Looking back at Arkansas’ 45-21 loss at No. 6 Auburn

Looking back at Arkansas’ 45-21 loss at No. 6 Auburn

Five Keys Review

1. Curb Penalties, Turnovers — Somewhat Accomplished

Arkansas didn’t make many mistakes in its 45-21 loss to Auburn. The Razorbacks committed five penalties for 50 yards. They turned the ball over once. But quarterback Brandon Allen’s interception became the game-changing moment in the loss. Allen was hit as he was throwing late in the third quarter and his pass floated, landing in safety Jermaine Whitehead’s arms. Whitehead’s 33-yard interception return gave Auburn a 35-21 lead. Arkansas had not other response.

2. Run Game Success — Somewhat Accomplished

The Razorbacks needed to run the ball with success to keep pace with Auburn’s no-huddle offense. The plan worked well in the first half. Arkansas’ offensive line opened gaping holes for its trio of running backs, which then led to success with play-action passes. Arkansas rushed for 151 yards and averaged 7.2 yards an attempt in the first half. But the dominance disappeared after halftime when the Razorbacks could only manage two rushing yards on eight attempts.

3. Think Fast — Not Accomplished

Arkansas may not have been caught unprepared for Auburn’s hurry-up, no-huddle offense. But the Razorbacks didn’t handle it very well Saturday. The Tigers were able to streak downfield to three touchdowns in the first 17 minutes Saturday. The defense settled in to force some stops late in the half, but had no answer for Auburn’s ground game in the second half. The Tigers piled up 595 yards in the win.

4. Help Your QB — Somewhat Accomplished

Arkansas’ retooled receiving corps made a few plays Saturday. One example: Demetrius Wilson reaching back to snag a pass thrown behind him to help Arkansas convert on third down. But there were plenty of missed opportunities as well. The biggest mistake came in the early minutes, when junior Keon Hatcher dropped a perfectly thrown deep ball from Allen. Arkansas didn’t score on the drive, while Auburn moved downfield with a big play on the next possession to take a 21-7 lead.

5. Win Third Down — Not Accomplished

The Arkansas offense had trouble staying on the field Saturday, finishing 2-for-10 on third-down conversions. The struggles began on the first drive, when Allen dove just short of the mark on a 3rd-and-8 play. The defense, meanwhile, struggled to get off the field all night. Auburn went 9-for-14 on third down. The success stared early. The Tigers went 2-for-2 on third down during their opening-drive touchdown, while Auburn’s third score came on a third-down pass to receiver Duke Williams.

Quote Corner

• Coach Bret Bielema on Arkansas’ tackling troubles:

" Such an emphasis on ball disruption, I think there were a lot of guys that should have been solidifying the tackle a little bit more rather than trying to strip the ball out. We got some balls out and all that jazz, but too many yards after contact overall. Give credit to Auburn, but obviously something we’ll work on a great deal."

• Tight end A.J. Derby on the season-opening loss:

"It’s definitely not a moral victory for us. We feel Auburn is a really good team. We feel like we could’ve played with them for four quarters. We didn’t do that (Saturday). We only played two. So we’re pretty down about it."

• Quarterback Brandon Allen on what Arkansas learned:

"We played with a really good team in the first half. We need to continue that in the second half. We know we can play at the level with the best of them. It’s clear to see. We just need to keep that momentum going in the second half of football games."

• Bielema on the struggles against Auburn’s passing attack:

"The speed of the game and just the pure reading keys and reaction, it looked like we were a little bit slow at times. We were just a hair behind the play."

Players of the Game

Offense – RB Alex Collins (10 carries, 68 yards)

Collins was the most productive member of Arkansas’ backfield, barreling through big holes in the first half. The sophomore – who put on weight in the offseason – showed the same burst that helped him top 1,000 yards as a freshman in 2013. He had the Hogs’ longest run (21 yards) and averaged a team-high 6.8 yards a carry.

Defense – S Alan Turner (Game-high 9 tackles)

Arkansas doesn’t want its safety leading the team in tackles again this season, but the senior had to fill the role once again Saturday. Turner finished with a game-high nine tackles, including eight solo stops. He wasn’t perfect (Auburn took advantage of every defensive back through the air). But Turner was solid in his season debut.

Special Teams – P Sam Irwin-Hill (Averaged 43 yards a punt)

The senior was busy in the opener, averaging 43 yards on seven times. His longest as a 52-yarder, but Irwin-Hill’s best work came in pinning Auburn inside its 20-yard line to start drives four times. Irwin-Hill also handled kickoff duties for the Razorbacks on Saturday. Four of his kicks were downed for touchbacks.

That Figures

4 — Players who earned their first starts with the Razorbacks in Saturday’s loss at Auburn. The group included: Wide receiver Demetrius Wilson, defensive end JaMichael Winston, nose guard Taiwan Johnson and linebacker TQ Coleman.

7 — Number of offensive linemen who played Saturday. The Razorbacks entered the game believing it would play up to eight and nearly accomplished it. Sebastian Tretola and Cameron Jefferson earned playing time behind starters. Arkansas considered playing freshman Frank Ragnow, but opted to stick with center Mitch Smothers the entire game. Bielema said Ragnow will play this season, though.

8 — Number of times Arkansas has allowed 30 points or more during its nine SEC games under coach Bret Bielema. The 24-17 overtime loss at Mississippi State was the only time Bielema’s team has held an SEC opponent under the 30-point mark.

8 — Consecutive games the Razorbacks have been held under 200 passing yards dating back to last season. Brandon Allen and the Arkansas offense threw for 175 yards at Auburn. The last 200-yard passing performance came in the 2013 SEC opener against Texas A&M when the Razorbacks threw for a season-high 282 yards.

10 — Members of Arkansas’ 2014 signing class who made their debut at Auburn. The 10 who played included: Tretola and Jefferson, receivers Cody Hollister and Jared Cornelius, linebackers Randy Ramsey, Josh Williams and Dwayne Eugene, defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson, safety Josh Liddell and cornerback Henre’ Toliver.

Up Next

Arkansas will play its home opener against Nicholls State in Razorback Stadium on Saturday at 3 p.m. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.

It will be the first meeting between the schools. The game also will be Nicholls State’s first against a Southeastern Conference opponent.

Nicholls State is member of the Southland Football Conference and plays in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). The Colonels, who are coached by former Tulsa offensive coordinator and Alabama quarterbacks coach Charlie Stubbs, suffered a 44-16 loss at Air Force in their season opener Saturday afternoon.

— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau