Auburn’s Jeff Holland was frank enough to admit that his first tackle against Arkansas’ freshman quarterback Cole Kelley, coming at the end of a 4-yard dash, quite literally knocked the air out of him It isn’t anything to hold against him, though, as Holland stands at 6-foot-2 and weighs in at 249 pounds which is impressive but doesn’t quite match up to Kelley’s 6-foot-7, 268 pound massiveness.
Tables took a turn in Holland’s favor from then on though, with the Razorbacks’ quarterback being the one left short of air in his next two encounters with Auburn’s junior pass-rusher. Both of these two plays went down for strip sacks, ultimately leading to an Auburn touchdown each on the resulting drives.
The 52-20 win against Arkansas in Fayetteville was a lot of fun, according to Holland, speaking after the game. They got the quarterback and they got the win, he said. We can see how that could be a whole lot of fun. Hopefully, Holland will keep having enough fun to raise the betting odds for Auburn games throughout the season.
Auburn’s front seven definitely weren’t coy about going after the Arkansas quarterback on Saturday. Holland, Jeremiah Dinson, Big Kat Bryant, Nick Coe, Marlon Davidson, and T.D. Moultry combined to post a total of six sacks of Kelley, who ended the second starting game of his career with 15 of 26 passes completed for 163 yards.
The Tiger’s six-sack game equals their highest posting in a single game this season since they recorded the same against Georgia Southern in Week 1. They haven’t managed more than six sacks in a single encounter since they posted 11 against Alabama during the 2005 Iron Bowl.
Derrick Brown, a defensive tackle who managed to force a fumble in the game attributed the strong showing by the team to heightened team coordination and each everyone playing their designated part. Half of the six sacks in the game led to fumbles by Arkansas, two of which the Tigers managed to recover. Only three quarterback hurries were credited to the Tigers, but watching the game one got the feeling that the quarterback was being pressured every time he ventured to drop back.
Gus Malzhan, Auburn’s head coach felt that suppressing Kelley was a big key to their win. According to him, Kelley’s huge presence and resulting ability to see clearly over the line was a big threat to his squad, and so getting the ball out of his hands turned the trick for Auburn.
Auburn’s defense has had a notably impressive season, ranked 11th nationally in allowed points (15.6) and 14th in allowed yards (302.8). The pass rush has been credited with a playing a major role in achieving this success with Holland being the acknowledged driving force behind these efforts. Holland stands atop the leaderboards in both sacks (8) and sack yardage (51). The only other SEC pass-rusher who comes close is Kentucky’s Josh Allen with 6.5 sacks. Last year, the Tigers clossed off the season with 25 sacks in total, a figure which they have managed to reach with four regular season games in hand. It’s an impressive run.
Saturday’s game may well have been Holland’s and his defensive line’s best game so far, and they don’t look as though they’re about to letting up anytime soon.