FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas was blown out by Auburn 52-20 Saturday night at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
The Razorbacks (2-5, 0-4 SEC) trailed 17-6 at halftime. The Tigers (6-2, 4-1) scored 21 unanswered points in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. Arkansas will face Ole Miss on the road next Saturday.
Here’s how SEC Country graded the performance of each position group from the loss Saturday:
Arkansas’ offensive line was dominated by yet another opponent. This time around, the unit’s shortcomings resulted in 6 sacks for Auburn. Redshirt freshman quarterback Cole Kelley fumbled on three of those sacks, and the Tigers recovered two of those.
Kelley was underwhelming in his first home start. A week after showing some promise in a loss at Alabama, he completed just 15 of his 26 attempts for 163 yards. Much of his production came late in the game with the outcome already decided. The sacks weren’t necessarily his fault, but his inability to hold onto the ball certainly was. He also missed open receivers on several occasions.
The running game wasn’t a total disaster for the Hogs. David Williams rushed 14 times for 86 yards (6.1 per carry), and Chase Hayden had 2 carries for 42 yards. Hayden, who left the game with a lower leg injury, also gained 23 yards on a screen pass. But those highlights were among the very few bright spots on a miserable night for the offense.
Auburn had five plays go for at least 38 yards. Three of those were runs, including a 48-yarder by Tigers backup quarterback Malik Willis. The defense isn’t even giving the Hogs a chance to win with that kind of effort.
The most embarrassing play of the night was a 15-yard touchdown run by Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham to cap the Tigers’ first drive. Arkansas had just nine players on the field. One of them, defensive end McTelvin Agim, was lying on the ground when the ball was snapped.
The Tigers finished with 629 total yards (345 rushing, 284 passing).
Special teams: D+
Arkansas had a major missed opportunity on special teams when Auburn muffed a punt following the Hogs’ first drive of the game. The live ball rolled through the end zone as several Arkansas players had a chance to recover it for a touchdown. It was ruled a touchback — not a safety, because it was muffed and possession was never established.
The Hogs also muffed a punt return of their own, but Auburn took advantage of its opportunity. Henre’ Toliver dropped an attempted fair catch to set Auburn up at the Hogs’ 39. Seven plays later, the Tigers were in the end zone, leading 17-6 with three minutes remaining in the first half.
There were two bright spots on special teams. Connor Limpert made two field goals (34 and 38 yards). Freshman receiver De’Vion Warren returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, stating his case for fastest player on the team in the process. Limpert and Warren are the only reason this grade isn’t an F.
There were a lot of questionable coaching decisions in this one. First and foremost: Why did Paul Ramirez start at left tackle? He was responsible for 3 penalties totaling 20 yards in the first half. He also failed regularly in pass protection and was replaced by Colton Jackson to start the third quarter. The poor play from Ramirez really set the Hogs’ offense back early in the game.
Beyond that, this team was simply unprepared across the board. The defense only had 9 players on the field for Auburn’s first touchdown. Nothing is being done to help alleviate the pressure being put on the quarterbacks each week. The team seemed to lack belief it could even compete throughout the second half. All these things point back to coaching.
This feels like rock bottom for Arkansas. It’s impossible to envision the Hogs playing any worse than they did Saturday night. Because of this failing performance, it’s becoming conceivable Arkansas may not win a conference game.