FAYETTEVIILLE — Arkansas will face No. 16 Ole Miss Saturday night in Oxford in hopes of breaking a losing streak that has reached three games.
The downward spriral started with a loss at home to BYU and then continued at LSU and then against Texas A&M. Ole Miss (4-1, 1-1) is coming off an impressive win over LSU following a loss to Alabama. Arkansas (2-3, 0-2) is still searching for its first SEC win.
Here’s five keys for Arkansas to defeat Ole Miss.
Score Touchdowns in Red Zone
The inability to score touchdown in the red zone bit the Hogs hard against LSU. They jumped out to a 6-0 lead, but anyone watching the game felt the inability to score touchdowns instead of field goals would eventually come back to haunt Arkansas. And it did. Here’s what has happened the last four times Arkansas was inside the opponent’s 10-yard line.
Fourth and 6 at Texas A&M 7 — 25-yard field goal by Cam Little (Had 1st and 10 at Aggies 11)
Second and 8 at LSU 9 — 40-yard field goal by Little (KJ Jefferson sacked on 2nd and 3rd down)
Fourth and Goal at LSU 5 — 23-yard field goal by Little (Had 1st and goal LSU 6)
Fourth and Goal at LSU 6 — 24-yard field goal by Little (Had 1st and goal LSU7, 3rd and goal LSU 1)
The last time Arkansas scored a touchdown inside the opponent’s 10 was AJ Green running seven yards in third quarter against BYU.
Get More Creative With Play Calling
Whether you are in the shotgun or under center everyone in AT&T Stadium on Saturday knew Jefferson was going to hand off to Rocket Sanders on the fourth-and-inches play. I told the person next to me prior to the play they will hand off to Sanders and he will run to the right. It isn’t just those plays either. The play calling has been predictable all season and defenses have strong idea of what play is coming. It is hard for the offensive line to block when the opposing players know what is coming. It makes it basically impossible for Jefferson to make a positive play when being sacked seven times and 15 tackles for loss. The offense is predictable and isn’t being adjusted to what are the strengths of the quarterback and available personnel.
Eliminate Penalties and Turnovers
The Hogs got flagged 14 times against BYU and 11 against LSU. They eliminated the penalties against Texas A&M. It isn’t realistic to expect them to have no penalties like this past Saturday, but five or less is very reasonable expectation. Eliminate the turnovers.
Limit Explosive Plays by Ole Miss
The Rebels had over 700 yards of offense against LSU including over 300 both on the ground and through the air. Ole Miss is going to score a lot of points against Arkansas and the Razorbacks will have to match it to stay in it. As noted in first key that makes getting touchdowns not field goals all the more important. The Arkansas defense played reasonably well in the second half against Texas A&M after a not-so-good showing the second half of LSU and first half of Aggies game. Limiting the explosive plays by Ole Miss is an absolute must.
Get Running Game Going, Protect Jefferson
Hopefully Sanders can return to the form that made him one of the nation’s best running backs before injuries struck. AJ Green is like a magic act. He rushed three for 63 yards on the first series against BYU and has basically disappeared from the rotation since then. He isn’t hurt so the lack of carries is puzzling. He leads the team with 32 carries for 195 yards. That is 6.1 yards per carry. No other running back is close to that average. The offensive line, tight ends and running backs must protect Jefferson more like they did against LSU than the A&M game.