State of the Hogs: Kentucky Week

Here are some thoughts from HI.com Publisher Clay Henry after the Hogs' 38-17 victory over Auburn.

Matt Jones didn't do much for most of the game with Auburn. He had negative numbers on the ground until his 70-yard option keeper late in the game. His passing stats were below 100 yards. So, his total offense was less than 100 before that final scamper through an Auburn defense that had given up.

At least, that might been the take some had on Matt's performance against Auburn. And, they'd be wrong.

Jones was close to flawless in his reads, checks and execution as the Hogs rolled up almost 500 yards in total offense against a respectable foe on a hot, humid afternoon before 80,000 hostile fans.

No, Jones was the difference in the game. He was spectacular from start to finish. The Hogs' only turnover came when his backup took a turn late in the first quarter and threw an interception that led to an Auburn field goal.

Auburn had made a living with a healthy turnover ratio in its first five games. They were on the minus end all day because Jones handled things so well in the Hogs' offense.

But, that's just part of the story. Matt's decisions in the shotgun offense, the new bread-and-butter play for the Hogs, was unbelievable. He made incredible reads all day. Yes, that shotgun draw that the Hogs' halfbacks were making big chunks with are contingent on great reads by the quarterback.

What Auburn did was concentrate on stopping the quarterback keepers out of the shotgun. They made Jones give it to Fred Talley and De'Arrius Howard, and the Hogs' offensive linemen and those great tailbacks did the rest.

It appears the Hogs have found a play ... if they can keep adding new wrinkles to it ... that will be tough for the defense to stop. Tennessee couldn't stop it consistently, and Auburn didn't stop it at all. Of course, there are things the Hogs must do in the passing game to really put pressure on defenses, but that should come in time.

Defensively, if there is a concern, it still is depth in the defensive line, especially at end where Keith Turner is lost for the season with a dislocated hip. But, it appears some help is on the way in the middle with the play of Pervis Osborne and Scott Summers at Auburn. Osborne was solid and Summers also did some good things.

What can be done at defensive end? It appears the best answer is more snaps for Jason Peters. With Marcellus Poydras, James Toussaint and Jared Hicks stepping up at tight end, it seems Peters will get more snaps at defensive end. Hicks has been playing tackle since he arrived at Arkansas, but he was a tight end as a prepster and appeared to do well at that spot against Auburn. He wore No. 86 last week and will probably be ticketed for more duty at tight end as the season progresses.

The Hogs have some confidence after the trip to Auburn, but face a dangerous foe this week in Kentucky's Wildcats. New coach Guy Morriss is a solid fundamental instructor and the Hogs must give a solid effort to beat the Wildcats. Kentucky is solid on special teams with a great punting game. They've hurt every team they've played with special teams, and the Hogs must continue to improve in that area, especially in kick coverage.

Mentally, the Hogs are in a good position. They've learned that hard work on the practice field and a good attitude goes a long way on game day. They have also proved to be tough and able to bounce back from tough situations. That will serve them well the rest of the season and may be a signal that they have arrived as a solid force in the SEC West.


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