FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Senior Ben Hicks started his third game of the year and he finished it also for the first time since the Portland State game.
Hicks started Arkansas’ season opener and then the Ole Miss game, but gave way to junior Nick Starkel to start the second half against the Rebels. Starkel then started the next four games though Hicks came in for him against both Texas A&M and Kentucky.
In a 51-10 loss to Auburn on Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Hicks was 19 of 39 passing for 182 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He was sacked three times. Following the game, Hicks was asked how he played?
“I thought I played OK and made some good throws and tried to sustain some drives and we were able to do that a couple of drives but obviously the way we started wasn’t good enough,” Hicks said. “The turnover on the third play of the game and I think two or three 3-and-outs put our defense in a really tough spot. So that was disappointing. Obviously you’ve got to tip your cap to Auburn’s defense. They played really well. They are a good defense and they played like it today.”
On the third play of the game, Auburn’s Marlon Davidson sacked Hicks and forced a fumble that he also recovered at the Arkansas 22. Hicks talked about what happened on that play.
“Three just made a really good play, reached over with his long arms and knocked it out of my hand,” Hicks said. “So obviously not how I wanted to start but we try and come back out and find a way to sustain a drive and obviously we didn’t do that early on.”
Hicks had ice on his left shoulder following the game, but said he was fine. Chad Morris was asked after the game why Hicks was still out there in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand?
“When it got late in the game like that it wasn’t fair for any of those other guys to go in in that moment,” Morris said. “I felt all week long that we got through the week, the understanding of the protections, I was very comfortable with Ben.”
All week Morris had talked about it could be Hicks or Starkel who took the first snaps. When did Hicks find out he was starting?
“Honestly last night,” Hicks said. “Coach Morris came up to me during one of our coverage sessions and let me know I was going to do the game. I thought I had plenty of reps and really was into the game plan. I thought we had a good game plan but early on we really couldn’t get anything going. And by that time it was 17-0. But we did some good things, too. There were some positives to take away from it. But obviously it’s tough to start that slowly against a group with the ability of that defense.”
Auburn’s defensive front is one of the best in the nation. Hicks talked about issues of not being able to go inside against Auburn and then their speed when Arkansas tried to go outside.
“It’s difficult with the front that they have, obviously. 5, 1 and 3 are really good players,” Hicks said. “It was just tough sledding inside the tackles. We tried to get out on the perimeter early and they used their speed to make some plays.
“It was difficult. Like I said, it was tough sledding today and we were just trying to find ways to continue to run the ball inside the tackles and throw some RPOs off of it to try to keep them off balance. But it was obviously difficult to play.”
It doesn’t get any easier for Hicks and the Razorbacks as they travel to Tuscaloosa next week to face top-ranked Alabama.
“You come here to play in games like that,” Hicks said. “You don’t get a whole lot of opportunities to play the No. 1 team in the country at their place at night. So we’re going to try to go out there and have good game plan and cut it loose and just have fun. Just play our tails off like we have been.”
Does Hick see a scenario where Arkansas becomes a program in the future that is respected like the one at Alabama or some of the other top SEC schools?
“It’s tough to see right now, but I think this senior group, our job is to continue to help lead these young guys, show them the way, show them how it’s suppose to be done,” Hicks said. “I definitely think we can get there. That’s our job.
“Obviously, we don’t want to lose. Sitting up here and talking about getting beat like we did is difficult. But as a man, it’s our job, as a senior it’s our job to show the young guys how to get it done. I think we’ve got guys in there that can definitely get it done. We’ve got the coaching staff to get it done, too.”
Hicks also was seen standing by himself on the sideline when the Arkansas defense was on the field. What was the reasoning for that?
“I’m just trying to regroup and get ready for the next drive,” Hicks said. “I guess that’s something I do. I’m just trying to get the adjustments and try to refocus.”
Auburn (6-1, 3-1) also has a tough game next week when they travel to face LSU at 2:30 p.m. on CBS. Arkansas (2-5, 0-4) faces Alabama at 6 p.m. on ESPN.