The snickers in the press box preceded the final play of the third quarter when Arkansas lined up in a swinging gate formation. Brian Buehner, a former quarterback listed as a wide receiver, lined up in the shotgun with most of the team way to his left and completed a fourth-down pass to Austin Tate to give Arkansas a first-and-goal at the Auburn 2. Kiero Small ran it in on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 28-17 after Zach Hocker’s extra point. The snickers were related to an off-the-field controversy in the week preceding the game when Arkansas coach Bret Bielema mentioned in his Monday news conference that Auburn had not included the swinging gate formation in its film exchange with Arkansas. Both coaches downplayed it in comments later. Bielema said after the game the Razorbacks don’t call their formation a swinging gate, but rather “field goal Buehner.”
Now At 84
Auburn has won 84 straight games when it has scored 30 or more points in a game. Arkansas defeated Arkansas 35-17 on Saturday.
Freshman linebacker Brooks Ellis of Fayetteville got his first start against Auburn. He was in the middle while senior Jarrett Lake moved to the outside. Martrell Spaight did not start against the Tigers. Ellis is the fourth true freshman to get a start for Arkansas this year The other three are Hunter Henry at tight end and offensive guards Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper. Ellis, who was named the state’s defensive player of the year in his junior and senior seasons at Fayetteville High School, had six tackles and half a sack against Auburn. Another change among starters was senior wide receiver Julian Horton, who hasn’t been in the opening lineup for a while.
With cameras following both, the head coaches at Arkansas and Auburn met at midfield about 45 minutes before kickoff Saturday and apparently exchanged pleasantries after a week in which much ado was made of an incomplete Auburn film in the mandated exchange. Arkansas’ Bret Bielema initiated the conversation with Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, which lasted maybe 30 seconds. The two coaches had a verbal disagreement in separate appearances at Southeastern Conference Media Days over the summer when Bielema said the no-huddle, hurry-up offense that Malzahn’s teams run could create injuries because players become exceedingly tired and there’s no time to substitute. Malzahn said he thought people telling him about Bielema’s comments were joking. The two coaches shook hands again after the game.
Arkansas started the game Saturday with a minus-9 turnover margin in Southeastern Conference play, and added to it against the Tigers. Before the end of the first quarter, Arkansas had given up the ball on an interception and a fumble. Alex Collins fumbled with 26 seconds left in the game for the Razorbacks’ third turnover. In all, Arkansas has turned the ball over 13 times against SEC opponents and has a single takeaway for a minus-12.
Senior placekicker Zach Hocker moved into seventh place in the SEC for career PAT attempts with 165. He has made 163 of those, including two against Auburn on Saturday. He tops the SEC among active players in career PATs attempted and made. Hocker also is the league leader in field goals attempted and made, along with points scored and points per game. Against the Tigers, he kicked a 34-yard field goal with 12:52 left in the half. Hocker holds UA career records for total points with 334 and points scored by a kicker. Hocker has made 57 field goals at Arkansas. This season, Hocker is nine of 10 on field goals and is perfect on 20 PATs.
Goodbye To Seniors
Twenty Arkansas seniors played their final game Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Eleven seniors are listed on the two-deep chart for Arkansas, not counting captain Robert Thomas, who suffered a career-ending leg injury against South Carolina. Thomas, a captain, arrived on the field for Senior Day activities in a cart and used crutches to walk a few feet to his family members. He stayed on the field for the coin toss. All of the seniors were met by family members at midfield; Austin Tate was joined by his family and the family of Garrett Uekman, a player who died in November 2011 from an issue related to an enlarged heart. Uekman and Tate were best friends and roommates.
Oh, Those Rankings
Auburn did not fall victim Saturday to a past trend of the ranked team losing when Arkansas and Auburn meet. Ranked team were 3-6 against unranked teams since 2001 leading into Saturday’s matchup in Fayetteville. Auburn was ranked No. 8 in The Associated Press poll and No. 11 in the Bowl Championship Series standings before the Arkansas game. Auburn was the fifth ranked team in a row on the Arkansas schedule, setting a school record for consecutive games against ranked opponents. The Razorbacks lost all of those, plus a 28-24 defeat at Rutgers in the fourth game of the season.
Arkansas’ six straight loss is the worst losing streak since 1990, when the Razorbacks dropped seven in a row in Jack Crowe’s first season as coach. Crowe’s team bounced back the following season to go 6-6, including a loss to Georgia in the Independence Bowl. Frank Broyles lost his first six games as Arkansas’ head coach, but ended the 1958 season with four straight victories. The only other modern-era season with six straight losses was 1952 when Otis Douglas’ last Razorback squad went a dismal 2-8, including six straight losses to end the season.
Gus Malzahn, the former Fort Smith resident who is one year removed from a Sun Belt Conference championship at Arkansas State, is off to an 8-1 start in his first season as Auburn’s head coach. Malzahn is no stranger to The Plains, serving as offensive coordinator for three seasons at Auburn prior to his one-year stint as head man in Jonesboro. He’s 17-4 as a college head coach. Malzahn’s first college coaching job was as offensive coordinator at Arkansas in 2006. Arkansas finished fourth nationally in rushing that season (228.5 per game) with Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis as running backs. Malzahn, who walked on at Arkansas as a student-athlete before transferring to Henderson State University, spent 14 seasons as a high school coach in the state, leading seven teams to the championship game and winning three state titles. As offensive coordinator at Auburn in 2010, the Tigers went 14-0 and won a national championship with Cam Newton as the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback.
In addition to Malzahn, the Auburn coaching staff has other Arkansas ties. Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee is a former Razorback (2002-04) and earned his bachelor’s degree at Arkansas in 2006. Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes, who along with Lashlee was on Malzahn’s staff at Arkansas State, coached at Arkansas two different times — 1986-89 and 2007-12. He is a native of Clarendon. Tim Horton, a former Razorback player (1986-89) and coach (2007-12) , coaches running backs at Auburn.
— Dennis A. Byrd
Arkansas News Bureau