Arkansas offense continues to struggle


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It’s now been 2 hours, 8 minutes and 54 seconds since the Arkansas offense has scored against Alabama.

Alabama blanked Arkansas 52-0 on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. It matched the score from the 2012 game. One must go back to the 8:54 mark of the fourth quarter of the 2010 game to find the Razorbacks’ last points versus the Crimson Tide.

Since that Tyler Wilson-to-Cobi Hamilton TD pass in 2011, Alabama has scored 111 unanswered points thanks to a last-second TD in that 38-14 win and back-to-back 52-0 shutouts.

Even more concerning is in four Southeastern Conference games, the Razorbacks’ point production has dropped each week. Arkansas lost 45-33 to Texas A&M, then 30-10 to Florida and 52-7 to South Carolina leading into Saturday’s game. The seven combined points in the last two games is the lowest cumulative total for back-to-back SEC games since 1995.

That season, Arkansas lost to LSU 28-0 and then to Florida 34-3 in the SEC Championship Game.

“Obviously, this is getting a little old,” Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said. “Nothing that we did out there today can give us any indication that the things we need to do are just that far away or that close. It’s a long way to go.”

It was the second consecutive game starting quarterback Brandon Allen threw for less than 100 yards. He only threw for 30 yards against South Carolina, but tripled that to 91 against Alabama on 7-of-25 passing. But with two interceptions and no TDs, his quarterback rating was a paltry 42.6. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron — who has led Alabama to three wins against Arkansas by a combined 142-14 — was 15-of-21 for 180 yards and three touchdowns. That’s a QB rating of 190.6.

While Allen was struggling, the running game wasn’t doing much better. Arkansas ran for 165 yards on 39 carries.

“It’s getting very old for us, we’re tired of losing,” Allen said. “Just a few miscues here and there and games can get out of hand like that. … As an offense, you know, we didn’t do a whole lot. We didn’t help ourselves out, we didn’t help our defense out, we didn’t help anybody out on our team.”

Bielema said mental mistakes are the biggest problem his offense has right now. And those are easier to correct than physical mismatches.

“There’s definitely physical breakdowns on our football team,” Bielema said. “But there is a lot of things that happen between our ears that have a direct impact on the game that can be easily corrected. It’s just this muck that we have to get out of.”

Part of the mental fragility, Bielema said, can be traced back to last season’s 4-8 campaign under interim coach John L. Smith.

“As a human being, you’re a product of what you’ve witnessed and what you’ve seen and the behavior that we as coaches just cannot tolerate and players have to eradicate — a lot of guys talked about it this week — but until that culture changes … ,” Bielema said. “It might just take one play, it might take one quarter for someone to rise above. But until that happens, a lot of the same results will slide back in.”

Allen said the Arkansas offense is its own worst enemy right now.

“It’s us really shooting ourselves in the foot whenever we get drives going,” Allen said. “Maybe it’s one thing that kills our drive and then, you know, come out the next drive, get things rolling and it’s one more thing that kills our drive.”

With a five-game losing streak, including four straight SEC losses, Bielema hinted changes could be coming after next week’s bye before the team hosts Auburn on Nov. 2.

“What we have to do as coaches is begin to move forward with guys who are going to execute what we’re asking them to do,” Bielema said. “If a guy repeatedly puts the ball on the ground or dropping passes, we’ve just got to move on.”