Razorbacks report:

UA finally at home in the SEC

By: Bob Holt , Tom Murphy
Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017
Arkansas defensive lineman Jake Hall (95) and linebacker Dwayne Eugene (35) carry flags onto the field prior to a game against New Mexico State on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Fayetteville.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Arkansas defensive lineman Jake Hall (95) and linebacker Dwayne Eugene (35) carry flags onto the field prior to a game against New Mexico State on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas Razorbacks will play their fourth SEC game of the season Saturday, but it will be their first on campus at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

The Razorbacks are the last SEC team to play a conference home game, though they were the designated home team for the annual Southwest Classic against Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas.

"It's unusual," Coach Bret Bielema said. "If we didn't have these off-campus agreements, you'd have three of our first four games at home."

Around the SEC, Florida already has played three SEC home games, and nine league teams -- Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt -- have played two.

Arkansas will play six of its eight home games on campus, after opening the season against Florida A&M in Little Rock and playing the Aggies at AT&T Stadium.

"It's a decision that was made way before I got here. It was a decision that was made way above my head," Bielema said. "We've just got to roll with the punches."

Injury report

Apparently, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville quarterback Austin Allen is improving rapidly, though he has not returned to his starting role.

"Austin Allen continues to make really good strides," Coach Bret Bielema said on Wednesday's SEC teleconference. "He was over on the side yesterday doing drops, throws and different things that get you excited. He did not practice, but I think the possibility of him playing on Saturday is real, and I think it's important to him and all the people around him."

Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn said his team was preparing to face either Allen or 6-7 freshman Cole Kelley at quarterback.

"I think you have to," he said. "Austin is a very tough guy, and I'm sure he wants to play in this game, so yes, we are preparing for both."

Bielema said tight end Jeremy Patton (ankle) went through all of Tuesday's practice and had no signs of regression on Wednesday, making him "in the game plan and ready to rock and roll."

Loud crowd

Bret Bielema is counting on a vocal home crowd to make it hard on Auburn's offense.

"A 6:30 kickoff, should get a lot of people in the stands, get everybody excited, hopefully have a few hours to tailgate and get revved up," Bielema said Wednesday. "The guys are eager to get back here, get in front of our fans.

"They run obviously a tempo, line-of-scrimmage offense, so anything we can do to create some noise and make it a little bit of havoc in the stadium would be great."

Carry on

Auburn tailback Kerryon Johnson has racked up a chunk of his SEC-high 132 rushing yards per game from the Wildcat formation, and the Razorbacks are trying to get ready for it.

"He's a big-time player, man," Arkansas linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves said. "He's playing better this year than he was last year, and he likes it. He wants the ball in his hands, and he does a good job with it.

"He runs hard. He's averaging way over 100 yards per game, so he's going to be a heck of a challenge for us."

Tiger tempo

Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham is adept at executing the run-pass optionsin Coach Gus Malzahn's up-tempo offense called by coordinator Chip Lindsey.

"It's all about eye discipline," Arkansas linebacker Dwayne Eugene said. "They do some great tempo things and try to get you off sync and off balance.

"This game pretty much comes down to discipline, having great eye discipline and being where you're supposed to be, being in your gap and doing your assignment."

Curl comment

Arkansas freshman cornerback Kamren Curl said the good work of his senior counterpart Henre Toliver has given offenses a clear target.

"It puts more action my way," Curl said. "They don't want to test him. They want to test the freshman."

Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads has touted Curl's good work and defended his technique on key pass interference calls against Texas A&M and South Carolina.

"It gets frustrating cause it's stuff like I'm supposed to do," Curl said of the flags. "Coach Rhoads tells me this stuff and it's how coach wants me to do it. He wouldn't want me to do it any other way."

Three seconds

Bret Bielema called a timeout to challenge the clock operation late in the first half and it wound up in a key three-second savings for the Razorbacks.

After receiver Brandon Martin landed out of bounds at the end of a 13-yard catch and run at the Alabama 18, the clock ran from 22 seconds to 19 seconds, which tight ends coach Barry Lunney noticed in the press box and relayed to the field. The replay official agreed, restoring the clock to 22 seconds.

The extra ticks proved crucial three plays later, when Martin took a catch for 14 yards to the Alabama 3 with three seconds remaining, leading to the Hogs' final timeout and giving Arkansas one extra try for a touchdown.

Cole Kelley threw incomplete to tight end Cheyenne O'Grady on the final play of the half against tight coverage from Ronnie Harrison.

Tough gig

Former Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, who led the Tigers to two SEC East crowns in his four seasons in the league, shook his head after a series of SEC team previews played at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club on Wednesday.

"I saw the highlights of those coaches, and I'm glad I'm not coaching anymore," Pinkel said. "It's pretty crazy."

Pinkel, who called Arkansas coaches Mike Anderson and Bret Bielema good friends, talked about the pressure on SEC coaches.

"It's hard to win," Pinkel said. "I know y'all don't care that it's hard to win. I found that out, too."

Pinkel stepped down after the 2015 season after he was diagnosed with lymphoma, a form of cancer.

"My cancer is in remission now," he said. "It's probably going to come back. I can't get healed from it."

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