Five Keys Review

1. Win Turnover Battle

Arkansas entered Saturday’s game last in the nation in turnover margin (minus-13) and emerged a little better off (minus-10). The Razorbacks lost two fumbles, but the defense forced five more in the win at Auburn.

It was an impressive turnaround and much-needed for a group that had been hurting itself because of turnover trouble. Arkansas had forced two turnovers in its previous five games. A fumble recovery by Will Hines in the second quarter snapped a streak of 14 quarters with a takeaway by the Razorbacks.

2. Critical Zone Success

Arkansas felt good about the win, but Tyler Wilson was a realist afterward. He knew the Razorbacks were in a nail-biter early in the fourth quarter because of Arkansas’ struggles inside the 20-yard line in the first half.

The Razorbacks moved into Auburn’s red zone on three possessions, but couldn’t cash in with touchdowns on each trip. Instead, Arkansas settled for 10 points.

Arkansas did finish 3-for-4 with two touchdowns inside the red zone at Auburn. It included a pair of 2-yard touchdown runs by Dennis Johnson. The Razorbacks had one rushing touchdown in the past four games before Johnson scored.

3. Fight Through Adversity

Arkansas didn’t have much to show for its solid start Saturday. The Hogs struggled inside the 20-yard line (one touchdown on three drives). Zach Hocker had trouble (1-for-3 on field goal attempts). Arkansas’ lead should’ve been more than 10-0.

It led to a gut-check moment in the second half when Auburn finally broke through, scoring a touchdown to cut the Razorbacks’ lead to 10-7. Arkansas – which had gone three-and-out on its third quarter possessions, marched 75 yards in 5 plays to regain the 10-point cushion. The touchdown proved to be Auburn’s breaking point.

4. Take Charge Up Front

Defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said the defensive front played with their “ears on fire” Saturday. While we’re not sure what that means, he was right. The front – long regarded as the strength of the defense – finally played like it at Auburn.

Arkansas was in the backfield on the first snap and didn’t relent. The Razorbacks finished with eight sacks and the front was responsible for six of them. Arkansas only had seven sacks (six from defensive linemen) entering the game.

The Arkansas offensive line, on the other hand, turned in one of its best efforts in protecting Tyler Wilson. The quarterback was sacked once and hit a few times, but the Razorbacks showed more improvement against a solid defensive front.

5. Be Sound In Secondary

Arkansas’ starting secondary included plenty of youth: Freshmen cornerbacks (Will Hines and Davyon McKinney), freshman safety Rohan Gaines and sophomore Alan Turner. The group – which also got plenty of help from veteran safeties Ross Rasner and Eric Bennett – turned in its best performance of the season against Auburn.

The Razorbacks give up 281 passing yards, but didn’t make big mistakes. The most glaring blemish was a 21-yard touchdown pass after a coverage bust. But Hines, Rasner and Alan Turner each had interceptions as part of the five takeaways.

Players of the Game

Offense – RB Dennis Johnson (17 carries, 76 yards, 2 TDs)

The senior finally earned the bulk of the carries and produced, leading a ground game that gained 130 yards. Johnson did have a long run, but was consistent. He churned his legs, gained positive yards and scored two touchdowns. The two-touchdown performance equaled a career-high for Johnson.

Defense – Trey Flowers (5 tackles, 3 ½ sacks, 2 QB hurries)

Flowers, a Huntsville native, was back in his home state and enjoyed the best performance of his career. The sophomore sacked Auburn’s quarterbacks 3 ½ times, leading the way for an Arkansas defense that finished with eight Saturday. Two sacks came on third down, ending Auburn drives.

Special Teams – P Dylan Breeding (Averaged 51.5 yards on 4 punts)

Breeding turned in his usual performance Saturday. The senior averaged 51.5 yards on his four punts. It included a 70-yarder in the second half. Breeding also put three of his four punts inside Auburn’s 20-yard line, helping to pin the Tigers. Breeding ranks sixth in the NCAA in punting, averaging 46.4 yards an attempt.

That Figures

2 — Number of times Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson has not thrown a touchdown pass in his 18 career starts. It also happened in Arkansas’ 29-24 win at Ole Miss last October. Wilson may have gone without, but the Razorbacks did get a touchdown pass Saturday. Brandon Mitchell threw a 26-yard strike to Javontee Herndon on a trick play in the fourth quarter to give the Razorbacks a 17-7 lead.

17 – Rushing attempts for running back Dennis Johnson at Auburn. It’s the second-highest total of his career behind the 18-carry, 127-yard performance in Arkansas’ win against LSU in 2008. Johnson finished with 76 yards and two touchdowns.

2,196 — Career receiving yards for Cobi Hamilton, who moved into fifth place on the school’s all-time list with his 86-yard performance at Auburn. Hamilton — who was originally credited with 5 catches for 72 yards – later had his Auburn game totals bumped to 7 catches for 86 yards after a mistake by the stat crew. Jarius Wright holds the school record in career receiving yards (2,934 from 2008-11).

117 – Where Arkansas ranks in turnover margin (minus-10 overall) after gaining five and losing two in the Auburn win. It’s a small improvement from last week, when the Razorbacks were last in the nation. Auburn now occupies the bottom spot.

Up Next

Arkansas (2-4, 1-2 in SEC) will be back at home to play Kentucky (1-5, 0-3) in Razorback Stadium on Saturday at 6 p.m. It begins a three-game home stand, which also includes Ole Miss (in Little Rock on Oct. 27) and Tulsa (Nov. 3).

Kentucky has lost four straight entering the game, including last Saturday’s 27-14 home loss to Mississippi State. The Wildcats rank 105th in the nation in scoring offense (20.5 points a game) and 89th in scoring defense (30.2).

The Wildcats have won two straight against the Razorbacks, beating Arkansas in Fayetteville in 2007 (42-29) and in Lexington, Kent., in 2008 (21-20).


“Tuesday was one of our best practices we’ve had really all year. Wednesday, took a step back, and Thursday had an incredible day. It’s a matter of putting a full week of practice together. I commend the guys for coming in and wanting to be good, wanting to win and wanting to work hard, because it’s easy to lay down. I’m happy with the way our guys responded.” — Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson

— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau