Jim Harris: Two-Minute Drill – Auburn 35, Arkansas 17


Auburn 35, Arkansas 17

Auburn 35, Arkansas 17

The Hogs coaching staff may have conceded early on that they didn’t believe their defense could stop Auburn, trying an onside kick following a 34-yard Zach Hocker field goal that pulled the Razorbacks within 7-3 in the second quarter. The surprise failed — and it wouldn’t have worked anyway because Jeremy Sprinkle was offsides. Auburn covered those 38 yards in 6 plays, after the Tigers had blitzed 29 yards following a fumble in two plays for its first touchdown. Auburn showed off its longer-distance power in the second half with drives of 65, 91 and 75 yards, while Arkansas’ defense only stopping the Tigers once in that four-series stretch and momentarily getting the crowd into the game. Meanwhile, the Arkansas offense moved the ball all game (346 total yards to Auburn’s 366) but never crossed the end zone until already down 28-3. The Hogs, who did hold Auburn to 82 yards below its per-game rushing average,were left with a lot of “what ifs,” though, with two drives inside the red zone resulting in no points in the first half and leaving them trailing 14-3 at intermission.

Running back Tre Mason scored four touchdowns, and was never really touched on runs of 9, 4, 5 and 12 yards while rushing for 168 yards on 32 carrries. Quarterback Nick Marshall hurt his shoulder last week but rarely had to throw against Arkansas. When he did it was a highly effective 8-for-9 for 118 yards, including a back-breaking 88-yarder to Sammie Coates, who beat Tevin Mitchel’s coverage for the Tigers fourth TD. The Tigers’ offensive line could handle Arkansas’ defensive front one-on-one, allowing blockers to get to the second level and take out linebackers, thus allowing Mason to run free. Auburn’s defense did just enough; a goal-line stand from the 1 late in the first half in which Arkansas’ Jonathan Williams was stuffed on third and fourth downs was the big difference. The Tigers also claimed two turnovers from Hogs’ backup quarterback A.J. Derby, who briefly stepped in for Brandon Allen while the starter was in the dressing room having a cut shin attended to. Turns out Derby’s time on the field was too much for the Hogs’ to overcome, as the Tigers never turned the ball over or gave Arkansas a short field to drive.

Arkansas didn’t lose because of its running backs. Both Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins had big nights running the football, with Williams topping the 100-yard mark (104 on 15 carries, 6.9 per carry average) for the first time since the Samford game. Williams had two quick gouges through the Auburn defense to start the Hogs’ offense on the game’s first possession. Collins had 92 yards on 18 carries, a 5.1 per-carry average.

Also, part-time running back/part-time backup safety Korliss Marshall, a freshman from Osceola, broke free on a kickoff return, reaching the Auburn 13 before Jonathan Minzy, who had an angle and obviously great speed as well, ran him down. The 87-yard return was the program’s longest since Dennis Johnson had a 100-yarder in 2011.

And sophomore receiver Keon Hatcher, criticized along with senior starting receiver Javontee Herndon for dropping passes in recent weeks, came back with a renewed vigor Saturday night and had four receptions for 50 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown reception on a fade route from Brandon Allen. Hatcher even stumbled at first on his route but still got outside the corner’s coverage for the perfectly thrown ball. Herndon also had four catches (47 yards) but he didn’t get credit on one catch that still seemed in debate among many folks after the game. On the Hogs’ first drive, Herndon took in a deep ball on the right side of the end zone from Allen for 41 yards but was ruled to not be in possession of the catch as he tumbled out of bounds. Officials had immediately ruled it no catch on the field and no video evidence could overturn it. Arkansas did not score on that drive after reaching the Auburn 19.

Arkansas had one chance to jump on an Auburn fumble, and it came with the game still in doubt early in the fourth quarter. Nick Marshall lost the handle after a big gain, but Marshall beat at least three Hogs to the recovery. Meanwhile, Arkansas had two crucial back-to-back miscues by backup quarterback A.J. Derby, who came in for a briefly injured Brandon Allen in the first quarter. Derby’s first pass, a swing toss intended for a running back in the right flat, was deflected by end Dee Ford and picked by linebacker Casanova McKinzy at the Auburn 19. On the next possession, Derby bobbled one snap and recovered, but lost his second bobble two plays later at the Arkansas 29. The Tigers scored in two plays.

With three turnovers Saturday, the Razorbacks are minus-12 in turnover margin in SEC play, meaning they’ve given it up 12 more times than they’ve had takeaways. That’s in just five games.

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema’s point that the  media had made more out of his supposed tiff or rivalry with Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was played out Saturday night, when the press box wags were all a-giggle when Arkansas unveiled what appeared to be a swinging-game formation on a field goal attempt late in the third quarter. The Hogs faked that attempt, with  holder Brian Buehner throwing a short pass to tight end Austin Tate to get a Hogs’ first down at the Auburn 2-yard line as the fourth quarter ended. Kiero Small scored on the next play to open the fourth quarter.

In the post-game interview room, Bielema pooh-poohed the fake or alignment having anything to do will “film gate,” the early week situation in which Bielema said Auburn had left out some video of its “Batman” place-kick alignment in a previous game. “No, no, you guys read too much into that,” Bielema said. “We don’t even call that the ‘swinging gate.’ It’s called ‘Field goal Buehner.” Arkansas practiced it on Tuesday and Thursday.

“Buehner is a very athletic kid. He had several options there and made something happen. With what we have on this team right now, we feel like we had to create, we have to create some first downs.

Bret Bielema hinted at some personnel changes on his Hogs, but the only new starter Saturday night was freshman Brooks Ellis at middle linebacker. Arkansas also opened in a 4-2-5 defense, only using two linebackers. Martrell Spaight, who was penciled in as a starter, wasn’t seen on defense, though the participation chart indicates he played some. Bielema said in his post-game comments that he wished he’d made the move to Ellis sooner in the season.

“It’s nothing anyone wants to hear right now but it’s baby steps. We want to be running but right now we’re walking.” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema

Arkansas (3-6, 0-5 SEC) journeys to Oxford, Miss., to take on Ole Miss in an 11:25 a.m. contest. The SEC Network will carry the game.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,