Offense sputters, fails to finish drives at Auburn

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Sunday, September 23, 2018
Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey is sacked during a game against Auburn on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Auburn, Ala.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey is sacked during a game against Auburn on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Auburn, Ala.

— In his mind, Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey had to be thinking he sounded like a broken record.

Storey, in his second career start, and the Razorbacks struggled to capitalize on positive drives Saturday night against No. 9 Auburn in a 34-3 loss in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Failure to sustain those possessions despite a handful of chunk plays that moved the ball into scoring position or Tigers territory was crucial.

“We’ve just got to finish drives,” said Storey, who completed 13 of 31 pass attempts and was hurried nine times. “We were rolling and we were right there playing with (those) guys. I don’t think it’s a talent thing, I don’t think it’s a coaching thing. We’ve got to execute and we’ve got to put the ball in the end zone. It’s as simple as that.”

Arkansas out-gained Auburn in the loss. Storey threw for 141 yards, and the Razorbacks’ host of running backs combined for a majority of the 149 yards on the ground. Rakeem Boyd, who said he was “turned loose” for the first time this season, finished with more than 100 yards of total offense, leading Arkansas in rushing and receiving.

The bulk of his production came on a 45-yard rush on the Razorbacks’ opening play of the second half that pushed the offense to the Auburn 34. After the drive stalled inside the Tigers’ 15, kicker Connor Limpert drilled a 29-yard field goal for Arkansas’ lone score of the night.

The Razorbacks later squandered another opportunity set up by Boyd, who pulled Arkansas out of its own end zone with a 33-yard catch and run on a screen play. Two plays later, Storey ran for 17 yards and a first down to the Auburn 29. The drive ended in a turnover on downs.

“When you get down there, especially against teams like this, you have to come away with some type of points, especially early in the game,” Arkansas coach Chad Morris said. “And when we did have something happen, we had a penalty back us up. Those are things that we’re going to have to correct.”

The first instance of Arkansas letting points slip away came on its second possession of the game. On third-and-10 near midfield, Storey stepped up and fired a strike to receiver Deon Stewart down to the Auburn 20. The throw was Storey’s second consecutive completion on third down on the drive and placed the Razorbacks within striking distance of tying the game at 7-7.

Two small gains on the ground and one incompletion later, Arkansas had to settle for a 40-yard field goal attempt, which Limpert missed badly to the left. Coming away empty handed in those situations isn’t a recipe for finding success on the road in the SEC.

“It wasn’t really that frustrating,” Boyd said. “We’ve just got to finish drives and just keeping pushing and executing, really. … Honestly, just finishing drives and executing. We’ve just got to all come together and we’ve all got to buy in. Once everyone does that we’ll be rolling.”

Storey, who Morris said will likely be the team’s starting quarterback moving forward, was adamant following the game that the offense will take off given time. Execution and focus lacked Saturday, but he vowed the unit will make strides.

“It starts with me,” Storey said. “We’ve got to put the ball in the end zone. We’re confident in the people around me and the system we’re running, man, it’s good stuff. We’ve got to execute. We’ve got to execute. We’ve got the guys, we’ve got the system, we’ve got guys making great calls.

“This is going to work. We’ve just got to execute.”

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