Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Wrap them up, then go for the ball
Auburn wide receiver Melvin Ray (82) catches a pass and breaks away from Arkansas safety Rohan Gaines (26) for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas defense missed an alarming number of tackles in Saturday's 45-21 loss to Auburn, including one that led to the game's first touchdown, when Melvin Ray sidestepped safety Rohan Gaines on the sideline and sprinted 49 yards.
"We have to make sure we have an edge to our defense, we've got to have guys pressing the hip, we've got to have that thing bunched in there," Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith said Sunday evening. "There was a lot of yards after contact. We've got to wrap up and drive guys through the ground. We've got to continue to work on that on a daily basis."
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
QB Brandon Allen
• Allen completed 18 of 31 passes for 175 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. His yardage might have been well over 200 yards if not for a deep-pass drop by Keon Hatcher and another miss by Demetrius Wilson. Allen rushed 4 times for 6 yards and completed passes to 10 different receivers.
DE Trey Flowers
• Flowers, a senior from Huntsville, Ala., once again played well in his home state, with 3 unassisted tackles and 6 assists. Two of the assists Saturday came on plays that resulted in 4 lost yards. Flowers was the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Defensive player of the week the last time Arkansas played at Auburn in 2012. Flowers had 3 1/2 sacks for 43 lost yards in Arkansas’ 24-7 victory.
On some plays, Arkansas' first defender started trying to pry the ball free, leading to added yardage for the Tigers.
"With such an emphasis on ball disruption, I think there were a lot of guys [who] ... should have been solidifying the tackle a little bit more rather than trying to strip the ball out," Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said. "We got some balls out and all that jazz, but too many yards after contact overall. Give credit to Auburn, but obviously something we'll work on a great deal."
Smith said the Razorbacks' big focus on Sunday was on themselves.
"I think our guys tried to do a little bit more than what we asked of them," Smith said. "They played with great effort. They were trying to get the ball out. The first thing we've got to do is make sure the first guy secures the tackle and after that the second guy can go for the strip."
Smith, asked about Gaines' rough game, said, "It was a rough game for all of us. It is what it is, and 45 points, that's not how any of us envisioned this would go. ... It's all of us collectively."
Smith said his attention will turn to preparing for Nicholls State on Monday.
"We are where we are," he said. "We know we've got to get better. We've got to take a long hard look in the mirror, starting with this guy No. 1. We're going to improve."
Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said he left the field on Saturday thinking quarterback Brandon Allen's season debut was pretty solid.
"After watching the tape, I'd say that's accurate," Chaney said. "I thought he played with a nice calm. He delivered the ball accurately the majority of the time. His decision making was where I wanted it to be. I thought, I even mentioned it to Coach B[ielema], that I thought there were times where he erred on the side of being too conservative. Which is exactly what we want on early downs."
Allen completed 18 of 31 passes for 175 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception, which was returned for a touchdown.
"There's a lot of technical things in his game that we felt we could improve on," Chaney said. "Brandon is aware of that. So it wasn't a flawless performance, but I believe it was the best game he's played against a good, quality opponent since I've been here, and I was pleased with that."
Spread it around
Arkansas completed passes to 10 different receivers, led by Demetrius Wilson and AJ Derby with four receptions each. Cody Hollister and Jonathan Williams each caught 2 passes, and 6 players caught 1 pass.
Brandon Allen and other Razorbacks said they have to work to sustain their first-half success throughout the game.
"You take away that we played with a really good team the whole first half and we need to continue that in the second half," Allen said. "We know we can play at a level with the best of them. It's clear to see we just need to keep the momentum we had in the first half and keep it going in the second half."
Said tight end Hunter Henry, "We can play with the big guys. We're a different team than last year, we just have to sustain it. You can't just come in at halftime happy."
Arkansas picked up a takeaway in the third quarter when freshman defensive end Tevin Beanum knocked the ball away from Cameron Artis-Payne and linebacker Martrell Spaight recovered.
Each team turned the ball over once, but Auburn converted Arkansas' one turnover, a Brandon Allen interception, into a touchdown.
Auburn junior-college transfer D'haquille "Duke" Williams, 6-2, 210, ended up with 9 catches for 154 yards and 1 touchdown. Williams consistently got open over the middle on slants and shallow posts and proved tough to take down.
"He's a heck of a football player," Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith said. "They've got excellent skill players."
In addition to the lightning delay, which held up the game for 1:28 with 9:55 remaining, the teams warmed up in a downpour for 10 minutes before play resumed. Rain continued to pelt Jordan-Hare Stadium for the remainder of the game.
The Razorbacks will look to break their 10-game losing streak in Saturday' s 3 p.m. home opener against Nicholls State.
The Colonels, coached by former Alabama offensive coordinator Charlie Stubbs, lost 44-16 at Air Force on Saturday, allowing 539 rushing yards by the Falcons. They were outgained 558-263 in total offense.
Sports on 09/01/2014