FAYETTEVILLE — Good news doesn't abound for these Razorbacks, 30-point underdogs for their SEC opener Saturday night in Auburn, Alabama, against the nationally No. 9 Auburn Tigers.
So they rally behind whatever plusses they can find.
Arkansas was going to be a decided underdog already against Gus Malzahn's defending SEC West champions for Saturday's 6:30 p.m. kickoff televised by the SEC Network at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Underdog morphed into disastrous dog. The 1-2 Razorbacks lost 34-27 and 44-17 nonconference games the last two Saturdays and were favored to win at Colorado State in Fort Collins, Colorado, and against the North Texas Mean Green in Fayetteville.
Blowing a 27-9 lead in the third quarter stung the Hogs but it appeared to being routed by a Conference USA North Texas team leading 34-10 at half might have shattered them.
Coach Chad Morris and those players made media available during the week insist it hasn't going into Thursday's completely closed practice which finished the week's drills in Fayetteville.
They do acknowledge they are up against it at Auburn.
Auburn thumped Bret Bielema's last Razorbacks team, 52-20 last year in Fayetteville and opened this season defeating Pac 12 favorite Washington.
Now with by far the best defense that Arkansas has faced, and among the best that Morris has said he's ever witnessed, the Tigers in their lair snarl to atone for losing, 22-21 on a game-ending field goal to SEC West rival LSU.
"They’ve got as good a front seven defensively as I’ve seen," Morris said. "We’ve got our work cut out for us."
Morris said offensively better to achieve the work cut out for them he's cut how many things the Hogs will try to work.
He started the week simplifying the offense that Arkansas operated against Colorado State and North Texas.
Less is more simply has caught on, says senior tight end Jeremy Patton, a second-year junior college transfer.
"I think we kind of went back to our roots a little bit," Patton said. "We're just really narrowing it down to what we installed first. Last week (against North Texas) we felt we had an advantage against their defense and we tried to do a couple of things and I think now we are reverting a little bit more to what you saw in the Eastern Illinois game."
Arkansas beat Eastern Illinois, 55-20 to open the season.
Of course, lower division Eastern Illinois even remotely isn't Auburn. But any basic comfort zone familiarity at least gives the Arkansas offense a basic starting point.
"Coach Morris is narrowing it down to the plays that we really believe will have a positive effect against their defense," Patton said.
Defensively, the Razorbacks played better last week than a 44-17 score would indicate.
Arkansas quarterbacks Cole Kelley, four times, and true freshmen Connor Noland and John Stephen Jones, one each mopping up, were intercepted six times.
The turnovers plus poor punting constantly put Arkansas on a short field defensively. Plus UNT scored 14 directly off an interception return and 90-yard yard punt return with Arkansas fooled that a fair catch was signaled though it wasn't.
Arkansas junior middle linebacker Scoota Harris, 12 tackles and two pass breakups, played exceptionally.
Harris' stellar performance is nothing new to Arkansas, first-year defensive coordinator/linebackers coach John Chavis said.
"I think Scoota was playing good football for Arkansas last year," Chavis said. "There's no question about that. He's mature and he's smart. It didn't take him long to fit himself into our scheme and I think it's a good fit for him."
It also seems a good fit for senior defensive tackle Armon Watts.
Logging mostly bit part action the last three years of the Bielema regime, Watts under Morris and Chavis and their 4-3 schemed netted his third sack last Satuday in three games among his two tackles, and also broke up a pass.
With senior Randy Ramsey finally healthy debuting at one end last week after missing the first two games with hamstring problems, and seniors Watts and T.J. Smith inside at tackles freeing super talented junior Sosa Agim to move outside to the other defensive end, the Hogs do have a solid first-team D-line.
"Armon is playing at a high level," Morris said. "A lot of times when you get a player that has been in the program for as long as he has, once it’s their turn they’re the guy. His effort is allowing us to put Sosa out there on the edge."