MARK BUFFALO • ARKANSAS NEWS BUREAU
Arkansas quarterback hit tackled by Alabama linebacker Dillon Lee after scrambling for a first down during the fourth quarter of the Razorbacks’ 52-0 loss to Alabama on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Five Keys Review
1. Handle Adversity — Not Accomplished
Arkansas had no answer for Alabama once again Saturday, falling behind on the first series and never threatening in the lopsided loss at Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Crimson Tide scored touchdowns on four of its five first-half possessions to build a 28-0 halftime lead and never looked back. Arkansas had some good moments on offense, but they were typically followed by mistakes. Two examples: Brandon Allen completed a 25-yard pass to tight end Hunter Henry, then threw an interception on the next play. The Razorbacks moved into field goal range in the first half, but Zach Hocker’s field goal was blocked.
2. Win Turnover Battle — Not Accomplished
Arkansas’ familiar issues continued at Alabama. The offense turned the ball over three times in the loss. The defense couldn’t force any turnovers. Arkansas’ minus-3 turnover margin was its worst single-game performance of the season and Razorbacks are now minus-9 in four Southeastern Conference games (10 turnovers, one forced). Allen’s two interceptions give him seven for the season with six of them coming in Arkansas’ four SEC games. Receiver Keon Hatcher also fumbled for the second straight week, losing the football on the opening kickoff of the second half.
3. Passing Success — Not Accomplished
The Razorbacks were coming off a 4-for-12, 30-yard performance against South Carolina. So it was hard to do much worse. Arkansas did make a few positive plays through the air, but not nearly enough to make a difference Saturday. Allen finished 7-for-25 for 91 yards with two interceptions and has completed 11-of-37 passes for 131 yards with three interceptions in the past two games. One bright spot: Henry was more involved with three catches for 42 yards Saturday.
4. No Big Returns — Accomplished
Alabama return man Christion Jones was a big-play threat, but never got on track against the Razorbacks. It helped that Arkansas only kicked off once — Jones turned in a 32-yard return — in the game. Jones never had an opportunity to return one of Sam Irwin-Hill’s four punts, either. It wasn’t a strong day for Arkansas’ special teams, though. Zach Hocker had a field goal blocked and Hatcher fumbled a kickoff return.
5. Get Off The Field — Not Accomplished
Arkansas was on the field for 43 minutes against South Carolina and didn’t set a good tone defensively on the first series Saturday. Alabama marched 68 yards on 12 plays in 5:51 for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown. The Crimson Tide was 2-for-2 on third down during the drive including a third-and-9 completion. Alabama didn’t face third down often in the lopsided win, but was 5-for-9 on Saturday. The Razorbacks led in time of possession but there was a reason: Five of Alabama’s seven touchdown drives spanned 2:21 or less Saturday.
• Arkansas coach Bret Bielema on how his team carries on after five straight losses:
“What we can ask them to do, I’ve repeatedly said to our guys, is they have to care. They have to have a certain amount of respect for themselves first before we can begin to carry it forward. I don’t know how or why we got that way, but I’m talking about respect for your preparation, respect for your grades, respect on how you do your business, how you’re on time, whether you’re disciplined in all the things we ask you to be.”
• Bielema on quarterback Brandon Allen’s performance:
“Brandon, I thought, threw the ball but he was getting pressured quite a bit. We tried to move the pocket on them in the second half, which took away from some of their pressures, but he obviously got whacked pretty good and I think it was a little bit of flashbacks.”
• Bielema on whether Arkansas’ struggles are still a product of last season:
“Without a doubt. You know, as a human being, you’re a product of what you’ve witnessed and what you’ve seen and the behavior that we as coaches just cannot tolerate and our players have to eradicate it. A lot of our guys talked about it this week, but until that culture changes, and it might take one play. It might take one play. It might take one quarter for someone to rise above it. But until that happens, a lot of these same results will continue to slide back in.”
• Bielema’s impression of Alabama after facing the Tide for the first time:
“They’re a good football team on film. What jumps out to you right away is just personnel wise, how big their guys are, how thick they are. Some place that we definitely want to strive to be. We’re just not in that league yet.”
Players of the Game
Offense – RB Alex Collins (18 carries, 77 yards)
The Razorbacks endured another ugly offensive performance Saturday. Running back Alex Collins was one of the lone bright spots. The freshman led Arkansas with 18 carries for 77 yards. He showed toughness during plenty of late runs, too, grinding away even though the outcome of Saturday’s game had long been decided.
Defense – DT Darius Philon (eight tackles)
Philon earned his first start in his home state and against the school he previously committed to before being told there wasn’t room. The redshirt freshman finished with eight tackles, leading a defensive line that couldn’t get much push against Alabama’s improved offensive front.
Special Teams – P Sam Irwin-Hill (12-yard run, 35.0 average on punts)
Irwin-Hill has punted with his right foot this season. He has punted with his left. He also has thrown two passes. Irwin-Hill added yet another wrinkle with a 12-yard run on fourth-and-3 play in the first half Saturday. It was Arkansas’ biggest play of the game at the time, but the Razorbacks still couldn’t turn the run into points.
12.5 — Average points scored by the Razorbacks in four SEC games against Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama. The average ranks last in the conference.
44.8 — Average points allowed by Arkansas in its four SEC games. Like the scoring average, the number ranks last in the conference.
121 — Arkansas’ NCAA ranking, among 123 teams, in completion percentage. The Razorbacks are completing just 46.4 percent of their passes this season. Only Georgia Tech (44.1 percent) and South Florida (40.2) have been worse. Arkansas is completing just 38.5 percent in its four SEC games.
165 — Arkansas rushing yards against Alabama, which was its most since amassing 301 yards against the Crimson Tide during a 41-38 loss in 2007. The Razorbacks had been held under 100 yards rushing in its previous five games against the Crimson Tide — 58 (2012), 17 (2011), 64 (2010), 63 (2009) and 92 (2008).
Arkansas played without two injured starters on defense (defensive tackle Robert Thomas and cornerback Will Hines) and lost a third for a little while Saturday.
Safety Rohan Gaines left the field with a left knee injury in the first half and went to the locker room. But Arkansas got some good news at halftime. Gaines returned to the sideline in the second half and played, finishing with three tackles.
Arkansas has lost five straight games for the first time since 1997 and will have some extra time to think about it. The Razorbacks move into their first off week after playing eight straight games and everyone agreed the break is needed.
“I feel like this bye week is going to help a lot of people’s bodies and help us get better,” Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith said. “Get us back. This gives us two weeks to prepare for Auburn.”
The Razorbacks will be back in Razorback Stadium on Nov. 2 to face Auburn and first-year coach Gus Malzahn. The former Fort Smith resident and Arkansas assistant coach has led Auburn to a surprising 6-1 start this season, highlighted by Saturday’s 45-41 win at Texas A&M.
The Tigers — who are ranked No. 11 in this week’s Associated Press poll — plays Florida Atlantic at 6:30 p.m. Saturday night (Fox Sports Net). Barring a big upset, Auburn will be Arkansas’ fifth straight ranked opponent.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau