Arkansas has something to prove against Auburn
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP)
Jarius Wright felt like he had something to prove before last week's game with Texas A&M.
The Arkansas receiver hasn't let go of that feeling quite yet, even after a school-record 281 yards receiving as the Razorbacks rallied from an 18-point halftime deficit against the Aggies for a 42-38 win.
Maybe it's the lingering remnants of a 38-14 thrashing at the hands of Alabama to open Southeastern Conference play two weeks ago that is still on Wright's mind. Maybe it's that winless mark in SEC play that's bothering him.
Whatever the case, Wright and the rest of the No. 10 Razorbacks (4-1, 0-1) hope to wipe anyone's doubts away for good Saturday when they host No. 15 Auburn (4-1, 2-0).
''I do feel like that feeling is still there, people are still doubting us,'' Wright said. ''I don't know for sure, but I still feel like people are still saying, `That was only Texas A&M.'
''... We're still feeling in the back of our minds that we have to go out and prove a point in SEC play.''
In order to prove that point, Arkansas must find a way to bottle the magic it found in the second half against Texas A&M. The Razorbacks suffered through what can only be described as a Crimson Tide hangover in the first half against the Aggies, falling behind 35-17 through a myriad of defensive and offensive line woes.
They were a different team in the second half, however, with quarterback Tyler Wilson relatively untouched in the pocket on his way to a school-record 510 yards passing and several key defensive stops. All in all, the turnaround was almost enough - almost - for Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino to overlook the first-half debacle and focus on the positives moving forward.
''We're getting closer to knowing what we're all about, I think,'' Petrino said. ''Each time we go to battle together, we learn more about each other.''
The Razorbacks won't be the only team on Saturday that still feels like it has something to prove.
Even through the Tigers already have two SEC wins over ranked teams (Mississippi State and South Carolina), they struggled in a less-than-convincing 42-38 win over Utah State to open the season. And the defending national champs lost at Clemson in their third game.
Auburn's once-feared offensive attack is still a work in progress at eighth-best in the SEC and the defense is last in the league - allowing nearly 440 yards per game.
That doesn't bode well as Auburn prepares to face the SEC's top offense in Arkansas, which is averaging 39.4 points and 471.8 yards per game. Last year, it took the Tigers every bit of Cam Newton and more to hold off the Razorbacks for a 65-43 win - a game in which Wilson came off the bench in place of an injured Ryan Mallett to throw for 332 yards and four touchdowns.
''They've got a great football team,'' Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. ''We experienced it last year. It's going to be a tough game for us. They're playing really well.''
Also making matters difficult for the Tigers is that Chizik said leading receiver Emory Blake is doubtful for the game after injuring his right leg against the Gamecocks last week. Blake leads Auburn with 19 catches for 333 yards on four touchdowns this season.
Arkansas had dealt with injuries of its own throughout the season, but Petrino said senior defensive end Jake Bequette is expected to return after a three-week absence because of a hamstring problem.
The team also received a boost last week against the Aggies when senior running back Broderick Green returned to action after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament tear in his knee during spring practice. Green had a pair of touchdown runs last week, including the game-winning score, and he also had the third-down run that allowed Arkansas to run the clock out to secure the win.
Green was forced to watch from the sidelines through the first four games, but he is well aware of how much the Razorbacks still have to prove - to themselves and everyone else.
''We didn't look so good in the beginning of the season and have a lot of stuff to work on,'' Green said. ''This is an important week for us, another conference game. We've got to show we can play in our conference and we can beat those guys.''
AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Auburn, Ala., contributed to this report.