After a stunning, 18-point come from behind victory in Arlington, the Razorbacks get back into SEC play Saturday as they host the Auburn Tigers (4-1, 2-0). The 6:00 kickoff will be televised by ESPN.
While the miracle second half comeback against Texas A&M was fun to watch, the painful remnants of the lopsided first half linger in the back of all Hogs fans minds. The wild affair saw over 1,200 yards in total offense.
Give the Hogs credit, they could have folded down 35-17 at the half. But they fought back, and when the momentum swung, the Aggies had to be saying to themselves, ‘Here we go again.’
Tyler Wilson (510 passing yards) and Jarius Wright (13 catches for 281 yards) had record-setting days working the middle of the A&M defense. But the thing we are having a hard time getting past is the fact that defensive coordinator Willy Robinson’s squad gave up a staggering 628 total yards, including 381 rushing yards.
And we thought giving up 470 yards — 330 of it on the ground — to Cam Newton and Auburn last year was unforgivable.
Auburn knows a thing or two about poor defense this year. The Tigers have been porous so far in 2011, giving up 439.8 yards per game (106th nationally) and 27.4 points per game (74th). They did play their best defensive game of the season though last week — a 16-13 upset win over South Carolina in Columbia.
“My hat’s off to our defensive coaches and players,” said head coach Gene Chizik. ”What an incredible night for those guys. I could not be more proud of them. They needed this, especially against a great running back and a great team. This is a great start. We are 2-0 in conference play. It’s huge for us.”
A 2-0 mark in SEC play is a great start, especially for a team picked to finish last by some preseason publications. With only six starters returning from their 2010 National Championship team, you can tell Chizik and the Tigers are starting over.
On offense, our old friend Gus Malzahn is doing it with ‘smoke and mirrors’ this seasonâ€¦trying to make some offense with only one real playmaker. Auburn currently ranks 79th nationally in total offense (370.6 yards per game) – unfamiliar territory for a Malzahn-led offense.
Gus is doing everything he can to mask talent deficiencies at the quarterback spot. Junior Barrett Trotter (895 yards, 9 TDs, 5 Ints) is pedestrian at best. That’s why true freshman Kiehl Frazier (Shiloh Christian) has been seeing more and more playing time each week. Frazier has carried the ball 12 times for 78 yards in the last two weeks, while only attempting one pass.
Sophomore running Michael Dyer (Little Rock Christian) is certainly doing his part. Dyer (584 yards, 7 TDs in 2011) is fresh off a school record-tying 41 carries for 141 yards and a touchdown versus South Carolina. Wide receiver Emory Blake (19 catches, 333 yards, 4 TDs) is really the only receiving threat. Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen (6 catches, 3 TDs) is a threat when the Tigers get in the red zone.
It’s usually a bad thing when members of the secondary lead your defense in tackling. After five weeks, Auburn’s top three tacklers are defensive backs. Free Safety Neiko Thorpe (41 tackles in 2011) leads the way.
After a big win last week, the Hogs jumped back up in the national polls (10th in AP, 12th in USA Today). A win against the Tigers would taste pretty good going into the bye week. The key will be stopping Dyer, and forcing Trotter to make plays.
Repairing the Hog defense (both physically and mentally) has to be the top priority this week, though. The sellout crowd at Razorback Stadium should help. The Hogs open as a 10-point favorite.