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Box Score Breakdown: Auburn 51, Arkansas 10

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There were almost no positives in a 41-point thrashing in Fayetteville.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that wasn’t a positive step.

Arkansas winning was probably out of the question, but the projected score was 34-16 Auburn, so a 51-10 beatdown isn’t a good look. I wrote in the preview that over these last six games, coach Chad Morris needs only to not see his team regress in order to be around for year three. This was not a promising start.

It was the same old story. Once again, the defense didn’t play great but it also didn’t let things get out of hand until late in the third quarter. Once again, the offense was completely anemic, so the dam finally broke. Once again, the offense couldn’t convert scoring chances (3 chances, 3 points, 1.0 points per chance). Once again, the run defense was solid straight up the middle but weak on the edges. Once again, the offensive line couldn’t protect.

It’s all getting old at this point.

Advanced Stats

(NOTE: Confused by any of these stats? Check out the glossary.)

Quick recap

  • Arkansas couldn’t run the ball at all. Auburn’s run defense is among the nation’s best, but the Hogs couldn’t even convert decent runs into bigger runs, which has been their specialty.
  • Ben Hicks didn’t play well... but you’re fooling yourself if you think he’s the reason the offense is so bad. There’s no run game to lean on, the line struggles to protect, and drops are a problem.
  • Most of all, I still have no idea what Chad Morris wants his offense to look like. Play design, game planning, and play calling are all very bad. Things are not trending well here.
  • After a rough start, the defense forced Auburn’s run game inside and (mostly) shut down its offense, at least until late in the third quarter. Keeping Auburn at 17 points midway through the third is decent.
  • Auburn could have scored more, but generously ran right into the strength of the Hogs’ defense; Sosa Agim, De’Jon Harris, T.J. Smith, Joe Foucha, and others made a lot of plays right up the middle.
  • Arkansas’ secondary wasn’t even close against Auburn’s passing attack. Apparently the scheming required to stop Auburn’s edge runs meant receivers could get wide open.

Oof. Everything here is bad except for Forced EV: the Hogs’ defense generated good field position for two different drives: a fourth-down stop and a fumble.

Auburn was ultra-conservative, running on 73% of standard downs and 56% of passing downs. They were successful on 53% of standard downs plays, allowing them to accumulate a ridiculous 76% leverage rate. That means that more than three-fourths of Auburn’s plays came while the offense was on-schedule.

However, where Auburn really killed the Hogs was in passing situations: the Tigers converted a staggering 69% of passing downs plays and had +7% marginal third down conversions. The Hogs simply couldn’t get them off the field.

Arkansas did its usual thing: the offense was completely un-explosive on standard downs, which appears to be a negative feature of the Morris offense because it is so consistent game to game. The difference in this game is that the Hogs were also bad on passing downs, seeing success on just 24% of them. Almost half the game was spent behind the chains. All season, the Hogs have at least generated some big passing plays on passing downs, but even those dried up Saturday.

This is basically a crime. Arkansas’ run game had probably its worst performance of a Morris era that’s been full of bad rushing performances. Nearly three times as many plays went for zero or a loss (32%) as went for 6+ yards (12%). The Hogs only got 3.7 bonus yards per opportunity run. Awful.

Auburn converted just 2 of 5 conversions when running in short yardage, so the one thing Arkansas does well defensively showed up again. That defensive line, especially the tackles, deserve a ton of credit. Auburn got too many opportunity runs (41%), although the defense didn’t get shredded with big runs too badly (until garbage time, at least).

Passing: also a nightmare. The Hogs averaged a measly 2.7 adjusted net yards per pass. This was their second straight game under 5.0, so the early-season passing game progress is rapidly vaporizing.

Auburn had to deal with some pressure on Bo Nix, but Auburn receivers ran wide open all night. Nix actually missed several throws, but the Tigers still generated 12.6 adjusted net yards per pass attempt.

This chart, I think, sums it all up. I have no idea what Chad Morris’ grand plan for the offense is. Every single offensive stat is in the negative. And remember: all of these numbers are adjusted for opponent. These are all how much worse Arkansas was than Auburn’s average opponent. There’s nothing even to look forward to.

The defense is bad, but at least we know what John Chavis is trying to do. The defense gets after the quarterback and is strong in short-yardage. In most games, it generates stuffs and TFLs at a decent pace. Talent is what it lacks, and that will only be fixed through recruiting and developing.

But the offense? I still don’t know.

Conclusion

Entering the game, Arkansas was at -3.5 adjusted scoring margin, which represents a modest increase over last season. I wrote in the preview that as long as Arkansas holds steady at -3.5 or gets better, than firing Morris is unlikely (and probably unwise), even if the Hogs only finish 3-9. If the Hogs tank to -4 or worse, then things get dicey.

We’ll see, but this isn’t a good start. I’ll re-run all the numbers on Monday, but the adjusted final score of 46-19 makes me think that Arkansas is about to dip under -4, which is the danger zone. A mid-season swoon (beyond where the Hogs currently are) would really not be ideal right now.