First SEC Win Not Without Faults
In their 24-7 defeat of Auburn, the Razorbacks showed improvement that they can build on, however some of the same issues that have been persistent through the first part of the season remained.
One of the biggest problems for the Razorbacks through the first five games of this season was turnovers. The offense had a habit of giving up the ball and the defense could not seem to take it away from the other team.
In all of last season, the Razorbacks threw only seven interceptions and lost only 13 fumbles while opponents threw 12 interceptions and gave up nine fumbles.
Through the first six games of this season, the Hogs have thrown eight interceptions. They fumbled the ball 23 times, losing it nine times. Five of the interceptions and five of the lost fumbles led to points for the other team.
In the game against Alabama, the Razorbacks gave up three fumbles and threw two interceptions. Alabama turned every single one into a touchdown; 35 of Alabama’s 52 points came from Arkansas turnovers.
On the other side of the ball, Arkansas has only recovered three of their opponents ten fumbles and have only intercepted four passes. Five of those seven turnovers were caused in the game against Auburn.
Three of the fumbles and one of the interceptions turned into points for the Hogs this season, but two of the fumbles that led to points happened against Auburn.
In the Southeastern Conference, one of the most important things a team must be able to do is run the ball and the Razorbacks have not been able to do that very effectively so far this season.
Last year, the team averaged 137.4 yards per game. That number has dropped 29.2 yards, as the Razorbacks have only averaged 108.2 yards per game this season.
The return of Knile Davis, who sat out all of the 2011 season with an injury, was supposed to help bolster the team’s running game. In 2010, Davis averaged 101.7 yards per game, only 6.5 yards fewer than the team is averaging as a whole this season. This year, Davis is averaging only 44.8 yards per game.
Dennis Johnson averaged 60.9 yards per game last season. That number has dropped to only 41 yards per game this season. Johnson is averaging 5.6 yards per carry and Davis is only averaging 3.2 yards per carry.
Prior to the game against Auburn, Arkansas was last in the SEC in red zone offense. The team had made 19 trips inside the 20 yard line and only put points on the board 12 times. Nine times they scored touchdowns and three times the Hogs came away with three points for a field goal. The Razorbacks missed two field goals, threw two interceptions, fumbled once and turned the ball over on downs twice.
In contrast, the best team in the SEC in red zone offense is Alabama, who have converted all of their 22 trips into the end zone to points, with 16 touchdowns and six field goals.
At Auburn, Arkansas converted three out of four trips into the red zone into points with two touchdowns and one field goal.
The Razorback red zone defense has been better, ranked no. 7 in the SEC going into the Auburn game. Opponents had scored 22 times in the red zone on 31 attempts. 20 of the scores were touchdowns and only two were field goals.
Another area of trouble for the Hogs has been the ability to convert on third down. Last year, the team converted on third down 42 percent of the time. In the first six games of this season, the Razorbacks have only converted on third down 32 percent of the time.
The Razorbacks third down defense is closer to where it was last year. This season the team is allowing opponents to convert on third down 38 percent of the time and last year they allowed third down conversions 37 percent of the time.
However, that 38 percent is still third worst in the SEC. For comparison, Texas A&M is only allowing opponents to convert on third down 26.5 percent of the time.
Possibly the biggest challenge for Arkansas this year has been getting the opponents offense off the field. So far this season, the team is allowing opponents to average 25.3 first downs per game, four higher than last year’s average.
In the game against Auburn Saturday, the Razorbacks allowed the Tigers to pick up 22 first downs. Prior to this game, Auburn had been averaging an SEC worst 15 per game.
The large number of first downs Arkansas’ opponents have been getting is caused by the large number of yards Arkansas’ defense gives up. The Razorback defense is ranked last in the SEC in passing defense and 10th in rushing defense.
Arkansas’ opponents are averaging 338 yards through the air and 140.7 yards on the ground per game. Last season, the defense actually gave up more rushing yards, 167.6, but only allowed opponents to pass for 195.2 yards per game. Therefore, last year’s total offensive yards given up per game of 362.8 is 106.2 yards per game less than this year’s average of 469 yards per game.
Of course, the easiest statistic to measure is points per game, and that is what determines what ultimately matters, wins and losses. Last season, the Razorbacks averaged 36.8 points per game and only allowed opponents to score 22.2 points per game on average.
This year, the Hogs are only averaging 23.3 points per game and are allowing opponents to score an average of 35 points per game.