FAYETTEVILLE — Seems it begins at home with De’Vion Warren and Mike Woods established as Arkansas’ leading receivers upon injured Treylon Burks missing the 1-2 Razorbacks‘ 30-28 controversial loss at Auburn last Saturday.
Burks, eight catches for 112 yards from quarterback Feleipe Franks with seven for 102 in the season-opening loss to Georgia before injured catching 10-yard pass during the 21-14 victory over Mississippi State, now ranks third after Warren, 10 catches for 223 yards and three touchdowns, and Woods, 12 catches for 150 yards and a touchdown, picked up the slack against Auburn.
“Oh that’s my roommate,” Woods of Magnolia, Texas said.
Woods is a junior for first-year Arkansas coach Sam Pittman, after being one of predecessor coach Chad Morris’ first 2018 recruits, and Warren, a senior from Monroe, Louisiana, was a 2017 Razorbacks freshman under Bret Bielema.
“We’ve got a good chemistry and bond,” Woods said. “We hold each other accountable and the rest of the group accountable. He’s a hard worker and good leader.”
Ditto for Woods to him, Warren asserts.
“Yeah, me and Mike are roommates,” Warren said. “That’s my boy. He’s like my brother. We challenged ourselves to be the best on the field. Those contested catches, we think of it as our ball all the time. And when you hold yourself to that type of standard, it makes you more confident.”
From quarterback Feleipe Franks against Auburn, Woods, six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown, and Warren, five catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns, never so complemented each other like on Arkansas’ final scoring drive.
Woods caught the crucial 11-yard pass on 4th-and-5 for the first down immediately preceding the 30-yard touchdown pass to Warren putting Arkansas up 28-27 with 5:29 to play.
What should have been a 28-27 victory was lost by botched officiating.
Auburn was incorrectly awarded an incomplete pass on what should have been considered a loose ball lateral that Arkansas safety Joe Foucha recovered.
So 13th-ranked Auburn retained possession for place-kicker Anders Carlson’s 39-yard game-winning field goal with seven seconds left.
How hard to forget that injustice with the Ole Miss Rebels looming for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. ESPN2 televised SEC West game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium?
“We put it to bed on Monday,” Woods said. “So we pretty much got straight to Ole Miss. It (Auburn) is pretty much out of our control. It is what it is. We lost. So we put it to bed and on to Ole Miss.”
Warren said what the Hogs must remember from last week is atoning for their down 17-0 slow start that ultimately put Auburn in position to win late.
“We can’t put our defense in a bad predicament like that,” Warren said. “We have to come out fast to be able to help our defense. As coach Pittman said, we’ve got to come out hard and hit the first punch.”
One big difference. The 4-8, 2-10, 2-10 Razorbacks of 2017-2019 gone 1-7, 0-8, 0-8 in the SEC would have wilted from that poor start and not fought back on the road to lead as these Pittman-coached Hogs did after snapping a 20-game SEC losing streak the previous week at then 16th-ranked Mississippi State.
“We know that all our coaches are going to have our backs no matter what,” Warren said. “So when you know that and understand that, you go out there and fight no matter what. Coach Pitt came in and told us he wants us here, he wants us to be able to play for him and play for everybody in that room. And so that brotherhood, everybody to my left and right, that’s who I go out there and play for. So you go out there and play your hardest no matter what the score is.”
Warren plays receiver like he’s never previously played it at Arkansas.
“He’s confident this year,” Woods said. “He had a great camp and he’s playing fast off the ball. When he plays fast off the ball ain’t too many people who can hang with him.”
Finally having an established starting quarterback with Florida graduate transfer Franks ups the confidence of all Arkansas receivers. Their confidence seems going up as it seems a play might break down.
“We’re just out there playing backyard football,” Woods said of adjusting when Franks is forced out of the pocket.
“We see Feleipe Franks back there, we just keep getting open because we know he can extend the play with the best of them.”
While Pittman has stayed guarded about the availability of recently injured Razorbacks, it was learned that Preseason All-SEC running back Rakeem Boyd practiced Tuesday.
Boyd did not travel because of injury to Auburn, Alabama, as Trelon Smith, the transfer running back via Arizona State redshirted last year, led Arkansas’ running game with 81 tough yards on 21 carries.
“He’s definitely doing what he’s supposed to do with Rakeem being out,” Woods said. “He shouldered a big load for us last week and gave us a good game.”