Arkansas eyeing another upset at No. 13 Auburn
Arkansas tasted victory in a Southeastern Conference game for the first time in nearly three years last weekend.
The Razorbacks (1-1, 1-1 SEC) will look to pull off another upset on Saturday when they travel to Alabama to face No. 13 Auburn (1-1, 1-1).
The Razorbacks’ losing streak in conference games ended at 20 with a 21-14 victory over then-No. 16 Mississippi State. The Tigers are coming off a 27-6 loss to Georgia that dropped them six places in the Top 25.
First-year Arkansas coach Sam Pittman isn’t concerned about his team getting refocused after ending their skid.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” he said Monday. “I’m going to show them this afternoon why we won. We always have a good, bad and ugly video. … We’ll put (the previous) game to bed in the first half of our meetings and talk about Auburn and where we’re going in the second (half). I don’t think it will be one bit of a problem. I know our coaching staff has moved on and our players usually do what we do.”
A strong defensive effort was primarily responsible for the victory. They held Mississippi State to 87 rushing yards and forced four turnovers.
Quarterback Feleipe Franks was steady, if unspectacular. He completed 20 of 28 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns. He did not throw an interception after getting picked off twice in the team’s opener, a 37-10 loss to Georgia.
The Razorbacks lacked a ground game — they gained just 1.7 yards per carry and had 63 total rushing yards — in part because top running back Rakeem Boyd departed early with an apparent ankle injury. Pittman indicated that Boyd should be ready to go against Auburn.
The same can be said for linebacker Grant Morgan, who made 15 tackles on Saturday despite an elbow injury.
“We may have to get the other elbow hurt,” Pittman joked. “If he made 15 tackles, he may get to 20. … He loves to play and he toughed it out and got treatment, and he’ll be fine.”
Arkansas is looking to avenge a 51-10 blowout loss to the Tigers last October. Tigers coach Gus Malzahn expects a much tougher battle this time.
“They had a big win, so they’ll definitely be confident and give it their best,” he said. “We will too, so should be a good one.”
The Tigers were held to 216 total yards by Georgia, including 39 yards on the ground. Quarterback Bo Nix barely completed more than half of his passes after throwing three touchdown passes in the team’s opener against Kentucky.
“Bo created a lot of things, and when things broke down he made some plays,” Malzahn said. “We just have to do a better job of being balanced and running the football and throwing the football. They made us one dimensional, and that made it extremely tough.”
A year ago, the Tigers bounced back from all three regular-season losses by winning their ensuing games. Malzahn believes his team will show the same grit on Saturday.
“The championship-type teams respond. They improve,” he said. “It’s so hard to improve each week. You look at college football, every year, some teams are playing their best at the first and they fade off. But the teams that are there in it at the end are the ones that gradually get better.”
–Field Level Media