Defense Better Than Florida Game
The Razorbacks (3-3 overall, 1-2 in the Southeastern Conference) again dug a huge first half hole (trailing 30-0 at one point) by allowing big pass plays and a touchdown on a reverse flea-flicker that went 67 yards.
Florida built a 35-7 halftime lead with long passes and a traditional reverse play that went 61 yards after a missed tackle.
The difference could be heard during Arkansas coach Houston Nutt's Sunday press conference. After the loss at Florida, the focus was on the things the Hogs did wrong such as missed tackles and assignments.
This time, the talk was about how solid Auburn (7-0, 4-0) played as opposed to the mistakes Arkansas made. In fact, Nutt even said the Hogs were much improved defensively against the Tigers.
"Just watching the film very, very closely from this past weekend to the (Florida game), we got better," Nutt said. "It's always hard to say that when you lose, but if you just watch the film, our effort was better. We did some things much better than the previous week, it's just you're playing a very good football team."
Despite allowing season-highs of 522 yards and 26 first downs, Nutt said the Hogs defense made strides in its open-field tackling and had fewer blown assignments than it did when the Gators piled up 440 yards.
"I think a lot of teams that played Florida and Auburn would come up with the same results right now," Nutt said. "Auburn is by far the best team we've played so far because they have the balance on offense."
Nutt pointed out that Jeb Huckeba, Sam Olajubutu, Michael Grant and Vickiel Vaughn graded out the highest while also praising the efforts of Matterral Richardson, Darius Vinnett, Lerinezo Robinson and Michael Coe.
Vaughn, who lost his starting job at free safety to junior college transfer Randy Kelley last week, gave the Hogs a "lift" off the bench with nine tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception.
"We grade on effort and grade on technique," Nutt said. "We go really hard on effort and I was proud of that. It's easy to shut it down when something bad happens early."
The Hogs outscored Auburn and Florida 36-18 combined in the second halves, leaving Nutt scratching his head about the slow starts the past two games.
"You just want to change the first half because the second half, I was just amazed," Nutt said. "I haven't been around where the second half changes were that much different. We're playing much better in the second half, but you've got to play four quarters."
The key this week will be building the team's confidence back up heading into the game against No. 10 Georgia (6 p.m., ESNP2) Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. It will be the third straight game the Razorbacks have faced an opponent ranked No. 16 or higher.
"We've got to really bring the reality part of it home because we're pretty young," Nutt said. "We've got a good team. We've just got to get on the field and keep getting better and realize that this is the toughest schedule in Arkansas history."
The Razorbacks had several players banged up against Auburn who missed Sunday's workout.
Senior quarterback Matt Jones (groin) remains questionable for Saturday's game against Georgia.
Coe, the Hogs' starting cornerback, is doubtful to play against Georgia with a strained thigh muscle. Look for Richardson, Grant and Chris Houston to battle for the spot this week.
Reserve tailback Dedrick Poole (pulled hamstring) could miss up to three weeks. He gave the Hogs a spark with seven carries for 44 yards off the bench.
Less serious injuries that shouldn't lead to loss of playing time are to Steven Harris (bruised knee), Gene Perry (bruised ribs), Marcus Whitmore (sprained knee), Titus Peebles (sprained ankle), Kyle Dickerson (bruised calf) and Weston Dacus (strained shoulder).
Davis Takes Over
Jeremy Davis, a true freshman from Fort Smith Southside, had three punts at Auburn for a total of 136 yards, including a 55-yarder.
Davis' 45.3 yards per punt average is the best by an Arkansas punter this season and it appears he's won the job over sophomore Jacob Skinner.
"We'll probably go with Jeremy Davis right now," Nutt said. "He just gets it off and gives us trajectory. I just want him to keep doing it. I'm afraid to talk about it too much."
Skinner, the Hogs' punter the past two seasons, has fought through tendonitis in his right (kicking) knee and experience problems with his drop which has led to inconsistency. He had three punts for 99 yards Saturday.
"I haven't completely given up on Skinner," Nutt said. "Jacob's done some good things for us, he just has a drop problem and he's got to work it out. We're in the middle of the season now and you boom it during the week, you've just got to do it on Saturday."
Gilbow Still Green
Redshirt freshman Matt Gilbow logged his first start in place of injured right tackle Zac Tubbs.
"Gilbow should probably still be sitting from watching him." Nutt said. "He's a redshirt freshman, but that guy is fighting his guts out and I thought for the first time, he played very, very good."
Nutt was satisfied for the most part with Gilbow's run blocking, but said he struggled when the scrambling Jones was forced more into a drop-back passing role after injuring his groin in the first half.
"We knew Matt couldn't get on the perimeter and (the Auburn defensive linemen) could pin their ears back and the pass rush got (Gilbow)," Nutt said.
Offensive line coach Mike Markuson also was pleased and said Gilbow committed just one penalty and one busted assignment.
A bright spot for the Hogs was the play of first-time starting split end Marcus Monk, a true freshman who led the Hogs with five receptions for 87 yards.
"He's a smart young man that's unselfish and catches the ball and makes plays," Nutt said. "He a great player that's only going to get better. He did a good job and we had him in that intermediate area, just finding windows and moving around.
"He probably would have caught more (had Jones been healthy)."
Monk is second on the team with 17 catches for 228 yards. His four receiving touchdowns leads the team.
After Saturday's loss, Nutt exchanged some words of encouragement with fellow Arkansas native and Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville at midfield.
"(Tuberville) was the most gracious I've ever seen him," Nutt said. "He was very humble and I wished him nothing but the best.
"I hope he goes and wins the rest of them."
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