FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas defeated Auburn 41-27 on Saturday to win its second game in a row.
The Hogs are now 5-3 on the season. Prior to the game, I listed five keys for Arkansas to win the game. Here’s a look back at how the Hogs did on each of the keys.
Run Ball With Success
The Razorbacks must be able to run the ball with success against Auburn. The Tigers haven’t been very good at stopping the run and that is one of Arkansas’ strengths led by Rocket Sanders. The Tigers are giving up 204.4 yards per game on the ground. Sanders, AJ Green, Rashod Dubinion and Dominique Johnson need to have big days for the Hogs. Arkansas is averaging 240 yards on the ground each game which ranks second in the SEC behind only Ole Miss.
The Hogs did run the ball extremely well particularly in the second half. Maybe in the first half the Razorbacks leaned on the pass too much. But in the second half, the Hogs ran well, Rocket Sanders rushed 16 times for 171 yards. As a team, Arkansas ran it 48 times for 286 yards and four touchdowns, So Arkansas passed this test with flying colors.
Third Down Success on Both Sides
The Razorbacks need to have success on third down both offensively and defensively. Arkansas’ defense did a good job of getting off the field against BYU on third down. Likewise, Arkansas’ offense was very good on third-down conversions against BYU. Both sides of the ball struggled on third down against Mississippi State. The offense needs to score a lot of points to help defeat Auburn and maintaining drives allows the defense to also get more rest on the sidelines.
The Hogs were 8 of 14 on third-down conversions. That wasn’t as good as the BYU game, but still a decent figure. On defense, the Razorbacks limited Auburn to 11 of 19 conversions on third down. The Arkansas defense is seemingly making some improvement each game in recent weeks. Still a work in progress, but with healthy bodies coming back there’s obviously improvement.
Eliminate Turnovers, Cut Down on Penalties
Arkansas only had one turnover against BYU while getting three. That is a complete formula for success. If Arkansas can eliminate turnovers and keep the penalties at a minimum they should be successful against Auburn. The games where the Hogs have struggled with penalties they have had a hard time winning.
Arkansas had one turnover in the game. A fumble that ended up costing them three points. But as with so many games this season they had too many penalties. The Hogs were penalized 10 times for 53 yards. Penalties have been an issue for the Hogs much of the season. The yardage wasn’t as significant in this game because Arkansas eliminated the pass interference penalties that were stacking up penalty yards. Auburn was only penalized seven times, but those went for 55 yards. Arkansas will need to continue to try to cut out turnovers and eliminate the costly penalties,
Auburn’s quarterbacks have been sacked 18 times this season. Robby Ashford has been sacked 10 times himself. Auburn’s offensive line is questionable. Auburn is only averaging 22.3 points per game. Ashford, Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter are the main threats. If Arkansas can get pressure on Ashford the passing game should struggle. They will have to contain those three in the running game, but if the Hogs make Auburn one dimensional that should be easier to achieve.
Arkansas finished the game with three sacks and two quarterback hurries. So while they didn’t get as much pressure as maybe one thought they would it was still a successful day for the defense. They held Auburn to 27 points which included a late meaningless touchdown with four seconds remaining in the game. While the Hogs gave up 285 yards to Auburn through the air, they did eliminate most of the big plays in the passing game. Robby Ashford had 36- and 49-yard completions, but the rest were shorter gains.
Big Game From KJ Jefferson
When Arkansas’ offense is clicking like it did against BYU it’s very hard to slow it down. KJ Jefferson was on fire against BYU. He only has one interception this season and that bounced off a receiver’s hands. With Arkansas’ defense struggling due to injuries the offense needs to carry the load in these final five game. Jefferson is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and if he gets hot against Auburn the Hogs will be very difficult to beat.
This is an easy one. Jefferson has one big game after another and that is what’s needed for the Razorbacks to get a win. On Saturday, Jefferson completed 16 of 24 passes for 234 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed 10 times for 45 yards and two more touchdowns. Not a BYU performance, but still an outstanding one. The Hogs will lean on Jefferson for a big game each time they take the field the remainder of the season. One of the best defensive weapons for Arkansas is Jefferson with the ball in his hands on offense allowing Barry Odom’s unit to get some rest. Arkansas’ offense isn’t designed to win the time of possession, but the longer drives does allow the defense to catch its breath compared to the three-and-out series.
The Razorbacks will host Liberty at 3 p.m. on Saturday and televised on the SEC Network.