RazOrbaX Report: Hootens.com coach Smithson breaks down Auburn game, eyes Kentucky
Arkansas opened a promising 2002 season with two big wins and faced Alabama in a nationally televised night game in Fayetteville. With the crowd roaring, the HOGS kicked deep into the end zone. It took Alabama one play to run a draw 80 yards for a TD, and the air was gone in a 30-12 loss. The next week in Knoxville, the HOGS hit a big pass late to push the game into overtime. Arkansas missed a field goal to win in the second overtime and lost in the fifth OT to Tennessee. A week later on the plains, the Razorbacks faced a good and favored Auburn team. The biggest question was how much did Arkansas have left after a big loss at home and a heartbreaking loss on the road? The Razorbacks shocked the nation that day, beating the Tigers 38-17.
I hate to be negative about the Razorbacks, but I always have very high expectations. I get irritated when I see little things that should be adjusted, and I do not get paid six figures! Well, Saturday I got what I had been asking for, although it was not perfect. If Arkansas builds off of what they accomplished Saturday, the rest of the season will be fun. I am not guaranteeing a sweep, but you have to get the first one to get a streak going.
Travis Swanson and O line made
second-level blocks at Auburn.
Arkansas needed to run the football. Not just for running's sake but to give the offensive line a little confidence and get the play action going for the passing game. On the second play of the game, the Razorbacks came out in a one-back Pistol. The HOGS had a tight end to the left with two wideouts off the line of scrimmage left. The other receiver was split right. At the snap, everyone on the line side stepped to the left and engaged a defender. Center Travis Swanson and strongside tackle Jason Peacock did something the HOGS have had a hard time doing this year: getting a second-level block on the linebackers that turns a 2-yard gain into a 20-yard gain. Peacock actually sealed the outside linebacker to the inside. Wilson took the pistol snap, pivoted left and handed the ball to Dennis Johnson and the senior hit off between tight end Austin Tate and Peacock at left tackle for an 18-yard gain that set up the HOGS in the red zone. Hocker's uncharacteristic miss kept the Razorbacks off of the board on that trip, but this play would show up in a big way. On the next possession, Arkansas would show the same formation and gave Auburn the impression that the play was to the weakside, but Wilson play faked and bootlegged left and hit Austin Tate. Tate rambled to the Tiger 2, setting up the first Arkansas score.
The secondary is still scary, but a pass rush is the big equalizer. Chris Smith and Trey Flowers were monsters from their defensive end positions. Smith would speed rush outside, and Flowers was dangerous coming hard inside between the Auburn tackle and guard. Arkansas stayed in a four-man front for most of the game but with some new wrinkles. Smith at times would drop back into coverage when Arkansas brought linebackers on the blitz. Most of the blitzes were effective. Occasionally, the HOGS gave up a nice run when both backers blitzed up the middle, and Smith dropped into coverage but the long run by the Tigers was just 20 yards on an off tackle play.
Auburn was predictable in their running plays, almost exclusively to the left in the first half and almost exclusively to the right in the second. I kept expecting a reverse since they were doing that but a trick play never materialized from the Tigers. The two secondary plays I enjoyed the most were safety Allen Turner playing center field and intercepting a Clint Moseley overthrow in the end zone, and Ross Rasner chasing the Auburn TE, closing the gap, turning and looking for the ball and getting an interception in the end zone to kill the Tigers' last chance. The HOGS did blow a coverage to allow the only Auburn score and Frazier missed a open receiver in the first quarter so there is still work to be done. But if the Razorbacks can continue to get after QBs like that, it will take some of the pressure off of the secondary to be perfect.
HOT POINT CHECK-UP
Make them Pass: With just 40 yards rushing, the Tigers had no choice. They got 108 of their 281 in the fourth quarter but threw three interceptions and were just four of 12 on third downs.
NO FREEBEES: Auburn hit one and missed one. The Tigers hit eight passes for a total of 151 yards with the touchdown being 21 yards of that. The other 14 passes went for 130 yards. After a big play through the air, the defense got a sack and negated the gain.
Play Hard: The Razorbacks played extremely hard on every play, and that is the way it is supposed to be!
NO TURNOVERS III : After a perfect first half, the HOGS lost two fumbles in the second. Both could have been game-changers, but the defense got the ball right back on both occasions.
Crossing 35 yard line equals points: Six trips and four scores is not bad from the 35, but it absolutely should have been five out of six.
PATIENCE: After hitting the big crossing pass to start the game, Auburn adjusted and allowed medium or short but not long. So Arkansas ran the ball 30 times and passed it 30 times taking what the defense was giving, moving the sticks and running the clock.
Keep Up the Averages: Breeding was great on his four punts. He probably would tell you they were not his best kicks, but he got great bounces and a 51.5-yard net kept Auburn backed up. Hocker had probably his worst game as a Razorback. Several kickoffs were shorter than usual and the missed chip shot field goal was surprising. Everyone has a bad day, and luckily for Zack, his kicking Saturday did not hurt the team.
Returns: The Auburn return men could not get going as the Arkansas coverage teams were good. Minor muffed what could have been a game-changer, but the defense came on the field and sacked the Auburn QB on back-to-back plays. Auburn punted again, and Minor fielded cleanly.
UP NEXT: KENTUCKY
So Arkansas gets a needed win and returns home with some confidence. Kentucky has been one of the worst teams in the conference the past two years, but the Razorbacks cannot take anything for granted. They better be ready to take the best shot from a talented-but-hurting team. Kentucky has speed, good receivers, but two freshman QBs are doing the throwing. Kentucky seems to play well in Fayetteville not matter the records, winning 42-29 in 2007 and 29-17 in '02. The Razorbacks will have to play a complete game once again to get the momentum going. Saturday was a start. Let's see if they can build on the success.