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Arkansas Fight Panel Discussion: Last Words On Auburn, Nicholls Thoughts

Gathering the staff's thoughts on the topics of the week

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Last week we talked about what would have to happen to make you feel good about the season moving forward. The Razorbacks didn't win nor cover, but they did look like a new team for much of the first half - at least offensively. So let's revisit the question, did you see enough to make you feel positive about this season looking ahead?

Adam F. I did, because the offense looked capable. Arkansas' defense was horrendous last season, and with a new defensive coordinator, it should improve. The offense looked like it could pound some smaller, less-deep defenses into submission and could pass the ball if the defense took the run away. I'm not too worried about the receivers, simply because I think that if the veterans keep making mistakes, the younger players like JoJo Robinson will happily replace them.

Adam P. Even though the second half and score might say differently, I definitely saw the building blocks of progress that Coach Bielema is bringing to the Natural State. So the quick answer is: "Yes." Notice how I didn't use all caps. But yes, I still feel we're where I expected to be for this season.

Mark: Admittedly, in the immediate aftermath I wasn’t positive. With a couple of days to let it all sink in, I do feel there were signs of growth. Signs of stagnation as well, but all resulted from a lack of depth, especially on D. It’s seems pretty apparent Beliema’s rebuild will take hold eventually, and once it does, it shouldn’t fold like a house of cards as CBP’s did.

Josh: Feeling positive about the rest of the season, but the schedule is still the same. The play of Brandon Allen was good enough to win against most of the teams on the schedule. Minus the int on the missed block, and I would dare to say he had as good of a game as you can expect. The defense was just out gunned by a team that will do the same to just about every team they play this year.

Mitchell: Despite the blowout I saw enough to feel positive about the season. I still think the games I mentioned as winnable are still there for the taking, and I do think we can compete in most games, but this performance raises some concerns. I really hope the second half collapse doesn't turn into a theme.

Jamie: I was legitimately impressed by the first half offense. I choose to take the positives from that and use them to stay a little more positive about 2014 than I was last week.

Tyler: If by positive you mean that I believe the team has improved since last season, then yes. I was extremely pleased with the Hogs' ability to keep up with the defending SEC champs in the first half. The second half, however, was a bit discouraging. Arkansas couldn't and didn't run the ball, Auburn won in the trenches, and the defense just got decimated. I do think Arkansas is a better team and will win a couple more games than people think.

Drew: I feel okay about it, there is very little doubt the team is better than last season, the problem is even with the obvious progress the team could only win 3 games, and I don't know how you keep the class together with another 3 win year. They looked better, but they still looked like a team with major issues that can only be fixed with talent.

Ryan: I think that the Hogs will be able to score enough points to upset someone. I also think that the defense will be able to force some turnovers to help in that upset.

Graham: It gives me the confidence that the Hogs will be able to handle Nichols State this weekend. The optimist in me is convinced we will get a conference win this year somehow. There is room for at least a 50% improvement, but if the first half is a sign of things to come, I can be patient.

Scottie: I saw enough to be encouraged. When Arkansas battled back from 21-7 down to tie the game just before the half, I was extremely impressed. I figured if the Hogs ever got down by two scores at any point in the game it would be over. But yeah, the first half gave me some hope. The second half was just Auburn being the better, deeper team.

Robert: I'm positive.  I enjoyed the first half so much, but had absolutely no joy in the 2nd half.  Based on what I said last week, I have to be positive.  I was happy with our lack of turnovers, we did manage to get some stops, and our wideouts were getting open.... BUT we had ball security problems with several almost lost fumbles, we didn't do much with our stop including punting with a short field, and our wideouts were dropping everything.

Doc: My view on the season hasn't really changed. I'm impressed with most of the same things everyone else is impressed with. I was most disappointed the team didn't do anything after the lightning delay. I'd have liked to see more competitive spirit from them at that point and they just didn't do anything when play resumed. Had a false start by a receiver on the first play from scrimmage. That part was awful. But it all fits with a team with tepid expectations.

How do you explain the difference between the 1st half and the 2nd? Auburn adjustments? Arkansas play calling? Execution/effort? Depth? All of the above?

Mitchell: I think the difference was a combination of good adjustments by Auburn, and our players being completely gassed. Made for a very lethal combo. We knew the HUNH would be rough but I don't think anyone expected to see the team they did in the second half.

Adam P. Umm, all of the above, Mitchell. Simple as that.

Mark: All of the above with the exception of the players failing to play/execute as hard. There was no quit, just perhaps fatigue.

Adam F. Auburn did make some adjustments, stunting in both A gaps to take away the inside trap play that the Hogs gashed the Tigers with in the first. Mainly, though, a lack of depth caught up to both lines. Arkansas' offensive line struggled even in pass coverage in the second half, while Auburn's players on both sides of the ball looked well-rested. I don't have a problem with the playcalling. It drove me crazy to see fans saying "Why no halftime adjustments?" and "I can't believe we quit running the ball" in the same breath. Folks, that was the adjustment. And the plays were there to be made, but too many drops ended Arkansas' upset bid. That's not Jim Chaney's fault, although he's the popular target.

Scottie: While Auburn was making adjustments, our coaches got stuck in an elevator and had to communicate with the team via phone. I think depth was an issue on defense, too. Auburn also worked out the kinks they had on offense in the second quarter, and Arkansas' defense just had no answer.

Drew: #ElevatorGate.  Plain and simple. They purposefully trapped our coaches in an elevator to keep us from making half time adjustments and it worked to perfection.  Another genius move from the Wizard of Hughes Gus Malzahn.  He knows how to push all the right buttons.

Graham: I see what you did there, Drew with the "pushing the right buttons" in reference to #elevatorgate. As for an explanation, I'm up for ideas. More of the running game would have been fun to see.

Josh: Depth is definitely an issue, and the play calling went into desperation mode. Auburn adjusted to what had been working in the first half for Arkansas - specifically the wham play up the middle - and sent more pressure.

Jamie: The way Nick Marshall spreads out a defense really exposed our ability to read an offense on the field and tackle in space.  The whole defense was completely gassed up until the lighting delay. We just have no depth at all in crucial spots on D.  I was disappointed to not see any ability to adjust after the delay, but that may also speak to just how dangerous and special Nick Marshall is.

Tyler: The main issue with the second half offense was that Arkansas was awful on first down, thus putting themselves behind the chains. I think a lack of depth and talent on defense caused the bad second half performance on that side of the ball. Auburn's offense just wore Arkansas down, and they blew the door off its hinges in the last 30 minutes.

Ryan: Auburn simply has more talent than Arkansas. While the play calling changed, if the players had executed the plays (aka didn't drop passes) then the play calling would have worked. We wouldn't even be having the "play calling" discussion.

Robert: Last season, Alabama and South Carolina were the only two teams to hold Arkansas to 0 points in the 2nd half.  Those two defenses were ranked in the top 12 nationally in points allowed.  I don't think this Auburn defense will be that effective, so it baffles me a little to see our drought. Many will point to our getting away from the run, but I think we were aiming for a balanced attack, including using the pass to give the run a little more wiggle room, but Auburn scored on their opening possession and then again on a pick 6, which meant Arkansas was playing from behind and passing more. Getting down by 14 in the 2nd half will be bad news for this Hog team.  I think Hog fans have grown accustomed to come from behind wins, which I don't think we'll be seeing as much of in the Bret Bielema era.

Did Arkansas do anything in the game that surprised you or was it pretty much what you expected?

Jamie: We've been hearing "positive rumors" about the O-line all off-season, but they blew Auburn off the line in the first half.  Everyone in Jordan-Hare Stadium knew that we came to run the ball and they still opened up holes the size of the Wal-Mart.  I expected us to "try" to run... a lot.  I was impressed by the way we were able to run for most of the first half.

Adam P. I was shocked in the first half how huge the holes were for the running backs thanks to the offensive line. We've been sold that they were BIG, but I never expected their nicknames should be changed to Moses as they parted the Auburn seas. Now, let's start unleashing the running playbook and get them more sweeps and looks outside to really use their speed.

Doc: I've been watching a lot of The Simpsons marathon so I'm partial to Mr. Plow for nicknames. Even has a little jingle we can all sing.

Mitchell: Even though I was expecting a dominant o-line and great running, I was pleasantly surprised! I've completely bought into CBB's system now that I've seen the kind of o-line he can put together. The skill players will surely begin to take notice. Side note; I was really happy to see AJ Derby be successful at TE. I think he deserves to be at the position he is in. This was by no means a gift from Bielema. He's good.

Adam F. Arkansas ran from the one-back formation better than I expected. Kiero Small was such a force with his downhill blocking last year, but the Hogs were able to pound the ball in between the tackles with ease in the first half. Brandon Allen's improvement didn't surprise me one bit, though. We all knew he is a quality SEC quarterback.

Scottie: I did not expect Arkansas to rush for 150 yards in the first half and dominate Gus' defensive line like they did. I thought the backs would have success on the ground, but that first half was an utter demolition by Arkansas' O-line. I also didn't think BA would finish the game with 31 pass attempts.

Graham: The offensive line play was outstanding. We've all coped with the the difficulties of losing by saying, "just wait until Bielema gets his guys in there." Turns out this might not have been coping after all. His offensive line shoved around a talented group from Auburn, but I do think the lack of depth eventually caught up with us after 30 minutes.

Robert: I was surprised Alan Turner led the team in tackles again.  I didn't think we were going to have to rely on him making game saving tackles on every play this season.

Ryan: It was exactly what I expected. I had it 41-17, so I got the spread exactly right. I thought the Hogs would hang in the first half, only to get blown out in the second.

Mark: I was surprised that we didn’t go for at least one of the fourth downs in Auburn territory. Maybe a tad surprised we didn’t run a fake….(ha)

Tyler: On the positive side, Brandon Allen was a pleasant surprise. Negatively, the tackling, or lack thereof, surprised me. Arkansas has struggled in this category as of late, but after an offseason under Herbert and Robb Smith I thought we would be much improved. I think Smith's "Smart Swarm" mentality actually caused defenders to try to strip the ball too much which led to a massive amount of yards after contact.

Drew: We didn't cover +21. Everything else pretty much looked about right. Tons of improvement on offense and a defense who looked more aggressive but still can't cover anything.

Doc: One surprise that I haven't really seen anybody talking about is that Arkansas' three touchdowns came on drives of 75, 75, and 93 yards. They didn't score on short fields. Everything was earned. I don't know that last year's Hogs could have done that.

And then of course the one time they did get a moderately short field after the fumble they ended up punting at the 34-yard line/grumblegrumble.

After watching the rest of the country along with Arkansas in week 1, have you changed your season outlook at all?

Mark: We were supposed to lose this one. My season outlook hasn’t changed, although A&M may be tougher than expected. Or maybe Sub Carolina just really stinks. Still think we’ll head to (new) Columbia with a bowl berth on the line. Still think we’ll be able to run on folks. The D will look better. The level of competition drops the next few weeks.

Scottie: I said Arkansas would finish 5-7 before the season began. And after the first week I think the Hogs can still get there. I had Arkansas beating A&M and LSU in conference, but now I'm not so sure about beating A&M anymore. I think Ole Miss is vulnerable and LSU was underwhelming until late against Wisconsin. Arkansas can still get its two SEC wins.

Adam F. The SEC is up for grabs, that's for sure. Any Hog fan counting Georgia or Texas A&M as possible wins may want to reconsider, but Ole Miss looks quite beatable. And the great conspiracy continues: Arkansas only plays Vanderbilt when the Commodores are good. Twenty years from now, when Vanderbilt has found a new James Franklin, the Dores will come back onto the schedule..

Adam P. It's hard not to rethink the A&M game possibilities. Besides that, barring any crazy injuries/suspensions, 5 to 6 wins still seems very attainable. However, it's only week 1. Never forget that.

Mitchell: I've learned not to judge a team by their first game. Lots of kinks are still getting worked out. I still hold the same prediction, but with the caveat that the second half collapse doesn't continue.

Robert: I think like most Hog fans, I am afraid we'll be kissing our Jerry World Winning streak goodbye this year.

Josh: A&M may be better than everyone thought, but they will still struggle to stop anyone on defense. But overall it will be the usual grind of the SEC. TTech may be a little easier, but its still an air it out style offense which is pretty much the toughest style for Arkansas to defend.

Jamie: Texas Tech looking pedestrian against UCA helped my view of that game and solidifies my hope that we can go 4-0 in non-SEC games this season.  I'd probably replace A&M for Mississippi State or Missouri as our best chances for an SEC win this season, but I still think we're a 4-5 team with an opportunity to pull a surprise somewhere.

Doc: I like our chances at Missouri way more than at Mississippi State.

Tyler: I would have to say that I'm a little less optimistic. I was a little unrealistically hopeful to begin with anyway. I'm lowering my prediction to 6-6. I do think the Hogs are much better and will surprise people by making a bowl, but Texas A&M's offense doesn't appear to have skipped a beat, so that upset I predicted doesn't seem likely. I realize Auburn is a good team, so I'm not jumping off the cliff, but I will temper my expectations a little.

Drew: Nope. I still think it's going to be a very difficult road to get more than 4 wins.

Graham: I'm more sure in the elusive first SEC win becoming a reality in some fashion against a then embarrassed SEC team. As for a broader SEC outlook, I'm drunk on UGA hype. Those running backs and defense, my kind of football.

Ryan: LOL, nope. Glad I went with 4-8 (1-7).

If Arkansas doesn't end the losing streak this weekend against Nicholls, __________.

Graham: I'll quit it all. Binge drinking will ensue for a solid two weeks. Then I'll start liking soccer, do my due diligence finding a good team to pull for, the Alabama of soccer if you will, and never watch American college football again. And of course I'll be a snobby soccer fan who lets you know that I've liked it longer than you.

Drew: I'll be running from my bookie, staying at a Motel 6 in some random town in Kansas, and taking long cold tearful showers wondering how I got to this dark place in my life.

Adam F. I'll change the difficulty back to Varsity on my Xbox and try again. Oh, you mean in real life? Moot point. Hogs may score 70.

Ryan: Jeff Long has to "Jack Crowe" Bielema and name Randy Shannon interim head coach. No matter what profession you are in, there are things that will automatically get you fired, no matter what the outlook for your future is. It's a good thing that won't happen, as the Hogs win 52-17  this weekend.

Scottie: BERT and the Boys should pack it up and take it to the house. Forever.

Adam P. I will begin searching Craigslist for a banner to fly.

Tyler: I will get a huge tattoo of the Colonels' logo on my back. Seriously, that's not going to happen. Is it...?

Jamie: Our quarterback's truck won't be the only thing burning in Fayetteville.

Mitchell: I think Bielema needs to park his car in the garage Saturday night, because it's his car that's getting torched next. Quick stats for you all. Air Force beat Nicholls State 44-16 on Saturday and rushed 73 times for 539 yards and passed for 19 more. I would like to think we are better than an Air Force team that was 2-10 last year so we should be able to beat them running the ball on every down (including 4th) while BA hikes the ball from his la-Z-Boy. If this game doesn't line up to be a W then we will not win a game all season.

Josh: Some crazy fan (possibly Jamie and/or Mitchell, apparently) will light Coach B's ride on fire

Mark: Then I’ll have personally witnessed the three darkest days in Hog football lore outside the Game of the Century — Sept. 5, 1992; Sept. 8, 2012 and then Sept. 6, 2014. Thanks for allowing me to end this week’s roundtable on such a positive note, Doc….;)

Robert: All of the players will get a mysterious note telling them about a midnight team meeting in the Broyles center.  The handwritten notes will look like they were written by the left hand of a normally right handed person.  Alex Collins will note that his fingers smell funny after touching the note, and he will realize the note smells like Kraft Cheese.  As the players arrive in the team meeting room, they will notice there aren't any coaches, just players.  Each one will ask who called for the meeting, and why was it in the Broyles Center and not in the new football center.  All the confusion and cheese muttering will be silenced as the lights go out and a single spotlight is left at the front of the room.  A man will walk out to that spotlight wearing a straw hat and carrying a baseball bat and he'll say "You can't leave this room, until you're ready to bring that wood"

Doc: Okay, then.