.
“We get that safety right there right at the end, it’s a different ballgame,” Haynes said. “It didn’t happen, you’re there — you’re right there. We just didn’t finish. We didn’t finish that play.”
Will Hines, a true freshman, started for Arkansas at one cornerback position against Rutgers. He was burned for two of Nova’s touchdown passes.
Arkansas head coach John L. Smith said that’s to be expected with a freshman on the field.
“A lot of young guys are playing. There’s going to be growing pains, there’s going to be some mistakes with those guys,” Smith said. “He’s going to be a good player. You hate to say that you have to play a freshman right now, but that’s the situation you are (in) now.”