A.J. Derby

Arkansas lets No. 7 Alabama off the hook, 14-13

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With a sellout crowd inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium and the 1964 national championship team in the house, Arkansas appeared primed to end its 14-game SEC losing streak in a big way after taking a 13-7 lead on a 54-yard catch-and-run from Brandon Allen to A.J. Derby with 4:43 to go in the third quarter.

The Razorbacks touched the ball five times after that. Its play distribution? Three combined carries for its workhorse running backs – one Jonathan Williams rush for two yards, two Alex Collins carries for five yards – and 15 touches for Allen. In those 15 touches, Allen rushed once for 14 yards, was sacked three times for a loss of 18 yards, and completed 3-of-11 passes for 27 yards with a game-ending interception. That’s 23 total yards – 1.53 yards per play – with a turnover, while neither of its backs touched the ball in the final 11 minutes of the game.

Not surprisingly, Arkansas didn’t score again, and Alabama took home a 14-13 win.

Mistakes were the name of the game for Arkansas. The Hogs should have opened the scoring after Allen hit Kody Walker for what should have been an easy five-yard touchdown pass, but Trey DePriest punched the ball out of his arms and through the back of the end zone for a touchback. Arkansas also had a first quarter field goal try that could have opened the scoring, but holder Matt Emrich couldn’t handle the snap.

With the game still scoreless midway through the second quarter, Arkansas safety Alan Turner let a Blake Sims pass hit off his chest and fall incomplete. Two plays later, Sims hit T.J. Yeldon for a 22-yard touchdown to give Alabama a 7-0 lead.

Arkanas immediately responded by marching 81 yards in 10 plays for a three-yard Williams plunge, but John Henson‘s extra point was tipped and sailed wide left. That would prove to be the difference in the game.

After Arkansas took a 13-7 lead, Sims tossed the winning score to DeAndrew White from six yards out with 12:36 remaining. Sims connected on 11-of-21 passes for 161 yards and those two scores with no interceptions. Arkansas bottled up the Crimson Tide ground attack, playing without center Ryan Kelly, to the tune of 66 yards on 32 carries.

Allen hit 21-of-40 passes for 245 yards with a touchdown and a back-breaking, across-the-field interception to Landon Collins late in the fourth quarter that sealed Alabama’s win. Williams led all rushers with 83 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, while Collins added 13 yards on a half-dozen attempts.

In the end, Arkansas managed to lose a game where it won the turnover battle (3-2), achieved eight more first downs (18-10), and out-gained Alabama by 107 yards (334-227). That’s a tough way to suffer your 15th straight conference loss.

The Hogs will move on to face likely SEC East champion Georgia in Little Rock, while Alabama returns home to face Texas A&M.

Arkansas trips up, allows Texas A&M to rally for overtime win

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It was the first play of the fourth quarter, Jonathan Williams laid two yards from the goal line, and No. 6 Texas A&M was cooked. Arkansas was on the brink of taking a 35-14 lead, an edge the Aggies’ offense did not look capable of overcoming. But Arkansas offensive lineman Dan Skipper was hit with a personal foul call for tripping, and nothing about this game was the same.

Arkansas punted, and two plays later Kenny Hill found Edward Pope for an 86-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Instead of the scoreboard reading 35-14, it was 28-21.

After a three-and-out, Arkansas intercepted Hill with 8:34 to go, putting the Hogs in prime position to allow their ground-and-pound offense to salt the game away. One rush and two passes later, Arkansas punted for the third time in the quarter. After forcing a Texas A&M punt, Arkansas again appeared in position to win the game with a 1st-and-10 at the Aggies’ 31 with two-and-a-half minutes remaining, but quarterback Brandon Allen dropped the snap, putting the Hogs a 2nd-and-12 situation it could not overcome. John Henson badly missed a 44-yard field goal try and, again, Hill found a receiver – this time Josh Reynolds – for a 59-yard touchdown.

Tie game.

After yet another three-and-out with two passes and one rush, Arkansas was suddenly in the unbelievable position of going from needing just one first down to win the game with 150 seconds to play, to giving Texas A&M the ball with a chance to tie and then notch the winning score in regulation.

The Hogs defense forced the game into overtime, but all they truly did was prolong the inevitable. Hill hit Malcome Kennedy for a touchdown pass on the first play of overtime, while Arkansas’ Alex Collins was stuffed on 4th-and-2 on the corresponding possession. On the same end of the field where it seemingly had a 35-14 lead in hand, Arkansas made its final mistake in a 35-28 loss.

The story of the game was the Texas A&M defense adjusting to the Arkansas ground game, or the Arkansas running attack stalling out in the second half for the second time this season. (Arkansas rushed for 151 yards in the first half of its 45-21 loss to Auburn on opening weekend, and two in the second half.) After having its way with the Aggies’ defense in the first half with 143 rushing yards on 21 carries (6.81 yards per carry) – and that’s not counting Sam Irwin-Hill’s 51-yard fake punt touchdown – Arkansas ran 25 times for 92 yards in the second half (3.68 yards per carry). Allen could not carry the Arkansas offense after Arkansas’ offense slowed down, hitting 11 of his final 23 for 134 yards and a 44-yard play-action touchdown to A.J. Derby that gave the Razorbacks their 14 point lead.

While Allen started fast and finished slow, his counterpart did the opposite. Hill exploited Arkansas’ cottage cheese secondary for 290 passing yards – and three touchdowns that accounted for 170 of those yards – in the second half.

Texas A&M, its 5-0 record and Top 10 ranking still intact, goes on the road next week for an undefeated showdown at No. 14 Mississippi State next week.

Arkansas, meanwhile, has an off week to ask itself how it lost this game. The Hogs had 14 sure points taken off the board, plus a turnover inside enemy territory, and a missed field goal, and a turnover on downs in overtime. This one will sting. And, coupled with Kentucky’s win over Vanderbilt today, Arkansas now has the ignominious distinction of holding the SEC’s longest conference losing streak at 14 games.

Points aplenty at Jordan-Hare, Auburn and Arkansas tied at 21 at the half

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We knew Heisman Trophy candidate Nick Marshall would not start at quarterback for Auburn, but not much beyond that. As long as Jeremy Johnson stays white-scorching-hot, Marshall’s 2014 debut will remain to be determined.

The true sophomore quarterback connected on his first eight passes good for 204 yards and two touchdowns – equating to a passer rating of nearly 400 – in helping Auburn build a 21-7 second quarter lead over Arkansas. The only thing to halt Auburn’s first three drives was the end line, as Gus Malzahn’s bunch marched 75, 75 and 98 yards to open the game.

To Arkansas’ credit, at least the offense looks vastly improved from last season. The Razorbacks rallied to tie the game with 4:28 remaining in the first half by mounting consecutive drives of 75 and 93 yards after falling to that 21-7 deficit.

All told, these teams have combined for 578 yards of total offense. Alex Collins leads the Arkansas attack with six rushes for 70 yards, complimented by Brandon Allen’s 116 passing yards and two scores. The Hogs have pounded the Auburn front for 151 rushing yards on 21 carries, and then victimized Auburn over the top with play-action passes to tight ends A.J. Derby and Hunter Henry. Johnson has connected on 12 of 16 passes for 243 yards and those two scores, while Tigers receiver Duke Williams has collected seven grabs for 138 yards and a touchdowns.

Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson missed a field goal off the right upright to close the first half. Auburn gets the ball to start the second half.

Hogs move A.J. Derby from No. 2 QB to TE

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In 2013, A.J. Derby served as the backup to starting quarterback Brandon Allen.  A year later, it appears Derby is poised to be on the receiving end of Allen’s pass attempts.

It was revealed Thursday that Derby, entering his final season of eligibility, has been moved from quarterback to tight end.  The move doesn’t appear to come because of Derby’s struggles at the position — ArkansasNews.com wrote that “[t]he position switch came after Derby turned in one of his best scrimmage performances” — but rather the improvement of Austin Allen.

Barring injury or regression, it now appears the redshirt freshman Allen will exit spring and enter summer camp as the No. 2 quarterback behind the starting Allen.  And, yes, the two Allens are brothers.

The 6-5, 246-pound Derby, whose brother was a tight end at Iowa, transferred to the Razorbacks from the JUCO ranks in December of 2012.  He transferred out of the Iowa program in the January prior to that.

When Brandon Mitchell left the Hogs in May of 2013, Derby slid into the No. 2 spot behind Allen in the quarterback pecking order.  As Allen’s primary backup, Derby completed 19-of-36 passes for 178 yards, one touchdown and one interception.  He started one game in the place of the injured starter.

Beliema not ruling Brandon Allen in or out

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For the second consecutive game, Arkansas might be without its starting quarterback.  Or it might have him.  One of the two.

Head coach Bret Bielema on Monday said that Brandon Allen remains questionable for the Razorbacks’ SEC opener against Texas A&M this Saturday with an injured right (throwing) shoulder.  The starter suffered the injury in the win over Southern Miss in Week 2 and did not play in the loss to Rutgers Saturday.

Bielema said that the coaching staff is prepared to wait until right up until game day before making a decision on Allen’s availability.

“If (Allen) at any point, even if it’s not until Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, says that he can go and the doctors give him 100 percent we’ll go that direction,” the coach said according to ArkansasNews.com.

A.J. Derby (pictured) replaced Allen in the starting lineup and would do the same if the sophomore is again a no-go.  In nearly two full games worth of playing time the past couple of weeks, Derby has completed 18 of his 28 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown.  He has yet to throw an interception.