The 126th meeting of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry saw a mostly inept Auburn offense take the field, with dropped passes and a lack of a run game being a common theme.
The Tigers will look to improve on some of their issues when they head to Fayetteville, Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks this weekend.
“I think the Arkansas defense (plays) pretty good,” running back Shaun Shivers said. “They’re physical up front, they play hard and play fast. Doesn’t matter who they’re playing, they’re going to play disruptive.”
Receivers dropping passes has been a consistent issue all season, and it remains one of the top drive-killers for this Auburn offense. According to Pro Football Focus, the Tigers had seven dropped passes last week against Georgia, placing them atop the SEC with 19 dropped passes on the year.
“It’s just a lack of focus, that’s it,” said Shivers on the dropped passes.
Shivers added that dropping passes isn’t a common theme in practice — it just isn’t carrying over to games.
“We (catch) it in practice, and I guess we just get out to the games, and like I said just a lack of focus," he said.
The Auburn receivers will need to have their focus on the ball Saturday going up against the second-best pass defense in the SEC. The Razorbacks are only allowing an average of 156 yards through the air during their first six games, but they just gave up nearly 300 yards to Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral in the team’s 52–51 shootout loss. The defense is vulnerable, but the Tigers will have to play clean football.
“It’s going to be key for us to go out there and protect the football, run hard and do the things that we do here at Auburn,” Shivers said.
It isn’t just the dropped passes that have been an issue for the Tigers. There has been a lack of consistency in the run game in recent weeks. After a strong start to the season, the Tigers are averaging 130 rushing yards per game against Power Five opponents, and had a season low of 46 last week against the Bulldogs. For comparison, the Tigers averaged nearly 165 rush yards per game against Power Five teams both in 2019 and 2020.
“Going against a good defense, sometimes things are going to happen like that,” Shivers said. “I just feel as we go on down the road it’s getting us in the groove a little bit more. I feel like we will have a big part in the run game.”
The rushing attack averaged just 1.6 yards per carry against Georgia last week and the receivers had seven drops, one leading to an interception. While the Tigers do control their own destiny in the SEC West, these offensive issues will have to be fixed if they hope to compete for an SEC Championship in December.
“We control our own destiny, so with knowing that we can compete for an SEC Championship, it motivated us,” Shivers said. “Me and the whole team and the coaches as well because we know what we can do, we know what kind of team we are.”
Auburn will take on Arkansas at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Fayetteville. The game will be televised on CBS.