What We Learned About the Arkansas Razorbacks in Week Nine
Arkansas was able to overcome a slow start to pick up a 41-27 road win over Auburn on Saturday. The win means Arkansas is just one win shy of becoming bowl eligible, and also snapped a six-year losing streak to the Tigers.
It’s being reported that Auburn has fired their head coach, Bryan Harsin, following an abysmal two-year stretch that is somewhat comparable to the Chad Morris era at Arkansas. So, while Auburn isn’t a very good football team, it was still a really good win for this Arkansas team.
As I’ve said in previous weeks, there’s still a lot left to play for this season. The Hogs are healthier than they’ve been all year and have three straight games at home starting next weekend.
If Sam Pittman has shown us anything, it’s that his teams are more than capable of making an impressive run to end the season. Saturday was another great step towards doing that.
What We Learned
● KJ Jefferson and Rocket Sanders Continue to Shine
The one-two punch of KJ and Rocket is arguably the best in the country.
KJ Jefferson had a prototypical KJ Jefferson performance on Saturday, finishing 16-24 for 234 yards and one touchdown through the air. He also added 45 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Ain't stoppin that pic.twitter.com/z7iS72wHPn— Arkansas Razorback Football (@RazorbackFB) October 29, 2022
Rocket Sanders added to his monster season, finishing with 171 yards on 16 carries despite not finding the endzone. He broke 1,000 yards rushing for the season in this game and continues to lead the entire SEC in rushing.
Matt Landers and Jadon Haselwood both had great receiving games, combining for 9 catches for 176 yards and one touchdown, but it’s obvious that the offense runs through KJ and Rocket.
The offense will go as far as KJ and Rocket are able to carry them the rest of this season. Others will still need to step up, but it’s going to be on KJ and Rocket to keep things rolling for this final stretch.
If they both stay healthy and maintain their level of production, we could be witnessing two of the most impressive individual seasons in Arkansas football history.
● Dominating Second Half Performance
The final score doesn’t really do it justice, but Arkansas dominated the second half on Saturday.
Arkansas got off to a very slow start in the first half, heading into the locker room up 17-13 with only 70 yards rushing against the worst run defense in the SEC.
The second half was a completely different story for the Hogs.
They were able to block a field goal attempt on Auburn’s first drive and then score two touchdowns in the third quarter to give themselves a 31-13 cushion. They held Auburn’s offense to only 73 yards in the third quarter and looked impressive doing it.
The offense scored another touchdown on their first drive in the fourth quarter to put the game away. After going up 38-13, Coach Pittman opted to let backups some valuable reps for the final 7:35 in the game, which allowed Auburn to score some garbage-time touchdowns.
Overall, it was a much better showing than the final score indicates. It was good to see the team overcome a slow start and not let Auburn hang around in the second half.
● Limiting Mistakes Going Forward
The main reason for the slow start on Saturday was mistakes.
On their first offensive drive they had two penalties that backed them up, and on their second drive, Jadon Haselwood fumbled after picking up enough yardage for a first down. Auburn wasn’t able to capitalize on the mistakes, but it could’ve been a much different story had they done so.
It was frustrating to watch because it has been a constant theme this season. Arkansas finished the game with 10 penalties for 53 yards, and they’ve had seven or more penalties in five games this season. In the games that they haven’t had penalty issues, we’ve seen the ball security issues pop up. Sometimes it’s been a combination of penalties and turnovers.
If they’re going to beat ranked SEC teams like LSU and Ole Miss, they must get out of their own way. Penalties and turnovers are some of the easiest ways to lose games in the SEC, as we all learned in Week 4 against Texas A&M this season.
The Hogs have to make sure they clean up those areas if they want to have success in this final stretch of the season.
Former Arkansas State and Ole Miss head coach, Hugh Freeze brings his No. 23 ranked Liberty Flames to Fayetteville this Saturday. The Flames are 7-1 on the season and just throttled BYU 41-14 two weeks ago.
It looks to be another tough non-conference test for the Hogs as kickoff is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and will be televised on SEC Network. Yeah