FIVE KEYS TO TODAY’S GAME
FIVE KEYS TO TODAY’S GAME
1. Eliminate Mistakes
Arkansas is much better than Nicholls State. If the Razorbacks put together a clean performance they’ll have no problems with the Colonels. But there’s no quicker equalizer against an FCS opponent than turnovers, penalties and other mistakes.
2. Own the Trenches
The Razorbacks are bigger, deeper and more talented in the trenches and will get an opportunity to prove it today. Arkansas’ offensive front played well for one half at Auburn. The defensive front struggled. So improvement is the goal for both lines.
3. Strong Tackling
Auburn enjoyed some big plays last week because of Arkansas’ shoddy tackling. It was a disappointing result, considering the emphasis in the offseason. The Razorbacks need to show they’re better tacklers with bigger tests looming.
4. Better Pass Defense
Nicholls State doesn’t have receivers like Auburn. But after a rough performance from veterans like Rohan Gaines, Arkansas’ secondary needs a confidence-building effort on the back end by covering well, breaking up passes and making plays.
5. Stay Healthy
The Razorbacks aren’t deep enough across the roster to overcome some key losses at several positions. Obviously, injuries are a part of the game. But winning and staying healthy are an important combination with the trip to Texas Tech next.
TODAY’S KEY MATCHUP
Arkansas running backs
Key Statistics: Combined for 147 yards and a TD at Auburn
The three-man backfield had its share of impressive plays at Auburn. Especially in the first half, when Alex Collins, Korliss Marshall and Jonathan Williams ran through gaping holes. No one broke off a long run, though — minor injuries to Marshall (bruised arm) and Williams (shoulder) didn’t help matters. There wasn’t much production in the second half (two rushing yards), either. Arkansas wants that to change today. The running backs will lead the way against a Nicholls State defense that struggled to slow Air Force’s triple-option offense last Saturday.
Nicholls State defense
Key Statistics: Surrendered 539 rushing yards at Air Force
The Colonels, who are a Football Championship Subdivision program, faced a difficult challenge in Air Force’s option offense last week. The results weren’t pretty. Air Force leads the Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing after grinding out 539 yards against Nicholls State. The Razorbacks won’t run the option, but slowing down a massive offensive line and three talented tailbacks could be just as difficult for the Colonels. Somehow, Nicholls State will have to stand up to Arkansas’ ground game to have any chance of stunning the Razorbacks in their home opener.
EDGE: Arkansas running backs
UA believes Brandon Allen turned in his best performance at Auburn after throwing for 175 yards and 2 TDs with an INT; Nicholls QB Kalen Henderson missed most of last season with an injury. Backup Beaux Hebert went 6-for-6 for 64 yards last week.
Alex Collins was UA’s most productive back last week. Jonathan Williams (shoulder) and Korliss Williams (arm) had to fight through minor injuries; Nicholls State backs Michael Henry and Tobias Lofton combined for 43 yards and a TD on 13 carries.
UA tight ends Hunter Henry and AJ Derby caught TD passes at Auburn. There was more production from the receiving corps, but still too many drops; Nicholls WR Darryl Watson III caught a team-high 4 passes for 66 yards and a TD last week.
UA guard Denver Kirkland was impressive in his season debut. He was among seven offensive linemen to play in the opener. Freshman center Frank Ragnow will join the list today; Nicholls State’s offensive front surrendered five sacks at Air Force.
UA’s Trey Flowers had nine tackles in the opener. Tevin Beanum forced a fumble. But the Hogs struggled to pressure quarterbacks and need more production; Nicholls State defensive lineman Gus Ferrat collected 6 tackles, including a TFL at Air Force.
UA wants its young players on the field so three freshmen – Dwayne Eugene, Randy Ramsey and Khalia Hackett — should to get much more work on defense; Nicholls LB Davin Bovie returned from a knee injury to lead team with 11 tackles last week.
The UA secondary struggled in the opener, allowing 293 yards – most of it in the first half. S Josh Liddell and CB Henre’ Toliver will earn more playing time; CB Byron Cobb leads a secondary that wasn’t tested last week. Air Force attempted 6 passes.
OVERALL: Arkansas 41, Nicholls State 14