Arkansas football: Grading the Razorbacks' loss to Auburn
Arkansas’ losing streak reached four games after an unimpressive 51-10 loss to Auburn at home on Saturday.
While the previous three losses in the streak were competitive games — one-score losses, in fact — on Saturday, the Razorbacks stumbled and bumbled their way to a 15th consecutive SEC loss.
There wasn’t a lot that went right for Arkansas, but here are three things I liked about the game, and five more things I didn’t like.
Things I liked
1. Screen play
Arkansas’ offense needed something to keep Auburn’s swarming defense off quarterback Ben Hicks. Screen plays seemed to be the only thing that worked against the Tigers’ onrush. Arkansas made just one first down in the first quarter, but it came on a screen pass to Rakeem Boyd for 17 yards.
2. TE Cheyenne O’Grady
Get the big guy the ball. Throw it to him, he scores touchdowns; hand it to him, he can get you the tough yard; on fourth and 1, put him in motion to get him under center to take a snap and run a successful “quarterback” sneak for a first down.
He’s the most valuable weapon the Razorbacks have on offense. Finding ways to get him the football is the right move, and Chad Morris and his staff did a good job of being imaginative in getting the football in his hands.
3. Run defense
The Arkansas front seven held its own against Auburn’s offensive line. For the most part, it stuffed the Tigers’ run game. Yes, there was Kam Martin’s 52-yard run early that led to an Auburn touchdown. But overall, the Razorbacks did a good job of keeping Auburn from sustaining a consistent run game until late, when the game was long since decided.
Things I didn’t like
1. Pass blocking
Granted, Auburn has one of the best defensive lines in the country. But when the Tigers rushed only four, they still got a push on the Arkansas offensive line, making it nearly impossible for Hicks to make a play and basically rendering the Hogs’ offense unproductive.
2. Wide receiver play
The wide receiver group, still learning to compete against SEC defenses, had trouble getting open. Coupled with the limited amount of time Hicks had to throw the ball, Arkansas’ pass game sorely lacked, putting the Razorbacks in a tough position offensively. The Hogs made just one first down in the first quarter, falling into a deep 17-0 hole.
3. Fake punt
What was that? Down 17-0 and in their own territory, the Razorbacks tried one of the most poorly executed fake punts you’ll ever see, a chest pass over a trio of blockers and right into the teeth of an oncoming rush. Not only was the pass easily intercepted, even if it had been completed there was no blocking for the intended receiver, who was streaking across the field a good 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Fortunately, the Arkansas defense made a stand, and Auburn was unable to add to its big lead.
4. Red zone woes continue
Arkansas had a chance to get back in the game with an impressive drive into the red zone late in the third quarter. But the Razorbacks, who score an SEC-worst 65.2 percent of the time when possessing the ball inside the opponents’ 20, squandered the opportunity. Though they did get a field goal out of it, the Razorbacks should have scored a touchdown when O’Grady broke free and was wide open in the corner of the end zone. However, Hicks’ pass wasn’t even close, and Arkansas, 11th in the SEC coming into the game with just 10 touchdowns in the red zone, was relegated to 3 points.
5. Hicks’ inaccuracy
His deep passes were off target. He was intercepted on one. His pass to a wide-open O’Grady in the end zone was nowhere near the big target. He is not a deep threat, and that hamstrings the Razorbacks’ offense.