Chris Ash: Finishing the Problem

Arkansas had opportunities to close out Rutgers game, but gave up plays down the stretch. Jim Chaney called AJ Derby's play "solid."

Arkansas was in position, but didn't close with a victory, defensive coordinator Chris Ash said Sunday night after watching tape from the 28-24 loss at Rutgers.

"We showed the team how hard it is to win on the road with the tape," Ash said. "We played hard, had a great opportunity, but we didn't finish the job. We had a lot of missed opportunities.

"They made a couple of plays at the end and we didn't."

Ash said cornerback Tevin Mitchel gave up two fade routes in the Rutgers comeback.

"Tevin had played the fade very well earlier in the game," Ash said. "He'd been covering it. But they got two at the end. Momentum had shifted and at the end they made plays."

That was the case in the defensive front, line coach Charlie Partridge said. After making five sacks and chasing Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova for three quarters, the pressure subsided at the end. Was it fatigue?

"We had 83 snaps on defense and that was more than what we'd been playing the first three games," Partridge said. "So that might have been a factor. Hindsight being what it is, we might have rotated those ends a little more.

"There are things to be proud of with the sacks, but in the fourth quarter it might have been as simple as doing a better job of closing down some of the looks he had, his throwing lanes. We have to do a better job of being aware where those are and causing problems in that situation next time."

Quarterback coach Jim Chaney praised AJ Derby for the work in his first start, but noted areas for improvement.

"I"d call what he did solid," Chaney said. "But he missed some throws and we didn't do some things to help him. We didn't stay on our blocks. He needs to be more accurate down the field. He hit some throws, but he could have hit more and he's aware of that. Those are things we'll work on this week."

Offensive line coach Sam Pittman didn't have much praise for his unit. He said Rutgers came up the field and there were breakdowns on most plays.

"We didn't play well on a lot of plays," Pittman said. "We'll have to do much better. I'm very disappointed and our players know it. We have to block better, preferably on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

"Rutgers has a fast front and they run to the ball. It's hard to maintain blocks against their front. You have to block them longer because of that ability to run. And sometimes, they can backdoor you and because of their speed, they can still get there and go make a play.

"We have to clean up things. Because we run a lot of heavy fronts, we are going to face nine and 10 at the point of attack. That means there are more chances to turn someone loose and all it takes is one and you are going to have a lost yardage play or no gain.

"You have to really be in sync. We weren't. They did some things with fire zones and they two-gapped us. We tried to cut the defense in half and we did hit them with some plays that way, but not enough."

Did the Scarlet Knights bring more pressure because of a backup quarterback?

"I don't think it would made any difference," Pittman said. "They would have played us the same way if Brandon Allen was at quarterback."

Partridge praised defensive tackle Darius Philon. The redshirt freshman recorded two sacks.

"Darius did well," Partridge said. "But in no way did he play a complete game. He made some mistakes and has things to improve. That's a battle (with Byran Jones) that will rage on."

Partridge said Rutgers changed protections down the stretch.

"They added help for our tackles and our ends, with chippers inside and out that gave a little more time and they got it out quicker," Partridge said. "We just have to make a few more plays. You look back and in a game like this, it's going to come down to four or five plays -- whether it's some opportunities for another sack, an interception, or staying in our lanes on punt coverage."

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