Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year twice.
Auburn runs all over UA
Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway runs away from a group of Arkansas defenders during a game Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas' run defense will get its stiffest test yet Saturday against Auburn, which has gored the Razorbacks on the ground since Coach Gus Malzahn took over in 2013.
Arkansas ranks No. 15 in the country, and fourth in the SEC, by allowing 87.3 rushing yards per game. The Razorbacks allow 2.82 yards per carry, which ranks 16th in the nation.
"When you look at their blueprint and what they've been for years, they want to run the football," Arkansas Coach Chad Morris said. "They want to run the football and take their play-action shots when they see fit. They will come in with the intent to run the ball."
Auburn has chewed Arkansas up on the ground while going 4-1 against the Hogs under Malzahn. The Tigers averaged 321 rushing yards per game in Malzahn's matchups against Arkansas teams coached by Bret Bielema, and they piled up 543 in a 56-3 victory at Auburn in 2016.
"They want to run the ball of course, like every SEC team," Arkansas defensive end Randy Ramsey said. "They want to establish the run first, then air it out."
Auburn rushed for 130 yards on 38 carries, an average of 3.4 yards per attempt, in its 22-21 home loss to LSU last week.
"We all know we need to run the football better, and we're committed to doing that," Malzahn said. "There's no doubt in my mind we'll get better."
Auburn has the nation's No. 28 rushing offense, which averages 235 yards per game heading into Saturday's contest.
Sophomore Ty Clary got more work at center Wednesday, perhaps setting up a switch of senior Hjalte Froholdt from center back to left guard. Froholdt started all 25 games at left guard in 2016 and 2017. Clary started four games at right guard in 2017.
"We're trying to cross-train some guys," Chad Morris said. "We're trying to find the best five combination to put on the field. That's always a work in progress and will continue to be. We do that for depth purposes as well."
Colton Jackson and Dalton Wagner got work at left tackle Wednesday as freshman Noah Gatlin, who started the past two games there, wore green for an undisclosed injury.
Joining freshman lineman Noah Gatlin in green limited-contact jerseys Wednesday were linebacker Dre Greenlaw, defensive end Dorian Gerald and running back Chase Hayden.
Chad Morris said Greenlaw and defensive back Kevin Richardson, who was out of a green jersey for the first time this season, would travel to Auburn and are expected to play.
"We're excited," Morris said. "Both guys came out yesterday and ran around good. I know Kevin is back. He'll be back in a regular jersey today, which is good."
Richardson is likely to plug quickly into the nickel rotation with D'Vone McClure and Derrick Munson.
Coach Chad Morris said Ty Storey, who he named as the starting quarterback for the Auburn game, has had a good week.
"He's done really well," Morris said. "He had a very good day yesterday. All those guys did. He knows he's the guy and in charge out there leading. We had a very good offensive day yesterday."
The redshirt junior started Week 2 at Colorado State and went 5 of 13 for 36 yards with 2 interceptions in the first half. He left with the Hogs holding a 13-9 lead, then did not play in last week's loss to North Texas.
Storey and Cole Kelley combined to throw six interceptions in the past two games.
Gus knows Ty
Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn recruited Arkansas junior Ty Storey out of Charleston High School in 2014.
"I know him and his family well," Malzahn said. "His dad Shane is one of my good friends. I kind of watched Ty grow up. He's a special person. He's a very talented quarterback."
Corners and returns
The Razorbacks will have tight numbers at cornerback and kick returner heading into the Auburn game.
Kickoff returners De'Vion Warren, Gary Cross and Britto Tutt are all doubtful or ruled out for the game. Cross had two returns for 39 yards last week before injuring an ankle, while Tutt had two returns for 44 yards before going out.
Coach Chad Morris said Tutt would be out "for a few weeks," and that Cross and Warren were doubtful.
Deon Stewart might be the top choice. He had one kickoff return for 11 yards last week.
Tutt started at corner opposite Ryan Pulley last week before suffering an undisclosed injury. Redshirt freshmen Jarques McClellion and Montaric Brown finished out the game. Chevin Calloway, a two-game starter at cornerback, is still out for an undisclosed personal issue.
"Nobody likes to be down at any position," Morris said. "It's just something we have to deal with and keep getting better every day and moving on."
Morris said the staff had discussed adding starting strong safety Kamren Curl back to the cornerback rotation.
"Right now he's playing well at his position," Morris said. "You'd hate to [move him] at this point."
Who shot J.R.?
Todd Graham said that hiring Gus Malzahn from Arkansas as his offensive coordinator at Tulsa in 2007 was such a controversial move he compared it to the drama from the TV show Dallas, which revolved around the Ewing family.
"When Gus left Arkansas with him and [Razorbacks Coach] Houston Nutt, it was kind of like, 'Who shot J.R.?' " Graham said Wednesday at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club. "I wouldn't answer any question about it. It was unbelievable. It was toxic.
"I almost couldn't hire him. It was very difficult to hire him. Obviously, we did great things there."
Tulsa had records of 10-4 and 11-3 with Malzahn as Graham's offensive coordinator.
Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn and his wife Kristi have pledged a $2 million donation to Auburn for a football-only complex on campus. The Tigers currently operate out of an all-purpose facility, the Auburn Athletics Complex, that was built in 1989.
"I think that's really the only thing we need at this time," Malzahn said on Wednesday's SEC teleconference. "It's very important to me. Me and Kristi love Auburn. The future is very bright. We like the fact we're a part of it."
Malzahn said the decision to make the large donation came about in the past couple of weeks.
"Auburn has made an investment in me, and I want to do the same thing," Malzahn said. "I just think it's a good thing and me and Kristi are very excited to do that."
Malzahn agreed on a seven-year, $49 million contract in December after the University of Arkansas pursued him for its vacant head coaching job.
A native of Irving, Texas, Malzahn grew up in Fort Smith and made his name in the prep coaching ranks in Arkansas before becoming offensive coordinator at Arkansas in 2006 to kick off his college coaching career.
Arkansas offensive coordinator Joe Craddock said a positive from the North Texas game is that freshman quarterbacks Connor Noland and John Stephen Jones weren't scared about playing in a game for the first time.
"They were ready to go," Craddock said. "I talked to them on the headset when they went in. They were excited and didn't seem they were nervous at all."
The staff member in charge of musical selections at Arkansas practices has gone with themes each week of the season.
This week, the selections have trended toward southern rock, including Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" and "Sweet Home Alabama."
DATE OPPONENT TIME/RESULT
Sept. 1 Eastern Illinois W, 55-20
Sept. 8 at Colorado St. L, 34-27
Sept. 15 North Texas L, 44-17
Saturday at Auburn* 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 29 Texas A&M*# 11 a.m.
Oct. 6 Alabama* TBA
Oct. 13 Ole Miss*^ TBA
Oct. 20 Tulsa TBA
Oct. 27 Vanderbilt* TBA
Nov. 10 LSU* TBA
Nov. 17 at Mississippi St.* TBA
Nov. 23 at Missouri* 1:30 p.m.
^ at War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock
# at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Sports on 09/20/2018
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