Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Greenlaw gives team big boost
Arkansas linebacker Dre Greenlaw claps during warmups prior to a game against Auburn on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Auburn, Ala.
AUBURN, Ala. -- University of Arkansas linebacker Dre Greenlaw racked up eight tackles, including three stops for loss, in the Razorbacks' 34-3 loss at No. 9 Auburn, his first action since suffering a high ankle sprain in the first quarter of the season opener.
"I was happy to be out there, just to be able to help my team," Greenlaw said. "I'm not 100 percent, but whatever I can do to go out there and try to give that boost, give that confidence and just go out there and try to make some plays for the team."
Linebacker De'Jon Harris said "the defense got rolling" with the help of Greenlaw's return.
"Dre's an older guy and he knows what's coming, so the communication and everything was perfect from our ends to the back end, so it was huge to have him back," Harris said.
"It was wonderful," defensive end Randy Ramsey added. "Our defense is a pack of wolves with Dre out there. We were that much faster as a whole unit."
Arkansas fell to 5-13 in its last 18 games after Saturday's 34-3 loss at No. 9 Auburn.
The stretch dates back to the final two games of 2016 with losses at Missouri and against Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl after the Razorbacks had double-figure leads in both games.
Seven of the losses have been to ranked teams, including five last year. Arkansas has lost its last eight games against ranked teams dating to a 31-10 thumping of No. 11 Florida on Nov. 5, 2016.
Coach Chad Morris said he was encouraged by much of what he saw against Auburn even with the Razorbacks in a most difficult stretch of the season against SEC West opponents.
"They keep caring," Morris said. "They keep giving what we ask them to give. That's the sign of a football team that's going to continue to get better."
Arkansas defensive end Randy Ramsey appeared to be back in form against Auburn after posting six tackles, including a 9-yard sack.
"This game was just me proving myself," Ramsey said. "I know I can play on this level and I can play with anybody, with any program."
Ramsey got limited duty last week but turned in a full performance on Saturday.
"Last week I was just getting back into it and I knew I was going to have a good game," he said. "The way we practice, the way coach is going to push us each and every week, day in and day out, I just knew I was going to have a good game tonight."
Ramsey would have had a second sack on his stop of Jarrett Stidham for a 1-yard loss in the second quarter, but he committed a face-mask penalty while bringing the quarterback down on third and goal from the Arkansas 9.
Can you see?
Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn said the Tigers accomplished three key objectives even while not finding their rhythm offensively against Arkansas. Having no turnovers, disrupting Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey and posting a win were the prime objectives.
"We have a good football team," Malzahn said. "I think everybody can see. We've played two top 10 teams, beat one and got beat on the last play of the game in the other.
"You look at the offense, it's a pretty inexperienced group and they'll continue to improve."
The Tigers had no turnovers, sacked Storey twice and pressured him into 9 hurries.
Arkansas clamped down severely on Auburn's drive-starting plays. The Hogs held Auburn to less than 1 yard per drive-starting snap when the Tigers' penalties for delay of game and for having an ineligible receiver downfield were included as 5-yard losses.
Auburn's drive-starting plays featured only one first-down gain, a 12-yard pass to Ryan Davis. Only four other drive-starters went for positive yardage totaling 11 yards.
On the other side, there were five lost-yardage plays, including a 5-yard sack by Ryan Pulley, a screen pass to Kam Martin on which De'Jon Harris posted a 3-yard tackle for loss and Dre Greenlaw's stop of JaTarvious Whitlow for a 1-yard loss.
Auburn smashed Arkansas in the return game, and not just due to Noah Igbinoghene's 96-yard kickoff return touchdown.
The final yardage tally on returns was 288-33 in favor of the Tigers.
Ryan Davis had punt returns of 48 and 36 yards, which led to 10 points. K.J. Britt returned a blocked punt by Jordyn Peters and returned it 11 yards to set up a touchdown. Daniel Thomas returned a fumble 40 yards to set up a field goal. Javaris Davis returned an interception 57 yards to set up a field goal try on the final play of the half, though Anders Carlson missed the 50-yard effort.
Arkansas' return yardage came on Deon Stewart's 13-yard punt return and his 20-yard kickoff return.
Arkansas made a couple of changes on its starting offensive line and the result was something to build on.
Senior Hjalte Froholdt and junior Ty Clary swapped positions, with Froholdt moving back to his more familiar left guard slot and Clary taking over at center, and junior Colton Jackson made his first start of the season at left tackle.
"We've been working that the last several weeks, once we knew Colton was coming back and was going to try to do it to create some depth," Coach Chad Morris said. "We just felt like that might be the best five combination we could have."
Arkansas' first four opponents have combined for an 8-9 record, including 4-0 by North Texas and 0-4 by Eastern Illinois.
North Texas kept its record clean with a 47-7 victory at Liberty on Saturday. Colorado State's lone win is its 34-27 come-from-behind victory over Arkansas. The Rams fell 35-19 at home to FCS-level Illinois State on Saturday.
Eastern Illinois has lost to Illinois State (48-10), Indiana State (55-41) and Tennessee State (41-40) since losing its season opener to the Hogs. Coach Kim Dameron's team blew a 21-point lead in Saturday's loss in Nashville, Tenn.
The totality of Auburn's five scoring drives -- which excludes Noah Igbinoghene's 96-yard kickoff return touchdown -- was 99 yards, including a 72-yard series in the fourth quarter.
Auburn's first three scoring drives, which led to a 17-0 advantage, went 27, 1 and 9 yards. The Tigers lost 10 yards on their final scoring series, which led to Anders Carlson's 43-yard field goal after Ryan Davis' 36-yard punt return to the Hogs 15.
The Razorbacks' lone scoring drive covered 68 yards. They also had an 11-play, 53-yard sequence in the first quarter that resulted in Connor Limpert's missed 40-yard field goal.
Auburn defensive back Jordyn Peters blocked one Arkansas punt, leading to a Tigers touchdown in the second quarter, and the sophomore really should have blocked one earlier.
Peters raced in on Reid Bauer's second punt, from the Arkansas 33, and got out of rhythm as he went past the blocking zone before Bauer kicked the ball.
"On the first one I ran past him," Peters said. "I was too fast. I really should have tackled him, but that's never happened to me before. But I got my hand on the second one."
Sports on 09/24/2018
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.