Like It Is

OPINION | WALLY HALL: Ailing Hogs going through tough patch

At one point a year ago, the University of Arkansas football team was 3-4 and fans were ecstatic.

After a 20-game SEC losing streak was snapped in Sam Pittman's first season at Arkansas, and as a head coach, the sun had never shone brighter for the Razorback Nation.

If a year ago someone had offered a 4-3 start this season with wins over Texas and Texas A&M, 99% would have signed up for that.

Now, after starting 4-0 and then losing three consecutive games, some fans are grumbling about play-calling, officiating and defensive schemes.

That is fair.

You buy a ticket, you get privileges.

The past three games -- OK, the past two because Georgia, the No. 1 team in all the nation, was never beatable -- the frustration is understandable.

Arkansas is as good as No. 12 Ole Miss and No. 19 Auburn.

Which is a miracle in itself.

While KJ Jefferson has done nothing but impress since the season opener, the Rebels and Tigers have experienced quarterbacks.

Experience that paid off down the stretch of both games against the Razorbacks with big plays.

Both losses were because of big plays by the Ole Miss and Auburn quarterbacks.

Yes, Jefferson has made some big plays, too, but sometimes he looks like a redshirt sophomore who had one start each of his first two years.

There's not much sense in talking about Matt Corral; he's one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy.

Auburn quarterback Bo Nix had 24 starts before this season began.

Not all of them were good, but he's having a great senior season. He's completed 122 of 184 passes for 1,728 yards and 14 touchdowns with only 1 interception.

His best game of the season, maybe his SEC career, was on Saturday. His 71-yard touchdown pass practically left the Razorbacks in the dust.

The only reason it didn't was this band of overachieving Razorbacks play hard start to finish.

The truth is Auburn should be 6-1 instead of 5-2. The Tigers were better than Penn State.

First-year Coach Bryan Harsin inherited a pretty good team.

In Gus Malzahn's last five seasons at Auburn, his recruiting classes ranked anywhere from No. 7 in the nation to No. 19 with an average of No. 11.

During that same span, Arkansas' recruiting classes ranged from a best of No. 23 to a worst of No. 45.

Auburn returned 15 starters this season and a total of 57 lettermen.

What that means is a difference in depth.

Auburn is two-deep at every position. Arkansas has two players for every position, but a lot of shifting has been done on the offensive line most of the season.

What makes it frustrating is the Razorbacks could have beaten Auburn instead of losing 38-23.

Arkansas was leading 17-14 when a punt went unfielded and rolled to the Razorbacks' 11 with 8:34 to play in the third quarter.

With 7:19 to play in the same quarter, Auburn led 21-17 after recovering an Arkansas fumble in the end zone.

The Razorbacks drove to the Auburn 30 and came up short on fourth and 3 with 4:27 to go in the third quarter.

Nix hit the 71-touchdown bomb with 4:16 to go in the third quarter.

In slightly more than four minutes, the Hogs were down 28-17 and momentum had swung.

Take away those four minutes and Arkansas probably wins, but that combined with some questionable calls left the Razorbacks with their third straight loss.

It isn't the end of the world and you can't see it from here either, but injuries and a lack of depth have taken a toll on the Hogs.

However, they are still better than they were a year ago, and the program is headed in the right direction.