FAYETTEVILLE — No. 17 Arkansas had one lead the entire game as they scored a pair of touchdowns two minutes, 48 seconds apart, but couldn’t hold momentum in a 38-23 loss.
Trailing 14-3, Arkansas went 84 yards in 12 plays scoring on a 11-yard touchdown pass from KJ Jefferson to Treylon Burks with 18 seconds remaining in the first half.
Arkansas then got the ball to start the second half and promptly went on a six-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Jefferson hitting Burks for 30-yard touchdown with 12:30 remaining in the third quarter. Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman was asked if he felt like the Hogs had turned it around when they took the lead?
“Yeah,” Pittman said. “Yeah. I thought we were in good shape, even though I knew, I felt like they were going to be able to score. That wasn’t the end of the scoring. I felt that we needed to score again. But we had the ball once or twice with a three-point lead and didn’t score. One of them we scored for them, the sack fumble. We had our opportunities to put pressure on them, we just never did. We got up three, had a chance to go up 10 and we just never did. We never really scratched the surface of that 10. I think we got to the 40-yard line one time, maybe 50, but nothing that would really put pressure on them.”
Senior linebacker Bumper Pool was one of three Razorbacks with eight tackles on the day. He talked about how he felt when the Hogs went up 17-14.
“I thought at no point during that game did anyone lose belief,” Pool said. “We scored and got up and oh, our plan is working. The momentum of the game things handle so well. No matter what happens we’re always in it, but you’ve got to find a way to win. Find a way to finish.”
Arkansas stopped Auburn on its first two possessions of the third quarter. However, on a fourth-and-five play from its own 27 the Tigers punted and Nathan Parodi, a very sure-handed return man, let the ball hit and it rolled to the Arkansas 11. Pittman explained why Parodi let it hit and roll.
“Well, Parodi said he lost the ball,” Pittman said. “The sun was in his eye and he lost the ball. Parodi’s not going to lie, he lost the ball. At that point, I believe we were up 3. We couldn’t get out of there, we were trying to be fairly conservative on that play. We could have turned around and handed the ball off, tried to get a few yards and punt out of there. I felt like at that point we still had some good momentum. We had just stopped them, and that was kind of the final straw. Not really, but kind of, giving up those 7. Because our defense was playing pretty well to that point in the second half, and even late in the second quarter. Then to give that, it kind of took the wind out of our sails it seemed like.”
Three plays later disaster struck for the Hogs. Jefferson, who had been sacked for a 6-yard loss on second down, was hit and tackled in the end zone on third down. Jefferson fumbled and Auburn’s Marcus Harris fell on it for a touchdown and 21-17 lead with 7:19 left in third quarter.
But the bad news for Arkansas wasn’t finished. It got the ball back and drove to the Auburn 30. Facing a fourth-and-3 play Jefferson was stopped for a one-yard gain giving the ball to Auburn. On first down at his own 29, Bo Nix found wide receiver Demetris Robertson for a 79-yard touchdown and 28-17 lead. Arkansas was unsuccessful on all three fourth-down tries.
“It seemed like we were at the 35 yard line a lot today, 30-35, somewhere in there,” Pittman said. “We tried one, missed it, then we went for it on fourth and, it wasn’t much, fourth and less than a yard and didn’t make it. Went for it on fourth and 4 going the other direction, didn’t make it, and it seemed like everything I was calling or chance I was taking — tried to kick it, didn’t make it, tried to go for it, didn’t make it. It seemed like it wasn’t going our way today on some of those. They reviewed the one with Rocket, the short one, and I guess figured out it was a chain length. No difference there, then we didn’t pitch the ball on the fourth and 4. So, I don’t know.”
Arkansas did get a 10-yard touchdown run by Dominique Johnson on the last play of the third quarter to pull within 28-25. Pittman opted to try for two at that point and get within a field goal.
“I don’t know,” Pittman said. “I mean, I say I don’t know. At that time, I knew we could get to three. It was the last play of the third quarter. Basically, I thought maybe we could get it to a field goal and tie the game if we make this two-point. We couldn’t. I felt like we might could hold them on defense and possibly tie it with three. The chart says to go for it, go for two. I thought it was worth the chance to take to get within three at that point in the game.”
The Hogs will be in Little Rock on Saturday to take on UAPB at War Memorial Stadium. It will be another 11 a.m. kickoff and televised on the SEC Network.