Five Keys Review
1. Make Plays In Secondary
Another week produced another embarrassing performance from the Arkansas secondary. Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel enjoyed a career day against the Razorbacks, throwing for 453 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. It included an 80-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Swope late in the first half.
Arkansas was short-handed entering the game, playing without injured cornerback Tevin Mitchel and safety Eric Bennett. The Razorbacks also lost cornerback Kaelon Kelleybrew to an injury in the first half. It left Arkansas very thin at cornerback, with freshman Will Hines, redshirt freshman Davyon McKinney and senior Darius Winston logging playing time at the position the rest of the game.
2. Sustain Drives With Ground Game
Arkansas emphasized the run game in practice last week and showed some early signs of improvement in the first half, handing the ball to Knile Davis and letting the senior go to work. Davis was off to his best start, rushing for 45 yards on 8 carries in the first quarter. He added a season-best 28-yarder in the second quarter, too.
But Arkansas’ struggles in short-yardage situations continued Saturday. Davis fumbled three times as well, losing one that led to Tramain Jacobs’ 28-yard scoop-and-score. Jonathan Williams did provide Arkansas’ longest run of the season on a 32-yarder late in the third quarter, but the Razorbacks were already down 44-10.
Arkansas finished with 142 rushing yards, its highest total since the season opener.
3. Win Turnover Battle
The Razorbacks entered the game at minus-10 in the nation in turnover margin (12 lost, 2 gained) and the troubles continued to be a killer in Saturday’s loss.
The offense committed three more turnovers, including a Tyler Wilson interception with Arkansas trailing 13-10. The Aggies took advantage of the mistake and scored three plays later to extend their lead. The defense failed to force any turnovers for the third straight week, stretching its streak to 14 quarters without a takeaway.
The Razorbacks are now last in the nation in turnover margin (minus-13).
4. Keep Manziel Contained
Texas A&M’s quarterback ran circles around the Razorbacks on Saturday. Literally. The Razorbacks knew how dangerous Manziel would be with his feet, but had few answers. The quarterback bought time by dancing around in the pocket before throwing a 4-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans to open the game. He busted off a 52-yard run a little later to set up another score. And Manziel’s 6-yard touchdown run late, when he scrambled in a circle before finding the end zone, was impressive.
Manziel finished with a game-high 104 rushing yards to go with his 453 passing yards. The 557 total yards was an SEC single-game record.
5. Improve in Pass Protection
Texas A&M entered the game leading the NCAA in sacks (5.3 a game). Wilson only went down once Saturday on a botched snap that was ruled a team sack. It didn’t mean the quarterback’s jersey stayed clean in the fact of Texas A&M’s pressure.
The Aggies did get to Wilson several times, putting the quarterback on his back throughout the game. It did disrupt timing on some pass plays and led to mistakes on others (Wilson’s two interceptions).
Players of the Game
Offense – WR Cobi Hamilton (11 catches, 162 yards)
Hamilton had another big performance in a losing effort. He followed up his SEC-record 303-yard performance by leading the Hogs with 162 more Saturday. Hamilton also caught 11 passes, which was a career-high. The senior has 21 catches for 465 yards and three touchdowns in Arkansas’ past two games.
Defense – A.J. Turner (7 tackles)
Arkansas’ defense was woeful throughout the game, but the freshman earns player of the week honors after finishing tied for second on the team in tackles. Turner logged plenty of playing time and produced a career-high in stops. But no one produced enough to keep Texas A&M from logging 716 yards Saturday.
Special Teams – KR Dennis Johnson (2 kick returns, 56 yards)
The Arkansas senior set an SEC record for career kick return yards in the loss (2,755). He eclipsed a mark set by Florida’s Brandon James (2,718 from 2006-09). The senior didn’t get a chance to return many kicks, downing most of them in the endzone. His two returns totaled 56 yards in the loss.
7 — Number of times Arkansas has started a season 1-4 or worse in school history. The 2012 Razorbacks joined the list after its 58-10 loss at Texas A&M. Six Arkansas teams now have started 1-4. The 1958 team started 0-5 in Frank Broyles’ first season.
15 — Arkansas turnovers through five games. Only two teams have turned the ball over more this season (Idaho and South Alabama have 16 turnovers). The Razorbacks committed 20 turnovers in 13 games last season.
1,747 – Passing yards allowed by the Razorbacks through five games, which is the most of any team in the nation. The 349.4 passing yards allowed a game ranks 121st out of 124 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Arkansas goes back on the road, traveling to play at Auburn (1-3, 0-2). The Tigers have had two weeks to prepare for the Razorbacks after an open week.
Auburn has endured its own struggles in their fourth season under coach Gene Chizik. The Tigers opened the season with losses to Clemson and Mississippi State before beating Louisiana-Monroe 31-28 in overtime on Sept. 15. They put together their best defensive performance of the season in a 12-10 loss to LSU.
Arkansas won the last meeting, erasing an early deficit to beat Auburn 38-14 last season. The Tigers won the last time the teams played at Auburn, getting a big performance from eventual Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton in a 63-45 win.
“You come to work, you work hard every day and you find 11 guys that won’t give up. I’m pretty sure we’ve got enough guys on the team that we can find 11 that won’t. So whoever won’t give up, that’s who you play. Anyone that’s going to give up you don’t play them any more. The one thing you still have control over is playing time. If they’re going to give up you don’t play them. You play the guys that are going to keep fighting and keep going. It’s the only thing you can do.” — Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino on how to keep players motivated at 1-4.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau