Razorbacks report:

10 forced fumbles lead FBS

By: Bob Holt , Tom Murphy
Published: Friday, September 21, 2018
Arkansas defensive lineman McTelvin Agim recovers a fumble during a game against Colorado State on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Fort Collins, Colo.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas defensive lineman McTelvin Agim recovers a fumble during a game against Colorado State on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Fort Collins, Colo.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas is the national leader in one statistical category by a large margin heading into its SEC opener at Auburn on Saturday.

The Razorbacks have forced 10 fumbles, including six in their season opener, and have recovered seven of them. Also, Arkansas is one of only five FBS teams who has not fumbled yet, joining LSU, Stanford, Toledo and Central Florida.

Only Clemson, with seven forced fumbles, has more than six among FBS teams.

The Razorbacks have a plus-7 turnover margin on fumbles alone, but because the Hogs have thrown eight interceptions and have only one themselves -- by Ryan Pulley at Colorado State -- their overall turnover margin is at 0.0, tied with 19 other teams, including Auburn.

Big plays

Auburn has 12 plays of 20-plus yards, but had only two against LSU last week, on Jarrett Stidham passes to Asa Martin for 33 yards and Anthony Swartz for 28.

"When we're at our best, we have more explosive plays," Tigers Coach Gus Malzahn said. "That's something that we'll be working hard to do."

Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis noted Malzahn has a penchant for using gadget plays.

"You have to be ready for a host of trick plays," Chavis said. "He has plays that he's designed and usually they are well designed and he's going to run them."

The Tigers scored on one such play last year, Darius Slayton's 62-yard deep-ball touchdown pass thrown by fellow wideout Ryan Davis.

Auburn WR out

Auburn receiver Nate Craig-Myers informed Coach Gus Malzahn this week of his intention to leave the program and transfer to another school, AuburnSports.com reported Thursday.

Craig-Myers, a three-game starter, had 2 receptions for 39 yards this season and 22 catches for 394 yards and 4 touchdowns in his career.

Craig-Myers was rated the No. 6 receiver in the nation out of Tampa Catholic High School in 2016. He is the fourth Auburn player to leave the program since the start of the season and the second offensive player this week after tight end Jalen Harris announced his intention to transfer on Wednesday.

Adversity again

Arkansas Coach Chad Morris knows about first-year blues. He took over a 1-11 SMU team in 2014 and led the Mustangs to a 2-10 mark the following season.

The current Razorbacks are 1-2 and are entering the meat of their SEC West schedule, starting Saturday at Auburn.

"I've gone through trying times anywhere I've ever been," Morris said. "So you always take a little bit from every stop and people that you've worked for when you've gone through trying times ... and what can you build off of.

"One thing that's consistent is my message of the one thing we can control. There are a lot of uncontrollables and if we focus all our energy on the uncontrollables, we're wasting time and effort on things we can get better at."

Offensive tackle Colton Jackson said the message from the coaching staff has been to stick together.

"The work you put in doesn't always come out how you want it to. No matter the outcome we have to stick together, rally together," Jackson said. "We're all we need. Don't pay attention to the outside. You can't let the outside world tell you what kind of man you are.

"We know what kind of men we are and we know what it takes. We just have to play a full, complete game on both sides of the ball."

The series

Auburn leads the series with Arkansas by a count of 15-11-1 with all but one of the games being played since the Razorbacks joined the SEC in 1992.

The series had been 11-10-1 in Auburn's favor after the Razorbacks won 24-7 in Auburn in 2012, but the Tigers have won four of the last five games.

Winning on the road has not been a problem for either team. Auburn leads 7-5 in games played in Fayetteville, while the Hogs had a 5-5-1 record in Auburn until losing their last two games there.

In neutral site games the series is 1-0, with Auburn winning the Liberty Bowl 21-15 on Dec. 27, 1984 in the first meeting between the teams. Arkansas beat the Tigers 30-28 in 1995 in the only game played in Little Rock.

Keep grinding

Tight end Jeremy Patton said the Razorbacks' attitude hasn't been changed by the team's 1-2 start.

"It's not really much different for us inside the locker room," he said. "We had a lot of guys counting us out before the season even started. Guys predicting us to go 0-8 in the SEC and just win the non-conference games, so we have the same mindset. We know we're going to keep grinding, chop wood, carrying water and try to get this thing rolling."

Red flags

Auburn was penalized nine times for 111 yards against LSU, including two "back-breaker" pass interference calls, according to defensive coordinator Kevin Steele on LSU's game-winning, 52-yard field goal drive.

"In basically a 60-yard drive, we gave up 30 yards in penalties," Steele said. "The last drive, they earned half of what they got. We gave them the other 30 yards."

Steele said the defense worked hard after a season-opening 21-16 victory over Washington to make sure it didn't have more pass interference flags.

"But obviously we have not made enough progress in that area yet," he said. "There's always coaching techniques you can do. If you play it right, you shouldn't get the call."

The Tigers rank No. 120 in the nation with 84 penalty yards per game.

"Right now we're an undisciplined team as far as penalties are concerned," Malzahn said. "That disappoints me. But here's the deal: That starts with me and it ends with me."

Encouraging O'Grady

Senior tight end Jeremy Patton talked optimistically about junior backup C.J. O'Grady, who was suspended for the first two games and played a few snaps last week.

"I love C.J.," Patton said. "He's coming along. He's doing a lot better than he was. He's going to class every day. He's doing all the little things he needs to do and he's really working on his craft. You see his practice habits going much better."

Oh, brother

There's still a Carlson kicking for Auburn.

Redshirt freshman Anders Carlson has replaced his older brother Daniel as the Tigers' placekicker.

Carlson is 3 of 6 on field goals this season with a long of 53 yards. He's also perfect on nine extra points, stretching Auburn's SEC record to 237 consecutive made going back to the 2013 season.

Auburn has broken broke the record of 234 consecutive made extra points by Texas A&M from 2013-17.

Daniel Carlson, a three-time All-American who is the SEC's career leading scorer with 480 points, was cut by the Minnesota Vikings this week after missing three field goals in a 29-29 overtime tie at Green Bay.

Sports on 09/21/2018

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