FAYETTEVILLE — Fresh off an impressive road win in The Swamp against Florida, Arkansas came home and got handed a one-sided 48-10 loss by Auburn.
The loss was the third straight for Arkansas in Razorback Stadium. The lone win this season in Fayetteville was a 28-6 victory over Kent State. Arkansas fell to BYU 38-31 and Mississippi State 7-3 despite good crowds and supposed advantage of playing at home. Sam Pittman had no answers for the lethargic showings in Fayetteville.
“Yeah, I don’t,” Pittman said. “We thought about our routine and what we do, things of that nature. We didn’t go to the movies or do anything like that. We never do that for a 3 o’clock game, but it was kind of ‘lock us in, get us focused’ type things. The week was identical to last week practice-wise. I’ll be honest with you, motivation-wise it was a really good week. It really was. I don’t know why, unless Auburn was just that much better than us today, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think for whatever reason, we didn’t play with a lot of energy, it looked to me like. Maybe they sucked it out of us fast, but that’s not what a good or well-coached team does.”
When Jacolby Criswell threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Isaac TeSlaa that marked the first touchdown by Arkansas in Fayetteville since the third quarter of the BYU game. In the BYU game, AJ Green scored on a 7-yard run with 11:41 remaining in the third quarter.
Criswell entered the game midway through the third quarter for KJ Jefferson. Criswell was 2-of-4 passing for 19 yards and a touchdown. He topped the Hogs in rushing with six carries for 64 yards including a 60-yarder.
“We’re down 41-3 and KJ is getting the heck beat out of him back there,” Pittman said. “Obviously, I wanted to look at Jacolby, and I talked to KJ. I thought he went in there and played really well. I thought he played like what I thought he would, like how he’s been practicing and things of that nature. The bottom line is it was seven minutes left in the third quarter, and we’re down 41-3. KJ was bloodied up a little bit, and I wanted to see what Jacolby could do.”
Auburn jumped on the Hogs 21-0 scoring the first two times they had the football offensively and also a 74-yard punt return by Keionte Scott. Quarterback Payton Thorne ran for a 12-yard touchdown on Auburn’s first possession. Leading 14-0, Thorne then found Rivaldo Fairweather for an 11-yard touchdown on the second offensive possession.
The Razorbacks got some life late in the first quarter when Dwight McGlothern picked off a Thorne pass and returned it 42 yards to the Auburn 22. However, the Hogs couldn’t muster any offense and had to settle for a 39-yard field by Cam Little with 1:54 remaining in the opening period and the Tigers up 21-3. Did the energy drop on the sidelines down that much after one quarter?
“It’s like a lot of times you’ll say get the momentum back, but we just never had it,” Pittman said. “It was seven, then the punt, then another three-and-out, then another drive for a touchdown. At some point you need somebody to make a play, and then Nudie made the play. And we go out there and three downs and make two yards and kick a field goal. They just physically whipped us in all phases of the game.”
Auburn added two field goals in the second quarter to lead 27-3 at intermission. They put the game completely away in the third quarter with 21 more points and a 48-3 lead. Thorne had two touchdown passes in the third quarter and running back Brian Battie scored on a 7-yard run. That wasn’t what Pittman expected after the win in Gainesville a week earlier.
“We couldn’t handle the edge on defense,” Pittman said. “We tried different things out there, but any time they wanted to get on the edge, we couldn’t handle the run. We didn’t tackle well. We went back to where the protection wasn’t any good. Gave up five sacks. Couldn’t run the ball. Got stymied running the football. Things we did well last week.
“I thought we had a really good week of practice and preparation. We felt really good going into the game. They jumped on us on the first drive. Then they held us and came back with a punt, but we did the same thing to Florida last week. They came back and we never did. Didn’t tackle well all game. Didn’t block well all game. That’s what happened. We haven’t been in this situation, but we were in it today. Fought and tried to get out of it. We just never did”
Thorne ended the game completing 12-of-20 passes for 163 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed 12 times for 88 yards and a touchdown. Jarquez Hunter rushed 16 times for 109 yards.
Arkansas’ three running backs, Raheim “Rocket” Sanders, Rashod Dubinion and Green combined to rush 11 times for six yards. Jefferson completed 10-of-16 passes for 116 yards. He also rushed 15 times for 50 yards.
A week after putting up 481 yards of total offense, the Hogs only had 255 against Auburn. The Arkansas defense easily had its worst showing of the season allowing 517 yards of offense, including 354 on the ground. Chris Paul Jr., Jaheim Thomas and Alfahiym Walcott each had eight tackles to lead the Hogs.
Following the game, after seeing his team drop to 3-7 on the season Pittman was asked if he is worried about his job security?
“I’m not, and let me say why,” Pittman said. “Because it’s never been about me being the head coach. It’s been about me and these kids. But, to answer your question, no, I’m not.”
Arkansas, with no chance of going to a bowl game, will host FIU on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. and then close out the season on Friday, Nov. 24 against Missouri at 3 p.m. Both games will be in Razorback Stadium.