By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Peeling back the layers on Arkansas reveals a team that might not be in as much disarray as its point differential suggests.
In their last four SEC losses the Razorbacks haven’t come closer than three touchdowns to victory and were outscored 104-7 in a two-game stretch against South Carolina and Alabama.
Statistically, though, Arkansas has shown an ability to move the ball on the ground and chew up the clock.
It just hasn’t shown an ability to score touchdowns.
“It’s more about them finishing drives in the red zone,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “If they had done that some of these games are a little different, I think.”
In SEC play, the Razorbacks have reached the red zone 16 times and scored on 11 drives. That’s not much different than Ole Miss, which has reached the red zone 17 times and scored 13 times.
The Rebels, though, have 15 total touchdowns in SEC play to eight for Arkansas.
“Really, it’s about finishing on every single play, not just when you get in the red zone,” Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen said.
The other telling statistic for Arkansas in turnover margin. The Razorbacks are minus-12 in conference games.
Two of those turnovers came from backup quarterback A.J. Derby in a span of eight snaps against Auburn when Allen had left the game with a deep cut in his leg after he was cleated, apparently unintentionally, by an Auburn player.
Allen eventually returned to the game. He was monitored closely this week and will play against Ole Miss.
Regardless of who has played quarterback, the passing game hasn’t been the Razorbacks’ strength.
New coach Bret Bielema has a run game that he calls a work in progress, but he’s gotten off to a fast start with it. The Razorbacks are averaging 211.2 yards a game on the ground overall, a figure that drops to 183.4 against the league.
Arkansas has two rushers in the SEC’s top 10 – freshman Alex Collins at 91.1 yards a game and sophomore Jonathan Williams at 79.6 yards a game.
“Collins is a great jump cutter. He’s got unbelievable vision. He’ll cut it to either side of the box and outside,” Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said.
Allen downplayed the injury and said the Hogs, 3-6 overall, still have a lot to play for. Sweeping Ole Miss, Mississippi State in Little Rock and LSU in Baton Rouge would make them bowl eligible.
“There’s still that bowl opportunity that we’re striving for,” he said. “We know we have to win every game. There are still things that this season has for us to go get.”