Five Keys Review
1. Slow Auburn’s Run — Not Accomplished
Auburn entered Saturday’s game with the SEC’s leading rushing offense (315 yards a game), but finished well below their average with 233 yards. The Razorbacks helped cut back the numbers with an offense that kept the Tigers off the field most of the first half. Still, Arkansas was not able to slow Auburn much with Tre Mason (168 yards, 4 touchdowns) enjoying a big night. The Tigers had no trouble sprinting down the field when they had to against Arkansas and it led to another win.
2. Build Brandon’s Confidence — Somewhat Accomplished
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen still had plenty of struggles, but was able to turn in his best passing performance since the Texas A&M game. The sophomore still had efficiency issues in going 10-for-22 for 112 yards, but threw his first touchdown pass since Sept. 29 in the loss. He nearly had another on a perfect pass to the end zone on the first possession. Receiver Javontee Herndon couldn’t bring it in, though. Arkansas was even more impressed by Allen’s toughness Saturday night. He left the field after after his leg gashed by an Auburn player on the first possession, but returned after having the wound stapled together after missing only one series.
3. Win Battles Up Front — Not Accomplished
Arkansas was able to establish a power ground game Saturday night, rushing for 222 yards against the Tigers. It was a confidence-building performance for the front, which had struggled during the past few weeks. But the loss will be remembered for the offense’s inability to punch the ball into the end zone from the Auburn goal line late in the first half. The Razorbacks trailed 14-3 at the time and could’ve gained some much-needed momentum going into the locker room. Two run plays from the Auburn 1 failed and Arkansas turned the ball over on downs.
4. Reverse Turnover Trend — Not Accomplished
Arkansas’ turnover troubles continued against the Tigers. The Razorbacks turned the ball over three times Saturday and didn’t force any. It has dropped Arkansas to minus-9 overall in turnover margin this season, which ranks 116th in the nation. The Razorbacks are even worse in their five SEC games at minus-12 (13 turnovers, 1 takeaway). Arkansas’ defense had a great chance to make a big play with the Hogs trailing 28-17 when quarterback Nick Marshall fumbled at the end of a long run. Three Razorbacks were around the ball, but no one could come up with it. The Tigers continued to march downfield and scored the backbreaking touchdown.
5. Make Special Plays — Accomplished
Arkansas didn’t get a chance to make many big plays on special teams Saturday night. But the Razorbacks did find some life in the third quarter thanks to freshman Korliss Marshall. The running back/safety broke off an 87-yard return immediately after Arkansas fell behind 28-3 on Marshall’s 88-yard touchdown pass to receiver Sammie Coates. The big play ignited the sideline and led to touchdowns on consecutive drives for Arkansas’ struggling offense. It wasn’t enough to help the Razorbacks snap their win streak, but helped make things respectable Saturday.
• Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney on Arkansas’ plays from the goal line late in the first half. Both runs were stuffed by Auburn:
“Well, the first one I liked. The second one, like I’ve told you guys before, you come in on Sundays and there’s inevitably five to eight calls you’d like to take back. I would probably take that one back. But with that said, we’re running our goal line offense. It was an (isolation) call that we want to be able to win and score from the 1-yard line with that. We were unable to get it done.”
• Defensive coordinator Chris Ash on Brooks Ellis’ first start at middle linebacker:
“I thought he went out there and got the defense set, probably as good as we have all season. He was in the right spot most of the time. Very few false steps. Very few issues with Brooks. The future is bright for that young man. He did a great job.”
• Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney on QB Brandon Allen’s health:
“Oh, he’s pretty tender right now. Someone take a chunk out of your leg it’s going to hurt for awhile. It was a pretty bad cut, evidently from what I understand. I didn’t see it. but he’s pretty tender right now.”
• Offensive line coach Sam Pittman on how the staff is handling the losses:
“We have a job to do. We’re going to go out and do our job and do it with enthusiasm. You have to build off of the positives that you see and we had a lot of positives the other night. Obviously, we have to hold onto the ball and finish drives and get it in from third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 and some things. But in between those negatives I just mentioned were a ton of positives. We had two backs rush for almost 100 yards. We gave up one sack. Rushed for 222 on them.”
Players of the Game
Offense – RB Jonathan Williams (15 carries, 105 yards)
Williams enjoyed his biggest game in SEC play, topping the 100-yard mark for the fourth time this season. He set an early tone for the offense even though it couldn’t crack the end zone, gaining 34 yards on his first three carries. He ran hard late, too, even though his efforts came in Arkansas’ sixth straight loss.
Defense – LB Brooks Ellis (6 tackles)
It wasn’t a flawless night for Ellis or an Arkansas defense that surrendered 30 or more points for the fifth straight game. But the freshman handled his first start at middle linebacker. Ellis teamed with defensive end Brandon Lewis to collect ½ of a tackle for loss. His six total tackles tied him for third on the team Saturday.
Special Teams – KR Korliss Marshall (87-yard kickoff return)
Marshall only got one return against Auburn, but made it count. His 87-yard charge was the program’s longest of the season and longest since Dennis Johnson’s 98-yarder against South Carolina in 2011. It set up Arkansas’ first touchdown.
4 — Number of true freshmen who have started games on offense or defense this season. Brooks Ellis became the fourth when he lined up at middle linebacker against Auburn. The Fayetteville High graduate joins guards Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland, and tight end Hunter Henry as true freshmen starters.
7 — The longest losing streak in school history. It has happened on two occasions. Jack Crowe’s 1990 team lost seven straight en route to a 3-8 finish. The other came when the Razorbacks lost their final six games of the season in 1952 and the 1953 season opener. Arkansas will tie those streaks with a loss at Ole Miss on Saturday.
20 — Sacks for Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith, who has moved into fifth on the school’s career list. He is 5 1/2 sacks shy of the career record held by Wayne Martin. Smith added to his total with a sack Saturday night. He now has seven this season.
Arkansas received a late scare in the loss when running back Alex Collins had to leave the field. The exact injury is not known, but coach Bret Bielema indicated after the game the freshman’s issue wasn’t serious.
“Alex, I think, is all right,” Bielema said. “They took him for an X-ray there.”
Collins, who was tended to by the training staff after Arkansas’ last offensive play Saturday, finished with 92 rushing yards on 18 carries. He leads Arkansas in rushing this season with 889 yards on 159 attempts and is key to an offense.
So is quarterback Brandon Allen, who missed time earlier in the game after being injured at the end of a scramble. Allen, who slid, got a cleat in the shin from an Auburn player and had to be carted off the field and to Arkansas’ locker room.
“When I went out there and saw that, I quickly turned away,” Bielema said. “Wasn’t the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen. Pretty deep gash. He got stapled up and was trying to get back out there as soon as possible. I think those kids will be fine.”
Arkansas goes back on the road for the third time in SEC play and fourth time this season, traveling to play Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss. The game will kick off at 11:21 a.m. and is being broadcast by SEC TV.
Ole Miss (5-3, 2-3 in SEC) has had its share of highs and lows this season with wins against Texas (44-23) and then-No. 6 LSU (27-24). The Rebels also suffered three straight losses to Alabama (25-0), Auburn (30-22) and Texas A&M (41-38).
The Rebels beat Arkansas 30-27 last season and has won three of the past five games against the Razorbacks. Arkansas did win the last time the teams met in Oxford in 2011, beating Ole Miss 29-24 despite falling into and early 17-0 hole.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau