Arkansas had all the momentum heading into halftime, scoring consecutive touchdowns to tie the game at 21, but Auburn completely shut down the Hogs in the 2nd half and ended up cruising to a 45-21 win.
Even though the game ended terribly, there were positive takeaways:
Give Brandon Allen credit. It should be clear that he and the overall passing game are better. They're not great but at least competent. I didn't find myself afraid when he dropped back to pass. He completed 18/31 passes (58%) which is really good compared to most of his results from last year, and that's including some pretty awful drops by the receivers - the most devastating of which was Keon Hatcher's drop on a deep ball in the 2nd quarter that likely would've been a touchdown. Even Jeff Long pointed that play out when he was being interviewed in the booth!
The running game in the first half, especially the 2nd quarter, was a glimpse of the type of football Bret Bielema is building toward. The offensive line was creating gaping holes and all three running backs were running straight through them. It was glorious. Unfortunately, they couldn't keep it up in the 2nd half.
What's sort of amazing is that Arkansas' points all came off lengthy drives. When Arkansas had a short field after securing an Auburn fumble the Hogs ended up punting from the 34-yard line. The couple of times receivers got behind the Auburn defense, the passes didn't connect.
And that was really the big difference. Arkansas' one turnover was when Brandon Allen was slammed as he threw, resulting in a duck floating in the air and being caught easily by Jermaine Whitehead, who was able to return it for a touchdown. Auburn took advantage of their opportunities. Arkansas didn't.
Arkansas had no answer for D'haquille Williams. Auburn's new receiver caught 9 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown. Their next most productive receiver was Melvin Ray who had only two catches. There's going to be a lot of gnashing this week about the Hog secondary, and with good reason. It's hard to see much improvement in that area. The defense was able to make a few stops throughout the game but I don't think any Hog fans felt much confidence when the defense was on the field.
For all the hullabaloo about Nick Marshall's suspension, it proved to be irrelevant. Auburn scored 21 points in the 1st half and 24 in the 2nd. They would have scored 24 in the 1st if they'd made a field goal attempt but it doinked off the goalpost. Jeremy Johnson was 12/16 for 243 yards in the first two quarters. Marshall didn't do much in the 2nd half, but his presence did seem to set the tone for Auburn's running game taking over.
The question is how much of that was Auburn's offense and how much of it was Arkansas' lack of depth/talent on defense? We'll find out more in Lubbock in a couple of weeks.
Arkansas did alright against the run in the first half but couldn't in the 2nd half. Cameron Artis-Payne ended up with 178 yards on 26 carries. Corey Grant had 87 yards on 10 carries. Meanwhile, Arkansas only ran 6 rushing plays in the second half. The Tigers did a much better job in the 3rd quarter of shutting down Arkansas' trio of running backs, at least as much as you can in just six opportunities. The Hogs only gained 51 yards in the entire 2nd half.
The good news is that we can finally expect a win to take place this week against Nicholls State. So we've all got that to look forward to.