Five Keys Review
1. Roll With the Punches – Somewhat Accomplished
Handling adversity on the field was one of Arkansas’ offensive weaknesses in 2013, but the Razorbacks dealt with the difficulties in a hostile environment more than usual in the season finale. For starters: LSU led 7-0, 14-7 and 21-20 on Friday. But each time, Brandon Allen and the Hogs maintained their composure and shrugged off the disappointment. The Razorbacks led 17-14 at halftime and 27-21 entering the fourth quarter. The only downfall came after LSU’s go-ahead touchdown with 1:15 remaining. Arkansas still had time to move downfield, but Allen was sacked, stripped and the fumble was recovered by the Tigers to wrap up the win.
2. Third-Down Success – Not Accomplished
LSU was leading the nation in third-down conversions entering the game and had plenty of success against the Razorbacks in going 7-for-12. Some of the more frustrating moments came early on, when the Tigers converted on third-and-7 and third-and-10 on their opening touchdown drive. But it paled in comparison to LSU’s last third-down conversion. Quarterback Anthony Jennings threw his 49-yard touchdown pass to receiver Travin Dural on 3rd-and-10 with 1:15 left in the game.
3. Win Turnover Battle — Not Accomplished
The Arkansas defense forced multiple turnovers for the third straight week. Braylon Mitchell’s forced fumble in the first half led to a field goal that gave the Razorbacks a 17-14 lead. Alan Turner helped Arkansas add to it early in the second half with his interception off a tipped pass, setting up another field goal. But Arkansas’ offense committed two turnovers as well. Allen threw an interception in the end zone for the second straight week. His fumble late in the fourth quarter ended the game. The Razorbacks finished minus-9 in turnover margin this season.
4. Positive Passing Plays — Accomplished
Arkansas may not have produced the biggest passing performance of the season, but it was one of the most efficient. Allen completed 19 of 29 passes (65.5 percent) for 178 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. The Razorbacks really enjoyed success with play-action passes, too, fooling LSU’s defensive backs several times. The only big play was a 43-yard completion to receiver Keon Hatcher. It was the second straight week the Razorbacks had a completion over 40 yards. Allen also threw touchdown passes to Hunter Henry, who was wide open on both plays.
5. Sound on Special Teams — Accomplished
LSU has had a history of hurting Arkansas on special teams, collecting three returns for touchdowns under coach Les Miles. But the Tigers only had two opportunities to return kicks Saturday. Dangerous returner Odell Beckham Jr. had an 11-yard punt return before leaving the game with an injury. Jarvis Landry had no gain on his punt return. And place kicker Zach Hocker forced five touchbacks on kickoffs. Punt Sam Irwin-Hill had the special teams play of the game, too, pinning LSU at the one-yard line with 3:04 remaining. Unfortunately for Arkansas, the defense couldn’t hold.
• Coach Bret Bielema on Arkansas’ senior class after a disappointing end:
“Our seniors, love them to death. They’ve been through a lot. Would’ve love to give them the Golden Boot (Friday), but for whatever life’s reasons, it didn’t want to happen. But I wish those guys nothing but the best of luck.”
• Linebacker Braylon Mitchell on if this loss hurts more than Alabama blowout:
“This game hurts way worse than that, because we fought so hard, and to see the tears rolling down the seniors’ faces and to not be able to bring the Boot back to Fayetteville for those guys, it hurts a lot. It was the last game of the season, but we approached it like it was a one-game season, and we were going to give it all we had for our seniors. It’s definitely a lot tougher than the Alabama loss.”
• Tight end Hunter Henry on Arkansas’ competitiveness vs. LSU:
“We’re not backing down from anyone. I’m just proud to be part of this team. We didn’t back down one bit. But we should have won that game. I think we kept fighting throughout the year even when we were having consecutive losses. We just continued to fight.”
• Quarterback Brandon Allen on his game-ending fumble:
“I should’ve thrown it away. Just tried scrambling to make a play. It wasn’t really a deep pass. It was kind of like a concept we have, with a flat corner and a curl corner on the other side. I got flushed out of the pocket and was just looking for something to get open.”
• Bielema on how to handle the difficult lessons learned at LSU:
“The only thing I asked them to do is take what you learned here and take it home with you. Don’t leave it here. If we leave it here in Baton Rouge, we’ll never overcome where we’re at right now and I think our guys will.”
Players of the Game
Offense – TE Hunter Henry (5 catches, 41 yards, 2 TDs)
The Razorbacks were able to get the ball to Henry more than the past few weeks and the results were important. While he didn’t lead the team in receiver — Keon Hatcher had 7 catches for 84 yards — Henry got in the end zone twice. Both came on play-action plays near the goal line and the freshman was wide open each time.
Defense – S Alan Turner (11 tackles, interception)
Turner finishes the season the team’s unlikely leading tackler, but did his job most of the season. It included Friday, when Turner led the team in tackles for the second straight week. He also grabbed his second interception in a three-game stretch to set up a field goal early in the third quarter. Turner finished the season with 97 tackles.
Special Teams – P Sam Irwin-Hill (Averaged 51.5 yards on 4 punts)
Irwin-Hill has been solid all season and saved one of his biggest moments for the season finale. The junior’s 65-yard punt in the closing minutes was simply perfect, pinning LSU and its freshman quarterback at the one-yard line. Unfortunately, Arkansas’ defense couldn’t finish the job. The Tigers went on a 99-yard TD drive.
6 — Number of bowl eligible teams in the SEC West this season after Mississippi State’s overtime win in against in-state rival Ole Miss on Thursday. The Razorbacks are the only team from the division whose season ended this weekend.
14 — Number of freshmen that played in the finale. The list included six freshmen starters: Tight end Hunter Henry, guards Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland, linebacker Brooks Ellis, cornerback D.J. Dean and defensive tackle Darius Philon.
20.7 — Arkansas’ 12-game scoring average. It marked the program’s lowest scoring average since 1997. The Razorbacks averaged 16.5 points during former coach Danny Ford’s final season at Arkansas.
25 — Touchdown passes allowed by Arkansas in 2013, which is the most allowed in school history. It topped the 24 touchdown passes Arkansas allowed in 2012. The 25th allowed will be long remembered as well. Jennings’ 49-yard strike to an open Travin Dural gave the Tigers their game-winning score with 1:15 remaining.
62.8 — Brandon Allen’s completion percentage over the final three games (47 of 78). It helped raise the sophomore’s to 49.6 percent (128 of 258) for the season. It was an improvement, but the Razorbacks still finished the season with its lowest team completion percentage (49.8 percent) since 2002 (49.5 percent).
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau