By Drake Priddy
FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas Razorbacks fall to the Alabama Crimson Tide 24-21 in Tuscaloosa, but a pair of late touchdowns kept the Hogs in the game. It was another week of offensive troubles, and a struggling rushing attack.
The Razorbacks were without Junior running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders today making this his fourth missed game of the year. Last year, Sanders finished second in the SEC in total rushing yards. This season, Sanders has rushed for 91 yards on 34 attempts and two touchdowns.
In the injured Sander’s place, junior A.J. Green and sophomore Rashod Dubinion have been splitting snaps at running back. Green has accounted for 195 yards of rushing on 32 attempts with two touchdowns. One of Green’s touchdowns was a 55-yard TD run in the loss against BYU. Dubinion has tallied up 187 yards on 51 carries and one touchdown so far this season.
Today, Green rushed for 44 yards on six carries. Dubinion had 26 yards on 14 carries but also had a 14-yard touchdown reception. The outcome was not ideal, but Dubinion is proud of his team’s performance today when asked in the post-game conference.
“I feel like we fought,” said Dubinion. “We’ll never give up. I like that about our team. We’ve just got to pull through and finish.”
Both backs have had plenty of experience in SEC play and the Arkansas offense, but this year has been different. Last year, Dubinion led the rushing attack in Arkansas’ win over Kansas in the Liberty Bowl with 112 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman. Green amassed 414 yards on 87 carries and three touchdowns in the 2022 season. Both backs have shown their versatility in the Razorback offensive scheme, but this year have struggled to find the first down marker and end zone.
The Arkansas offense has struggled to find their identity so far this season and looks even more uncharacteristic without their previously dominant run game. Last season, Arkansas averaged 236.5 yards of rushing per game. This year, they have averaged just a mere 111.5 yards per game. Today, as a team, the Hogs rushed for 100 yards, the longest was 23 yards from a K.J. Jefferson scamper.
The Hog’s offense showed promise early in the game, kicking two field goals in their first three possessions. The Razorbacks would then go on to punt on their next five drives and converting 2-8 of their third downs in the first half. They would finish converting 4-14.
With less than a minute left in the third quarter, the offense finally showed some life scoring their first touchdown of the game, and then their second early in the fourth quarter. The Razorbacks ultimately fell short but showed how explosive they can be. Dubinion believes their late success came from simply lining up and playing ball.
“We kind of got back to what we were doing in the first quarter, like going fast, everybody just lining up and go,” said Dubinion. “Like, don’t think too much. When you think a lot in football, you tend to make mistakes.”
Head coach Sam Pittman took note of his offense’s late explosiveness and believe that is what it will take if they want to win more games.
“Well we got a long way to go,” said Pittman. “We’ve still got five more games and as you saw our kids our trying their heart out to win. But I think we need to get a few more explosives obviously. But to get those we did help us and we ended up scoring on those drives. So we’re got to continue to work and our kids will but we’ve got to continue to get explosive plays.”
After today’s loss, the Razorbacks are 2-5 and 0-4 in SEC play. This is their fourth game of the season that resulted in a loss by a touchdown or less. Even through their five-game skid, Dubinion is finding some positives.
“One thing I’ve learned is we just have to finish,” said Dubinion. “I don’t like moral victories, I don’t take them, but at the end of the game, just finish, execute. If we execute more, we’ll be more consistent and we’ll win a lot of games.”
The Razorbacks have played their last four games on the road against teams who.all ranked in the top 25. The Hogs will finally be back at home this upcoming weekend and are set to play Mississippi State. It has been a brutal month for the Hogs, Coach Pittman and company are ready to be back in Donald W. Reynolds Stadium.
“I think the good lord puts us in a lot of situations, I do,” said Pittman. “To learn and different things, going into this stretch starting with BYU, I wouldn’t have dreamt or nobody else that we would be sitting here 2-5 didn’t.., And hopefully, we’ll be a better team when we get back home and get out of there. I’m glad we’re… we still got to go to Florida, but four of the five are at home. I just hope that we learn from it as coaches…That’s yet to be determined until we get out
there and play Mississippi State…”
Quarterback K.J. Jefferson and Dubinion are both excited about being back in front of the home crowd and looking forward to finishing the season with four home games.
“It’s real exciting,” said Jefferson. “Get to play in front of people that love you. I mean, it’s great. Getting just to play in front of the fans. Play on your own field. Be in the environment you’re used to. I mean I’m excited for it and I think the whole team is.”
“Not letting the outside noise get in,” said Dubinion. “I feel like if you do that, you can stay tight as a team. I’m ready to get back and play in front of our fans at our stadium, bringing the energy.”
Arkansas and Mississippi State are set for a 11:00 am kick off for Arkansas’s homecoming weekend. The game will be aired on ESPN.