Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Coaches address letdown
Arkansas center Mitch Smothers (65) and quarterback Brandon Allen point out instructions prior to a play Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.
FAYETTEVILLE -- After playing a shoddy second half in Saturday's 45-21 loss at No. 6 Auburn, Arkansas' coaches are trying to apply a teaching point this week dealing with the drastically different performance levels.
"This whole week, we're stressing the halftime lag that we had," Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen said. "In practice today, we broke up practice with a halftime in there. So it was really about just coming out of halftime and having the juice to start the second half like we started the game."
The Razorbacks fought back from a 21-7 deficit to tie the Tigers going into halftime, but Arkansas managed just 61 total yards and 2 rushing yards while being outscored 24-0 in the second half.
"We played two solid quarters last week in the first half and then in the second half we didn't come to play, and that showed on the scoreboard," tight end AJ Derby said.
"We tried to push the end of practice to be more emphasizing for the kids to understand when they're tired is when they need to strain and concentrate more on their details," offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said.
Denver did it
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema praised the work of right guard Denver Kirkland in Saturday's game and said it was the best game the sophomore has played for the Razorbacks, and line coach Sam Pittman trumped the statement Tuesday.
"That is the best, as good of lineman play as we've had in a single game since I've been here," Pittman said.
Kirkland played all 60 offensive snaps and graded out at 91.
"He's a gamer. That's what he does," Pittman said.
"I try to do my best every game, especially because of last year and how things went." Kirkland said. "Our coaches kept bragging about them a lot and praising them, and I just got tired of it. So I stepped my game up a little bit."
Tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. was stuck on the elevator along with Jim Chaney and defensive coaches Randy Shannon and Clay Jennings at halftime at Auburn, which prevented them from making face-to-face adjustments with players at halftime.
"I think it's a crutch to say it was a factor," Lunney said. "It was very unique, very different. We're basically in the concession stand line trying to make halftime adjustments over the phone with people walking all the way around us and all that."
Quarterback Brandon Allen said he didn't think the lack of in-person communication with Chaney affected the offense much.
"He kind of told me what to relay to the offense and what kind of adjustments we needed to make," Allen said. "It's definitely a lot easier when he's in there, but we tried to make the best of it."
Receivers coach Michael Smith said he was unhappy about dropped passes against Auburn, but he couldn't complain about how his guys blocked.
"They were awesome in the run game," Smith said. "That goes unnoticed from a receiver position, but they were awesome from that aspect of the game.
"We've just got to continue to make plays in the pass game."
Smith termed the blocking from his unit as an "unbelievable" improvement.
"It was night and day from last year," he said. "I just think these guys had a different mentality. They wanted to go out and play physical football, and they did.
"Now it's my job to keep them going. It can't just be a one-game thing.
Senior AJ Derby scored his first career touchdown at Auburn, connecting with Brandon Allen on a 17-yard play.
"Pretty exciting, especially right in front of their student section," Derby said. "I got to hear a bunch of choice words from the Auburn students, but that was good."
Nicholls State, Arkansas' opponent on Saturday in Fayetteville, is on its third starting center after two injuries thrust redshirt freshman Brian Hernandez into the lineup.
Projected starter Brandon Holmes suffered a thigh injury during camp and is expected to be back this season. His replacement, Ashton Duhe, broke a bone in his hand in the second quarter last week against Air Force and will not be available Saturday.
Quarterback Brandon Allen's mended right shoulder was tested three plays into the season opener when he scrambled up the middle and dove forward, inches short of a first down on a third-and-8 snap.
"Kind of went right on it," he said. "It held up just fine, so I have not worried about that anymore."
Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson is ranked second in the nation in pass efficiency after completing 12 of 16 passes for 243 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Razorbacks. His rating of 243.8 trails only Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas (275.3). Arkansas' Brandon Allen is 69th in the same category (120.3) after completing 18 of 31 passes for 275 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.
Punter Sam Irwin-Hill had seven punts for a 43-yard average Saturday. Irwin-Hill put a career-best four punts inside the 20-yard line. Irwin-Hill's average was impacted by two pooch punts that were downed inside the 15, a 33-yarder that was caught by teammate Jared Collins on the Auburn 2, and a 23-yarder that bounced backward and was downed on the 11. He averaged 49 yards per punt on his other five punts.
Sports on 09/03/2014