Two-Minute Drill: Auburn 45-Arkansas 21


Season and Conference Opening Loss for the Hogs: Auburn 45-Arkansas 21

The Razorbacks creased Auburn’s defense for 151  yards in the first half, making good use of a trap block up front to spring Korliss Marshall and Alex Collins for big gains, and that successful running game allowed the Hogs to expose Auburn’s defense on play-action passes. All that allowed the Razorbacks to make up a 14-point deficit and go into halftime deadlocked with the No. 6-ranked Tigers at 21. But Arkansas would come up with just 2 yards on the ground in the second half, and a passing game less dependent on play-action faking was ineffective as the Hogs were outscored 24-0 in the second half. When the Razorbacks finally figured out Jeremy Johnson, who got the start at quarterback for Auburn in place of Nick Marshall, the Tigers turned to Marshall for the second half and he was in complete control with the read option, scoring on a 19-yard run to give Auburn the lead for good early in the third quarter.

The Tigers’ vast edge in speed was evident throughout the game, but it really seemed amped up after halftime when the Auburn coaches apparently got their team’s attention and demanded more energy. A kickoff return to start the second half nearly went for a touchdown, though it would have been wiped out by a blocking penalty on the return. Quan Bray was maybe a step from returning a punt the distance a few minutes later. The speed Auburn relies on so much on defense was much evident in the second half as the defensive front took away the Hogs’ trap play and forced Arkansas to look to the outside. But that didn’t work because Auburn was too fast on the edge. Eventually, the talent and depth of Auburn won out as the experts had forecast. Vegas had said Auburn was 20.5 points better, and that seemed like an insult to Arkansas, but it turns out it was accurate. If it was greedy, Auburn could have hung 52 on the Hogs at the end but settled for 45.

Arkansas’ Korliss Marshall and Alex Collins seemed to be the hotter of the Hogs’ three-headed running back attack, though Jonathan Williams did come in when Collins needed a breather after running through and over Tigers.  Williams would score on a 6-yard sweep through the left side with a cutback, just after gaining 11 on the opposite side on the previous snap, and Arkansas was dead-even with the Tigers at 21 with 4:28 left in the half.  Marshall started out strong but was sent to the lockerroom with an apparent arm injury; he would return in the second half, apparently OK. Collins would end up netting 68 yards on 10 carries, but he had 70 yards at the half, yet another indicator of the Razorbacks’ difficulty to run in the final 30 minutes. Marshall had 45 yards on 8 carries and Williams had 34 on 7. Even quarterback Brandon Allen took advantage of the Tigers ignoring him to gain 6 net yards on 4 carries, and that included a late sack of seven yards lost.

As Arkansas matched Auburn’s stunning passing attack with a quick-hitting running game behind Korliss Marshall and Alex Collins, we suggested on our blog that the duo might deserve the nicknames “Thunder” (Collins) and “Lightning” Marshall. Of course, there would need to be a name for Williams, too. Rain wouldn’t work, but rain is what we got along with lightning in the fourth quarter with just under 10 minutes to play and Auburn in control 38-21. The game was delayed nearly an hour and a half because of lightning in the area, and the teams didn’t return to the field until 7:10 p.m. (about an hour after the game was expected to end). Before the delay was over, torrential rain hit the area as well. The fans brave enough to stay in the stands instead of heeding the warnings of seeking cover from lightning seemed to enjoy the rain. For most of the day, it had been a steam room at Jordan Hare Stadium. An earlier rainstorm had gone through the area about noon, three hours before kickoff, and then the sun came out in full force.

When Arkansas’ offense ran aground to start the second half, it spelled doom for the Hogs, because the defense was barely hanging on as it was. Missed tackles were a problem all day for Arkansas’ defense, starting with safety Rohan Gaines‘ whiff of Melvin Ray at the sideline that Ray turned into a 49-yard touchdown to open the scoring on the Tigers’ first possession. Receivers — in particular D’haquille Williams, ran free behind the Arkansas front seven much of the first half as Jeremy Johnson, given the quarterback start by AU coach Gus Malzahn, hit his first eight passes and would finish the half 12 of 16 for 243 yards. Seven passes went to the juco transfer Williams for 138 yards and an 18-yard touchdown (he would finish with 9 catches for 154 yards and the one TD, on a slant pulling away from corner coverage and in front of a too-deep safety). Gaines was particularly targeted by Auburn’s play selection throughout the half. Auburn had just 68 rushing yards at halftime, but the Tigers would pile up 234 on the ground with Nick Marshall running the second-half show and running back Cameron Artis-Payne finding bigger creases as the Hog defensive front wore down. Artis-Payne, replacing the graduated star from 2013, Tre Mason,  finished with 177 yards on 26 carries and one touchdown.

Meanwhile, Arkansas finished with 61 yards in the second half.

Just as the Hogs were hurt by missed tackles on defense, the Razorback receivers did Brandon Allen no favors with some drops as well. Early, with Auburn up 14-7, Allen laid in a perfect throw deep down the left sideline to Keon Hatcher, who simply dropped it with a step on the defender. Hunter Henry had a potential first-down catch fall out of his hands in the second half. In (literally) mop up time with Auburn comfortably in control, Drew Morgan flubbed on another Allen throw at the sideline with no one close. There were other close calls that could have helped out the quarterback as well, but those were the most grievous botches. Allen was 18 for 31 for 175 yards. Yes, he suffered another game-breaking pick-six like a couple last season, but this one wasn’t just all on Allen. He had a receiver breaking open behind the defense and as he let the pass go, Auburn’s Robenson Therezie beat the protection and decked Allen. The ball fluttered short and was fielded by Jermaine Whitehead, who returned it 33 yards for the score and a 35-21 Tigers lead with 2:39 left in the third quarter.

“We talked to our guys and told them it would be a dogfight. I’m proud of the way our guys responded in the second half. Our defense made the adjustments … Ellis [Johnson] is one of the better defensive coordinators in college football. He’s been doing this a long time, and he’s good at it. He made the adjustments. They settled down and started stopping the run and that changed the whole tone of the game.” — Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn

“Give Arkansas credit. They are much improved over last year. They will win several ball games.” — Malzahn

“Nick’s [Marshall] penalty was just on the start. He did what he had to do. We wanted to let Jeremy pay regardless. We scripted plays for him and he got off to an outstanding start.” — Malzahn

“I think our guys in the opening two quarters had some things we had to persevere and weather through offensively, defensively and in the kicking game, but we thought at halftime coming in if we could go back out and match that effort in the second half … Give Auburn credit. They were able to do it, and we weren’t.” — Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema

“They made adjustments, and our guys did as well. I think we began to press a little bit when we were down by two scores. Our coaches and players, we had a plan that was working. We were able to run the football effectively, we just didn’t go to it much in the third quarter, and that’s something we definitely need to take a look at.” — Bielema

“They brought more pressure. They did a good job of slowing down our rush game in the second half. We didn’t make the plays we needed to get some drives going.” — UA quarterback Brandon Allen

Arkansas plays Nicholls State of the Southland Conference in its home opener at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday, with kickoff set for 3 p.m. The SEC Network will again carry the Hogs.

Auburn 45-Arkansas 21

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