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Arkansas vs Auburn: Final Grades

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After a few days soaking in as much of the long weekend as possible closely studying the game, here are my final grades for the Razorbacks' opener.

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback

Brandon Allen looked confident early, and maintained a presence in the pocket like someone with confidence and experience. Looks like he forgot all about last season which is GOOD. He had a noticeable zip on the ball that he was lacking last year. Is this Allen 2.0 or simply what a healthy Allen is capable of?

Overall I would say he showed up big facing the most scrutiny of anybody on the team. Huge ups to Brandon. The Hog faithful need to put their trust and confidence in him to orchestrate an Arkansas offense that can succeed on the field behind an intelligent and effective passing game and a smash-mouth dominant running game.

His final stats were 18/31 175 2 TD 1 Int. Adjust that for passes dropped and a missed block, and you could see Allen's state line as something like 22/31 230 3 TD 0 Int.

Grade: B+

Running Backs

Still undeniably the strength of this team, the trio looked sharp as ever. Unfortunately the stat of the night is 6. As in the amount of rushing attempts in the second half for Arkansas. Alex Collins looked faster, stronger, and more capable to stay on his feet than he did last season and his performance Saturday should quiet any doubters that said he shouldn't be a back on par with the other two.

Korliss Marshall missed some time after a devastating tackle that looked like he had broken his wrist! His fumble was recovered by Arkansas, but the Hogs lost him for the rest of the half. It was originally feared to be something serious but he came back in the second half.

Jonathan Williams is still the grown man of the running back corps. He earned every yard of the 34 under his belt. The biggest criticism is that when the going got tough, the Hogs didn't lean on their strongest leg. The 3-headed monster combined for only 25 carries. Far too few when you consider what they're capable of. I would have liked to see more runs on third and long and more passes on 1st and 10. With Arkansas' crew, 3rd and 6 can be a rushing down.

Grade: A-

They get an A- minus with the caveat that this was earned by their play in the first half. The second half wasn't on par, but there weren't enough rushing plays called down to judge them.

Receivers

It was tough to see a receiving corps that had flashes of brilliance perform so badly as a whole. Despite decent numbers as a unit, there were far too many drops and way too many problems getting separation to be happy with this performance. To avoid rambling on and on about this poor performance I'm going to focus on a shining bright spot. AJ Derby had a great twisting TD catch as well as 40 total yards receiving. I'm glad he found his niche in our offensive system. If anyone is still hating Derby the quarterback you should know Derby the tight end had more receptions and yards than 8 other Arkansas receivers. Still lots of concerns with blocking. That goes especially for the tight ends that stay at home for pass protection... You know, like when Allen got blown up and threw that interception.

Grade: D+

That plus is courtesy of AJ Derby.

Offensive Line

Let's hear it for the "mama's boys"! This was the only unit that made my jaw drop. I don't know what they put in the water but they looked like Hogs possessed out there. Again we have the spectacular first half and the lackluster 2nd. I honestly don't know who to blame that on. They certainly got less push in the second half. I like the direction this unit is going. I can only imagine what they will look like in 2 years. Bret Bielema is building something here, folks. Forget the Gus Bus, I'm riding the Bielema Bulldozer! These fellas are going to be the cause of all of our success for years to come.

Grade: A- and a gold star

Defensive Line

I did notice good pressure at times from the defensive line but it wasn't often enough, as the unit only registered two quarterback hurries throughout the game (Auburn had 9). The group did total 3.5 tackles for loss with solid efforts from Trey Flowers (6 total tackles) and Darius Philon.I liked what I saw from Taiwan Johnson - his forced fumble that led to Auburn's only turnover was a thing of beauty. It's a stretch but I could see Johnson stepping into his role in a big way. He certainly needs to if he wants to make a name in the SEC.

Grade: C

Linebackers

Linebackers were ok. Nothing special here, but Brooks Ellis caught my attention several times. He was in on a lot of tackles, and I can definitely see Ellis being in the position to make some big plays this year. He led the team with 2.5 tackles for loss, but he was the only linebacker with any TFLs. Unfortunately, Alan Turner and Rohan Gaines led the team in tackling, and as the coaches noted in the offseason, the secondary shouldn't be the leading tacklers. We also have to give TQ Coleman credit for forcing a fumble even if the ball did end up going out of bounds.

Grade: C-

Secondary

The secondary still, God bless them, struggled with tackling at times, although Alan Turner and Rohan Gaines led the team in tackling. That being said, I did notice the team flying to the ball and even though the first guy might miss, or at least struggle to bring the ball carrier to the ground, there is a second and third guy ready to roll the dice. I didn't see that last year.

Grade: D+ Just hard to overlook the missed tackles.

Turnovers

Many pundits were pointing at the turnover margin as a key factor in the game for Arkansas to come out on top. With a +/- of 0 you have to hand it to the Hogs for playing well. I think we had 3 turnovers last year against Auburn. Give credit to Brandon Allen for being smart with the ball despite the wounded duck pick-6, and hand down some props to the backs and receivers for protecting the ball. It's important to note that Korliss was fortuante that Arkansas recovered his fumble, but I can't really blame him for dropping the ball after it looked like there may have been something really wrong with his wrist. All in all we didn't win the turnover battle, but a tie is improvement from last season, so we can celebrate the Hogs' effort.

Grade: B

Final Thought

At half time I thought I was going to be writing an article with a completely different tone. It looked like the hogs took a big step forward. Only time will tell if this second half disaster is a one-time occurrence, or the hogs' new curse.

Final Grade: L as in Letdown... as in Lightning... as in Loss.