Rhoads not pleased with defensive energy

By: Clay Henry
Published: Monday, October 23, 2017
Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads encourages his players during a game against Florida A&M on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Little Rock.
Photo by Thomas Metthe
Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads encourages his players during a game against Florida A&M on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Little Rock.

Paul Rhoads knows the Arkansas defense gave up 52 points and 629 total yards in last week's 52-20 loss to Auburn. The Arkansas defensive coordinator was anything but happy when he met with the media on Monday.

“It was the worst,” Rhoads said. “Our second half was awful. The third quarter we got physically whipped.”

Auburn scored 28 points in the third quarter. The Tigers scored five touchdowns in less than nine minutes of possession time in those drives.

The Tigers drove 75 yards in 10 plays to open the second half to take a 24-6 lead. The Hogs visibly deflated after quarterback Jarrett Stidham scrambled for 22 yards to erase a third-and-5 to start that possession. Rhoads noticed the slump after that play.

“That opening drive, we had a chance to get off the field,” Rhoads said recalling the play in which he called an all-out blitz.

“We gave up the quarterback run and we played at a different energy level after that. Our energy dropped.”

It was in stark contrast from the first half when the Hogs held up near the goal line to force two field goals and got a goal line stand on fourth down. It was the first time Auburn had come up empty in the red zone all season.

“Usually when you get a goal line stand like that at home, you have a good chance (to win),” Rhoads said. “We probably survived in the first half. But we were not close to playing at the right energy in the second half. You do that in the SEC west and it's not good enough.

“Auburn has a good offense. They are probably the most physical offensive line we've played and we were coming off playing the No. 1 team in the country.”

Energy is the key ingredient going forward.

“This game is too physical,” Rhoads said. “You can't play unless you are at a high energy level and you expect to succeed.

“What our tackling was in this game bothers me as the leader of the defense and we have that many missed. What we have to do going forward is get more people to the ball. The more people you get to the ball, the better your tackling will become.”

Rhoads said the most consistent defensive player has been middle linebacker De'Jon “Scoota” Harris. He leads the team with 66 stops on the season. He made 11 against Auburn, second to Dre Greenlaw's 13.

“Scoota probably isn't recognized as he should be,” Rhoads said. “I haven't said as much about him. He's not flashy, but he has been playing really well for this team.”

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