RAZORBACK REPORT:

Sting of 56-3 loss persists

By: Bob Holt , Tom Murphy
Published: Friday, October 20, 2017
Auburn quarterback Sean White (13) scrambles for a run as Arkansas linebacker Dwayne Eugene (35) gives chase during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Arkansas, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Auburn quarterback Sean White (13) scrambles for a run as Arkansas linebacker Dwayne Eugene (35) gives chase during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Arkansas, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Auburn's 56-3 victory over the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville last season is a difficult one of the Razorbacks to forget.

"Last year was one of our worst games that we've played, and it's definitely a motivational tool that we use going into the game," Arkansas senior linebacker Dwayne Eugene said.

Auburn found motivation last season when it came onto the field to find the Razorbacks grouped at midfield standing on the "AU" logo for their pregame team talk, typically led by players like Keon Hatcher, Drew Morgan, Deatrich Wise Jr., and Taiwan Johnson.

Auburn players were upset, confronted the Razorbacks and after a brief standoff, the Arkansas players departed from midfield so the Tigers could conduct their prayer circle.

Arkansas defensive back Kevin Richardson did not play in last season's game because of an injury, but said he remembers what took place.

"Everybody knows what happened last year," Richardson said. "That was last year. It's in the past.

"Not even one thought about it. We've had bad games this year. We try not to look in the past on those kinds of games."

Linebackers coach Hargreaves said the game came up briefly early in the week.

"After that, it is what it is," Hargreaves said. "That's done. I've never won a game because of the motivation of the last one, I don't think.

"We have to go out and play this one for what it is. Certainly it leaves a bad taste, but that's not necessarily the overwhelming factor."

Martin's move

Receivers coach Michael Smith said transfer Brandon Martin played with confidence last week at Alabama and hopes to stay on a roll the rest of the season.

Martin dealt with back and hamstring injuries early in the year and had one reception prior to last week, when he grabbed four passes for 34 yards against the Tide.

"That's my biggest challenge to him, to keep trying to learn it as much as possible," Smith said. "When he plays fast, I think people saw last week he has the talent to do it for us."

Said Martin, "It's a blessing that I can be out there to try to help my team win some games. I just had to take a different approach to learning the plays and get healthy."

Back to back

Offensive coordinator Dan Enos couldn't help but laugh when asked what he thought about preparing for back-to-back games against Alabama and Auburn, which sport two of the nation's top defenses.

"You guys have been around it longer than me," Enos said with a chuckle. "It's this league. That's what we all signed up for.

"South Carolina's defensive line was very good. Going into that game I thought they were good, and coming out of it I thought they were very good. Alabama same thing and Auburn same thing. Every week since I've been here where I've had a game in the SEC. ... I looked at the opponent and said, 'This is a week off we're gonna handle these guys.' Every week is a huge challenge."

Hogs' 'Big Boy'

Arkansas receivers coach Michael Smith was the lead recruiter on quarterback Cole Kelley of Lafayette, La., so he knew about the power of the 6-7 freshman's right arm before he arrived on campus.

"It was just a case of him getting his opportunity," Smith said. "Unfortunately, he's had to get it the way he's gotten is. But he's a big boy, he's playing in a big-boy league and he's going to do big-boy things for us."

Receiver Brandon Martin said Kelley is competitive and ready to play.

"He thinks he can beat anybody any day," said Martin, who is also from southern Louisiana. "That's all I have to say about Cole."

4 OTs

The last time Auburn traveled to Arkansas, the Razorbacks prevailed 54-46 in four overtimes in a game that was tied 24-24 at the end of regulation.

There have been four seven-overtime FBS games, and Arkansas has played in two of them, more than any other team, winning both.

The Razorbacks are 8-1 in games that have gone two overtimes or longer, the only loss coming in a 41-38 loss at Tennessee in six overtimes in 2002.

Staying alive

Arkansas had to score touchdowns or two-point conversions on three different plays or lose in the 2015 game against Auburn, and the Razorbacks succeeded each time.

Morgan caught a 6-yard pass from Brandon Allen on fourth down in the first overtime, Kody Walker scored on a 4-yard run on fourth down in the third overtime, and Jeremy Sprinkle caught a two-point conversion pass from Allen in the third overtime.

"I think about the game a couple of years ago," Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunny Jr. said. "That one obviously stands out.

"It's been a great series and you would think nothing less than that to come true on Saturday. You'd think it would be another good game."

Top pick

Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads called Kevin Richardson's interception against Alabama's Jalen Hurts an "unpickable" throw, but Richardson wouldn't take it that far.

"I mean, I think he threw a bad ball," Richardson said. "It was short and it hung out there for a little bit. I ... tried to make a play and it ended up falling right in my hands."

Richardson said he picked up on something between Hurts, whose streak of passes without an interception ended at 208, and receiver Cam Sims.

"I saw him and the receiver communicate something and just kind of had awareness of the sticks and what was going on," he said. "Just made a good play. I tried to disguise what I was doing and ended up doing that and he threw me one."

SEC debuts

Arkansas quarterbacks have a 6-11 record when making their debut against an SEC opponent. The record in such games is 2-10 since Zak Clark made the start in a 38-24 loss against Ole Miss in 2000.

The streak of losses for Arkansas quarterbacks making their SEC starting debut reached five with freshman Cole Kelley and the Hogs falling 41-9 at Alabama on Saturday.

Four of the first five Arkansas quarterbacks won in his starting debut against an SEC opponent: Jason Allen (45-7) at South Carolina in Arkansas' first SEC game in 1992, Barry Lunney Jr. (25-24) at Tennessee in 1992, Clint Stoerner (17-16) at Alabama in 1997 and Robby Hampton (28-21) vs. Alabama in 2000.

Hastings update

Auburn receiver Jay Hastings, a junior from Little Rock Pulaski Academy, has 16 catches for a team-high 333 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a 49-yard touchdown at LSU last week.

Hastings, 5-10 , 167 pounds, came to Auburn as a walk-on, but was placed on scholarship before this season.

Leeway

A conservative second-half game plan and the ability for quarterback Jarrett Stidham to change plays at the line of scrimmage have been big talking points in media coverage since Auburn, leading 20-0 in the first half and 23-7 at halftime, endured a 27-23 loss at LSU last week.

The Tigers ran on first down on 17 consecutive series, and Coach Gus Malzahn accepted the blame for the offensive decisions.

"We can't lose a 20-point lead," Malzahn said. "It doesn't matter if it's running the ball on first down. ... Giving up 20-point leads are unacceptable."

Malzahn also commented on Stidham's leeway on making audibles.

"I'm glad you asked that because Jarrett probably has more flexibility than any quarterback that we've had since I've been in college," Malzahn said. "From the standpoint to change protections, the RPOs, the decision making, he probably has more freedom than any quarterback we've had."

Down by 30

Arkansas has lost 16 SEC games by 30 or more points, including Saturday's 41-9 setback at Alabama.

By coach, in order of occurence: Danny Ford (4), Houston Nutt (3), Bobby Petrino (2), John L. Smith (3), and Bielema (4).

The series

Though Auburn has the all-time series edge of 14-11-1 over Arkansas, the Tigers have outscored the Razorbacks 633-629. Arkansas led the series in scoring before last season's 56-3 loss at Auburn.

Sports on 10/20/2017

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