Arkansas spent two weeks working on its fourth quarter flaws after suffering a 35-28 overtime loss to Texas A&M. The struggles — at least on offense — didn’t end in the 14-13 loss to Alabama in Razorback Stadium last Saturday.
Arkansas was scoreless in the fourth quarter against a Southeastern Conference opponent for the third time this season. Auburn, Texas A&M and Alabama have now outscored the Razorbacks 38-0 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“I saw drives that didn’t get going, drives that stalled out,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said Monday. “It’s kind of been a continuing theme for us, unfortunately in SEC play, and it’s something I’m really began to hone in and be aware of last week and tried to make certain adjustments. But it’s something I’ve challenged our offensive staff with, and our players. Obviously, the biggest failure for us overall is to not put points on the board in the fourth quarter, and to win close games.”
The Razorbacks could manage only 35 yards on 16 plays against the Crimson Tide, struggling to move the ball with the game on the line. Arkansas had four possessions, but went three-plays-and-out twice, was stuffed on fourth down on its third chance and quarterback Brandon Allen threw an interception at the end.
“That’s where most of our mental mistakes are coming,” Allen said. “We have a lot of mental errors in the fourth quarter and you can’t do that if you want to win games. It’s up to us just to polish things off and going into the fourth quarter and staying mentally sharp and doing things we’ve been doing the whole game.”
The fourth-quarter struggles in SEC games go back to last season, when the Hogs also lost late leads against Mississippi State and LSU. In all, Arkansas has been outscored 62-0 in the fourth quarter and overtime of its past five conference games dating back to the 2013 season. The Hogs led in the fourth quarter of each one.
But tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. said the issues aren’t limited to one theme.
“It’s a myriad of different things that have popped up for us,” Lunney said. “I think whatever it has been, whatever it should have been or could have been, when we play a good fourth quarter and we win, that’ll be our answer. So we’re working towards that and hopefully it will come sooner than later.”
Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman said the ongoing struggles are frustrating for everyone involved. But he added the coaching will attempt another tactic when the fourth quarter arrives against Georgia on Saturday.
“We’re going to coach them in the fourth quarter like we did in the first three and see if that will help,” Pittman said. “I think that we’ve become a little tighter with the players and I think they’ve become tighter when we do. So we’re going to coach them to go out there and have fun just like they did in the first, second and third quarters. We just need to be more upbeat and more positive with them at that point.
“If you play three quarters of ball a lot of things have gone right and some things have gone wrong and you’ve got to flush it. We’re going to start the fourth like we start the beginning of a game and see if that will help us. I bet it will.”
I’ll take that bet, Sam. It’s the kind of thing that’s a lot easier to say than it is to do.
It’s definitely something to keep in mind if Georgia enters the fourth quarter in a tight game.
Also, the Georgia has been ridiculously good managing field position thing? It’s even better. In fact, it’s the best.
Give me another dose of that and positive turnover margin, and I like Georgia’s chances on Saturday a lot.