State of the Hogs: Top 10 Review (Auburn)

Arkansas hit most of the key points in the Top 10 List while knocking off Auburn. The Hogs had an edge in penalties and turnovers.

Bobby Petrino said it at one end of Reynolds Razorback Stadium about the same time Auburn coach Gene Chizik was saying something similar.

Petrino said his Arkansas team earned a complete team victory as Chizik was calling it a complete team loss. Okay, I agree. That's about what it was as Arkansas scored 31 straight points to thump the defending national champs, 38-14.

It could have been worse, except Petrino let off the pedal, perhaps to save some wear and tear for quarterback Tyler Wilson after he had survived a brutal personal foul on his last touchdown throw, a screen pass to Dennis Johnson. It was time to hammer on the Tigers with the running game and for the clock to tick away.

It should not surprise that the Tigers took a shot at Wilson. They knocked out Ryan Mallett last year in the process of beating the Hogs. It was their style for most of the year.

You could simplify things by looking at the two quarterbacks who threw the most passes, Wilson and Auburn's Barrett Trotter. Both are fourth-year juniors. Which one would you take? Which one had better receivers? Which one looked better prepared? It wasn't a match. It was Wilson -- with a full complement of wideouts.

Auburn had a couple of wideouts on the shelf, but there were Arkansas players on the sideline, too. Defensively, the Hogs were playing without Darius Winston and Isaac Madison at cornerback, Tenarius Wright at defensive end and Robert Thomas at tackle. All were starters at the beginning of the season. But Tevin Mitchel and Greg Gatson seem to be taking control at cornerback. The Hogs played well in the defensive line, too.

The Hogs did most everything right in assembling their best victory of the season. Except for the first half of the first quarter, I liked the way the Hogs played. It lined up a lot the way our Top 10 List read on Friday. We'll go through it.

1. Stop the Run ... Enough
Except for Michael Dyer's 55-yard run to open the game, the Hogs did stop the run enough. They didn't squeeze the life out of the Auburn running game, but there was better tackling and solid fundamentals. It was obvious that Jake Bequette's return steadied the front and allowed the Hogs to rotate several players at the other defensive end. Chris Smith, Dede Jones and Lonnie Gosha did their part opposite Bequette.

2. Tackling
This was a major improvement. The Hogs played with passion. They had an alignment mistake on the Dyer run early, but they seemed to understand the fits better the rest of the way. Jerry Franklin, Alonzo Highsmith, Jerico Nelson, Tramain Thomas and Eric Bennett got it right more times than they got it wrong. And usually they got it right together and swarmed to the football.

3. Turnovers
Arkansas had one early turnover when Tyler Wilson lost the ball when he was sacked from behind. The Hogs won the turnover battle in the second half with three interceptions. That's the same number they had in the first five games put together. Plus two will win most games.

4. Penalties
The Hogs went from 14 to four in one week, a major improvement. The Tigers were moaning about penalties afterwards after drawing six holding calls en route to 11 flags for 105 yards. That is a winning edge. Auburn had not had a problem with holding calls in previous weeks, so this was a bit of a surprise.

5. Tyler Wilson
It was another wow game for the junior quarterback. He was probably the difference in the game. He completed 19 straight in a stretch that took the Hogs from a pair of one TD deficits to a 21-14 lead. He was 24 of 36 on the night for 262 yards, but Petrino seem to turn to the running game in the second half to run the clock and protect Wilson from any more late hits. Wilson outplayed the two Auburn QBs, Barrett Trotter and Kiehl Frazier. The two regular Auburn quarterbacks combined to complete just 8 of 23 with three interceptions.

6. Special teams
There were no major problems in any area of special teams for the Hogs. The only hiccup was a missed field goal by Zach Hocker, a 34-yarder that bounced off the upright with 11:55 left in the first quarter. That followed an shank punt by Auburn's Steven Clark, an 11-yarder that gave the Hogs an early field position break. But neither team gave away anything in special teams the rest of the way. Coverage was solid on kickoffs and punts for the Hogs.

7. Trick plays
Auburn did hit a 44-yard flea flicker, but even that was a disappointment. The pass was underthrown and Jerico Nelson ran down the receiver before the play turned deadly. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn had some other tricks, but they fizzled. There were two fast huddle plays in the third quarter that both lost yardage to stall a 13-play drive that didn't get any points. As has been the case in other trips to Fayetteville, Malzahn's tricks didn't do anything but stop the flow of the offense. Malzahn is 0-3 on the east sidelines in Fayetteville, including once with Tulsa.

8. Protect the middle
The Hogs did fine in that area on defense. The Hogs were sound at linebacker and safety. They made plays and tackled well in the open field. Auburn gave up a few passes over the middle, including a beautiful throw to Jarius Wright that produced 40 yards on a leaping, tumbling catch. Tramain Thomas and Eric Bennett ruined the Auburn passing game with three interceptions, two of them in the middle of the field.

9. Physicality
The Hogs got better as the game progressed. SEC games are always hitting wars. The Hogs won their share of the matchups. Byran Jones and Zach Stadther were stalwarts in the middle of the line. Bequette and Dede Jones won their share of battles, too. The Hogs won just enough battles with an improving offensive line, too.

10. Protection
Tyler Wilson said he had fewer bumps and bruises after this week than the last few games. The Tigers didn't do well in their protection attempts. There were too many holding penalties as they tried to do something that appeared foreign, try the forward pass. Arkansas did well in protections after getting away from their favorite formation, the spread with five wideouts. With an extra back to protect, Wilson had plenty of time.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories