Five Keys Review
1. Finish Drives — Somewhat Accomplished
The Razorbacks got in a goal line situation for the second straight week and punched it into the end zone on Kiero Small’s touchdown run to cut Ole Miss’ lead to 20-17 in the third quarter. Arkansas reached the red zone three times and scored touchdowns on each trip as well. All were signs of progress. But the Razorbacks still lack a killer instinct, which was evident in their inability to put together a go-ahead scoring drive later in the third quarter. Arkansas reached Ole Miss’ 39, but a failed trick play stalled progress and the drive eventually ended without points.
2. Win Turnover Battle — Accomplished
Arkansas won the turnover battle for the first time in conference play (2 takeaways, 1 turnover). The two takeaways from the defense doubled its production in the previous five games. Alan Turner’s interception as Arkansas’ first in 25 quarters, while Eric Bennett’s could’ve been a pivotal moment if not for a block in the back penalty on Brooks Ellis. Arkansas’ one mistake was costly, though. Brandon Allen threw an interception on a deep ball to the end zone early in the fourth quarter with Arkansas trailing 31-17. The Hogs had reached the Ole Miss 35 before the INT.
3. Put Heat On Wallace — Somewhat Accomplished
Arkansas sacked Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace twice Saturday. Both came on third down plays with the Rebels driving. Defensive tackle DeMarcus Hodge got to Wallace in the first quarter, which forced Ole Miss into a game-tying field goal on its first series. Linebacker Jarrett Lake and defensive end Chris Smith shared a sack in the second quarter, which forced Ole Miss to punt for the first time. The Razorbacks couldn’t get Wallace down in the second half, though, and it played a role in the loss.
4. Tackle Well — Not Accomplished
Tackling was terrible once again in another disappointing loss. Tevin Mitchel’s miss on a short pass to Donte Moncrief was the most egregious. The receiver turned Mitchel’s mistake into a 52-yard touchdown that gave the Rebels a comfortable 34-17 lead. But there was poor tackling on scores of other plays, which helped Ole Miss turn minimal gains into big plays throughout its win. One example: Linebacker Brooks Ellis missed a tackle on a first down run play from the Ole Miss 5 in the second quarter. Running back I’Tavius Mathers turned it into a 16-yard gain, which was part of a 93-yard drive that ended with an Ole Miss field goal.
5. Third-Down Success — Not Accomplished
Arkansas enjoyed plenty of third-down success against Auburn (9 of 16), but couldn’t duplicate it at Ole Miss. The Razorbacks were just 3-for-12 overall, which included 1-for-7 through three quarters. Arkansas’ inability to move the chains on third down left the Razorbacks struggling to keep pace with an Ole Miss offense that didn’t face the same resistance. The Rebels were 6-for-13 on third down, which helped them score points on six of their first nine possessions Saturday.
• Coach Bret Bielema on Arkansas’ tackling troubles:
“We do tackling drills every day. We try to get creative, but obviously Tevin (Mitchel’s) really struggling in that department. That’s why I went with D.J. Dean. We’re just going to have to get some other guys in there and rotate through, and that’s also part of recruiting. … I knew that was going to be a position that we just didn’t have a lot of depth at, and guys are breaking down. Unfortunately, we just don’t have a lot of answers right now.”
• QB Brandon Allen On Arkansas’ SEC struggles this season:
“It’s a tough conference, that’s for sure. It’s the SEC for a reason. Just being out there and competing against the best in college football is definitely something I want to be a part of. I think our whole team, we’re trying to step up to that competition. We have a little ways to go and I think we’re getting there. I think we’re on the right track. It’s just going to take a bit.”
• WR Julian Horton on Arkansas’ motivation despite losing streak:
“We’re being prideful about our program. We are Arkansas, and we’re trying to get back to the way we used to be. Each and every week we’re trying to get better and keep being motivated to go out there and get wins.”
• RB Alex Collins on Arkansas’ critical mistakes in another loss:
“It’s a little frustrating because we’re so close. We’re almost there. Once we get on that same path, then it’s going to be some trouble for defenses. But we’ve just got to get there.”
Players of the Game
Offense – WR Julian Horton (4 catches, 66 yards, TD)
Horton had earned very little playing time in conference games, but impressed the Razorbacks in practices recently. It was enough to help him earn another shot in the receiving rotation. The senior was rewarded with his best game Saturday, setting career highs in catches (4) and yards (66). He also scored his third touchdown.
Defense – DT Darius Philon (5 tackles, 2 tackles for losses)
Arkansas was dissected through the air all night, but held its own against the Ole Miss ground game. The Rebels were limited to 112 rushing yards and 2.9 yards a carry. Philon played a big role in the success, starting his third straight game. The redshirt freshman finished with 5 tackles and a team-high 2 tackles for losses.
Special Teams – P Sam Irwin-Hill (Averaged 48 yards a punt)
Irwin-Hill enjoyed another solid day against the Rebels, averaging 48 yards on his five punts. Three of his rugby-style kicks were downed inside Ole Miss’ 20. Two of those pinned the Rebels inside the 10. Irwin-Hill only had one of his punts returned and it went for three yards.
4 — Number of Arkansas teams to start 0-6 in conference play in the 99 seasons the Razorbacks have been affiliated with a conference. Arkansas went 0-6 in the Southwest Conference in 1940 and 1942. The 1990 Razorbacks lost their first seven SWC games before beating SMU in the season finale to finish 1-7 in the conference.
6 — Consecutive games in which Arkansas has allowed 30 points or more this season. All six games — which were losses — have come in SEC play. The six straight games also set a school record. The previous mark came in 2007, when the Razorbacks allowed 30 points or more in each of their final five games.
394 — Number of days since Arkansas’ last SEC win. The Razorbacks beat Kentucky 49-7 on Oct. 13, 2013. Arkansas has lost 10 straight conference games since. The 10-game conference losing streak is the second-longest in school history. Arkansas lost 20 straight SWC games between 1940 and 1943.
Arkansas had a few players banged up and bruised, but didn’t appear to lose anyone for any significant amount of time.
Center Travis Swanson dislocated a finger late in the game, but had it snapped back into place and returned a couple plays later. Running back Korliss Marshall also suffered an injury to his left shoulder, but Bielema said it didn’t appear to be a severe setback. Defensive tackle Darius Philon also had to be helped off the field earlier in the game, but returned later and finished with five tackles.
Arkansas has time to recover from the bumps and bruises because of the bye week.
Arkansas reluctantly lugs a seven-game losing streak into its second bye week, getting one last chance to regroup before finishing the season against Mississippi State and LSU. They enter the off week knowing there’s no chance for a bowl game this season, but insist the extra practice time still will be productive.
Arkansas (3-7, 0-6 in SEC) will return to play Mississippi State (4-5, 1-4 in SEC) in War Memorial Stadium on Nov. 23. The battle for the bottom of the SEC West standings will be the Razorbacks’ second and final trip to Little Rock this season.
Mississippi State suffered a 51-41 loss at Texas A&M last Saturday and faces another daunting task this week. The Bulldogs host No. 1 Alabama (9-0, 6-0 in SEC) at home in a game that will televised by ESPN at 6:45 p.m.
Mississippi State beat Arkansas 45-14 in Starkville, Miss., last season. The Razorbacks beat the Bulldogs 44-17 during the last meeting in Little Rock in 2011.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau