Good news, finally, from the Arkansas football program: a desperately needed win and the first really solid performance of the season. The Razorbacks moved to 2-4 overall after defeating hapless Auburn 24-7 Saturday.
The Hogs now have a chance for a monumental two-game winning streak with a weak Kentucky team scheduled to visit Fayetteville this Saturday. Kentucky will bring a 1-5 overall and 0-3 SEC record into the game. The Wildcats fell to Mississippi State 27-14 Saturday.
The Razorback defense finally woke up and decided to play with some fire. Players said the coaches “turned us loose” against a young Auburn offensive line. Whatever happened, let’s hope the Hogs can make it a weekly experience. When a defense comes up with eight sacks in a game, it takes a lot of pressure off the defensive backs.
Arkansas—who owned the dubious title as worst in the nation in turnover margin prior to this weekend—forced 5 Auburn turnovers, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. They also held Auburn to seven points after giving up an average of 38 per game in the previous five outings.
The victory kept the Hogs out of and relegated the Tigers to the SEC West cellar. Auburn felt to a dismal 1-4 overall and 0-3 in the SEC. The Tigers’ defense played well enough to keep Arkansas out of the endzone the entire third quarter and kept Auburn in the game until Arkansas got a score on a 26-yard trick-play pass from Brandon Mitchell to Javontee Herndon in the 4th quarter.
Meanwhile, Auburn’s offense was anemic the entire game, especially considering the Tigers were coming off a bye week and had two full weeks to prepare for Arkansas’ much maligned defense. The Hogs held the Tigers to just 321 total yards.
First-year Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, who has been very successful at Temple and Florida, has his work cut out for him. So far in 2012, the Tigers are one of the least productive offenses in the country. When you score 7 points against a defense that just gave up 58 to Texas A&M, Auburn faithful are going to start losing patience if they hadn’t already.
Auburn plays at Ole Miss next weekend and they still have Texas A&M, Georgia, and Alabama on the schedule. Loeffler needs to get the Tiger offense in gear somehow.
Former Springdale, Arkansas, Shiloh Christian star Kiehl Frazier has had a rough time as a first-time starter at quarterback for the Tigers so far this season. Frazier was benched after being ineffective in the first half Saturday, passing for 118 yards, throwing an interception, and being sacked four times. Clint Mosely was inserted into the lineup but fared not much better. Mosely threw for 163 yards and one touchdown, but was sacked four times and picked off twice.
One big question mark that remains for the Razorbacks is what’s wrong with Knile Davis? The junior former All-SEC tailback got only three carries against Auburn, lost four yards on those few attempts, and sat out the rest of the game. That followed a poor performance with several fumbles against Texas A&M last week.
Meanwhile, against Auburn, Dennis Johnson and freshman Jonathan Williams shared 23 carries and gained a combined 110 yards on the ground for the Hogs. Whatever is wrong with Davis—whether it is mental or physical, the Razorbacks could benefit from him returning to the form he displayed in 2010 when he rushed for over 1,300 yards.
Kudos to Arkansas punter Dylan Breeding, a senior. Breeding averaged over 51 yards on four punts Saturday with a long of 70 yards. Three of his punts were downed inside the Auburn 20-yard line. That’s a great day in anybody’s book!
Around the SEC: 6th-ranked South Carolina trounced 5th-ranked Georgia 35-7 in front of a record crowd in Columbia and 10th-ranked Florida thumped 4th-ranked LSU 14-6 Saturday to set up a massive showdown in Gainesville in two weeks. The Gamecocks and Gators will clash for the top spot in the SEC East.
Vanderbilt eased past injury-plagued Missouri 19-15 Saturday. Tennessee and Alabama had the week off.
South Carolina used a dominating defense to smother the Dawgs, who never appeared mentally into the game. Head coach Steve Spurrier—who won a national championship as head coach of Florida in 1996— has put together a strong, balanced team at South Carolina that could challenge Alabama for the SEC title.
The Gamecocks play at LSU next Saturday, but should be able to whip the Tigers, who have displayed a remarkable lack of offensive firepower and will most likely drop out of the Top 10 after losing to Florida.
Florida travels to Vanderbilt this week, so both the Gators and Gamecocks should be undefeated when they meet in the Swamp on October 20. South Carolina should move up to number 3 in the polls this week after previously higher ranked LSU and Florida State take the inevitable losers’ plunge. Florida will move up as well.
Next weekend’s top match-ups will be South Carolina at LSU and Tennessee at Mississippi State. Alabama plays at Missouri and Ole Miss hosts Auburn, while Georgia and A&M have the week off.