Assignment busts few for Razorbacks, but at a high cost

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Friday, September 29, 2017
Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, left, talks with linebacker Dwayne Eugene (35) and safety De'Andre Coley (20) during a game against Texas A&M on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Arlington, Texas.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, left, talks with linebacker Dwayne Eugene (35) and safety De'Andre Coley (20) during a game against Texas A&M on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Arlington, Texas.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Paul Rhoads calmly detailed the defensive performance for the Arkansas Razorbacks to Coach Bret Bielema the day after the Hogs fell 50-43 in overtime to Texas A&M.

The Razorbacks had seven busted assignments, graded "SEC championship level" on playing fast and straining, and missed only two tackles, Rhoads said.

So how did the Hogs give up 489 total yards and 43 points to the Aggies in regulation before falling in overtime?

"You go back to ... where we only had seven busts on the game and four of those seven busts accounted for 222 [actually 227] yards and 24 points," Rhoads said. "Against any opponent, let alone an SEC football game, you don't give yourselves a chance to win when that's the case."

The killer plays that rang up 227 yards were:

• An 81-yard Kellen Mond to Christian Kirk touchdown pass when the Hogs lost track of Kirk in the secondary;

• A 79-yard run by Mond to the Arkansas 10;

• A 23-yard touchdown run by Keith Ford;

• A 44-yard touchdown run by Ford;

Otherwise, Arkansas allowed 274 yards on 65 plays, an average of 4.2 yards per play.

"Yeah, man, that's very frustrating," Arkansas safety Santos Ramirez said of the costly big plays allowed. "That just goes to show in the SEC, or any game, you've got to be disciplined on all plays. Every play matters."

Arkansas had entered the game as the only FBS team, albeit with a small sample size of two games, that had not allowed a gain of 30 or more yards.

"It's tough to stomach," defensive line coach John Scott Jr. said. "Coach Rhoads is absolutely right. ... The busts we had were costly. That just goes to show you can do everything right in a football game, and then the one play you take off or relax mentally can be the outcome of the game."

Said defensive back Josh Liddell, "Just two plays here and another play there with a missed gap or a bust in coverage. "Overall ... that's a clean game, but the mistakes we made were the plays they scored on. We just want to be more efficient and play mistake-free football."

The Razorbacks (1-2) will get a chance to address the big-play issue on Saturday at 11 a.m. against a productive New Mexico State offense.

The Aggies (2-2) average 31.5 points, a Sun Belt-high 473 total yards and 353 passing yards per game behind senior quarterback Tyler Rogers, senior tailback Larry Rose III and 6-6 senior wideout Jaleel Scott.

"Theyr'e a very good offensive football team," Rhoads said. "They have done it consistently this season.

"You've got to defend the whole group of them and they know what it is they're doing. They play hard, they're precise in their routes and they execute."

The Razorbacks have to guard against any lingering hangover effect after their performance against A&M.

"You go into a 70-play game and you mess up three or four times, those three or four plays might cost you the game," linebacker Dre Greenlaw said. "Just coming from a loss and being able to get on the field and play an opponent and being able to hopefully come out with a 'W,' that's the plan. And just being able to get the confidence back in us and finish the rest of the SEC, it'd be a big help."

Linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves said the Razorbacks can't get caught up in thinking they were close to a clean game because of the low numbers of mistakes and missed tackles.

"At the end of the day, when you give up big plays that makes a difference," he said. "You can play extremely well, but you don't know which one is going to be the big one, so you've got to play them all great."

One play Rhoads didn't count as a bust was a pass interference called against freshman Kamren Curl on Jhamon Ausbon on third and 8 in overtime. Mond's throw was several yards short of the two players.

'There was a great play by our defensive back in coverage on that play," Rhoads said.

The Aggies scored what would be the game-winning touchdown on Kirk's 10-yard out route against Ramirez on the next snap.

Ramirez said as a team captain he feels the responsibility to keep his teammate's heads up.

"I don't like to see my teammates get down when things get tough," Ramirez said. "That's not just in football but in life as well. You can't ever just hang your head.

"I echo that every day. Improve, improve. Clock in and get ready to work because you never know what can happen next in this game."

Sports on 09/29/2017

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